Lalitha awoke in the dark. She knew without looking at the clock that dawn was still hours away. Turning, tossing, oppressed by sorrows, she watched the vehicles’ lights flicker on the ceiling. Finally she got up and went to the window. There was silence everywhere. That stillness was not possible in the day light. As she watched, the far off stars seemed to pulse and quiver. Her husband Shankar was very fond of watching stars at nights. Her husband’s memory made her heart heavy with aching loneliness….
She always considered herself a strong and independent woman. But she didn’t know the pain of loneliness until her husband died of cancer.
She missed her husband Shankar very much. She missed his smile, his jokes, and his loving support. They loved each other, they liked each other, and they respected each other. They finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle and word jumble. He was the most understanding person she had ever seen. He helped her even in house chores like washing, cleaning and cooking. Their sons made fun of him. He said patiently “You see, in marriage, there is no scorecard. You do little things for each other to make the other's life easier. If you think of it as helping the person you love, you don't become annoyed with doing the washing or cooking, or any task, because you're doing it out of love.”
Though he died three weeks ago, still she felt his presence everywhere in that old house. She remembered the wonderful times together and how she had always felt protected and cherished by the loving man. She felt grief for the loss she was to endure, the words of love that had comforted her earlier. The old house was flooded with his memories. When her sons requested her to go with them to their houses in far away cities, she refused to leave the house because of that reason. Finally her sons and their families left her alone…
Last week she wrote in her diary, “Living in an empty house is not easy. There is no one to greet you, and the chair opposite yours at the dinner table is empty. The house seems to echo from the silence and you shed a tear as you remember that you are now alone. So many years together, so many memories you two created together are all you have left. Losing a loved one changes your entire life, especially when the loved one was also your best friend….”
She watched the stars gradually wink out. The moon paled. A strip of light began to blossom on the eastern horizon. Except for a single bird, repeating one note over and over, the whole world is as still as a pond on a windless day. Suddenly sun rays began to cut through the morning shadows. Pink and orange clouds drifted across the pale blue sky. Her sixtieth birthday arrived. The day seemed to start to fuel the grief over one who would not be here to share it…
Shankar was always the first person to wish her happy birthday with bouquet of roses. She loved roses. So he always wished her with beautiful roses. "To my love," he would say, presenting her a extravagant bouquet. She missed his love, his flowers and his wishes in this birthday. For a moment she let the aching memory fill her.
Suddenly she saw a florist's van turned onto her Street. She followed it with her eyes. It was moving slowly. Then the driver parked the van in front of her house. Who would be sending her flowers? She wondered. Her Sons? No, her sons never remembered her birthday. And she had no living friend or relatives who cared that much for her.
Carrying a bouquet of beautiful roses a neatly dressed young man came out of the van. He checked her door number and climbed her door steps and knocked her door. Her hands trembled as she straightened her hair. She thought, “There’s something wrong. He must have come to the wrong address”.
"Yes?" she said, after opening the door.
"Good Morning ma'am," the man said pleasantly. "This flower delivery is for Mrs.Lalitha”
He politely handed over the bouquet of roses and left.
The rich smell of roses engulfed her. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths. She opened her eyes and saw the beautiful roses unbelievingly. Then she noticed a small white envelope attached with the bouquet. On the envelope she read the words “To my Love” her husband’s handwriting. Her heart was pounding as she picked the envelope. She couldn’t believe her eyes.
With trembling hands, she opened the envelope. There was a letter inside with her husband’s neat handwriting. She read his letter-
I know you are still living in our home alone and grieving. In life nothing is forever. In my absence, your life is changed and changing. Accepting the reality, please move forward, my love, and come out of grief.
Going forward and healing from grief doesn't mean forgetting about the person you lost. Getting back to enjoying your life doesn't mean you no longer miss your loved one. And how long it takes until you start to feel better isn't a measure of how much you loved the person.
In truth, I didn’t leave you all alone. Whenever you think of me, I’ll be always with you in spirit. If you are not happy I will not be happy even in heaven. Like old days, find happiness in small acts of kindness and help to others. The day will become brighter and your life will go on — even if it'll never be quite the same. I’ll be observing you in spirit. So, be happy my dear and let me rest in peace.
I wish you a very happy birthday!
Finally she understood. Before his death her husband had arranged with the florist to deliver the roses and his message on her birthday. Her face streamed with tears. His love and concern moved her deeply.
She read the letter again and again. She understood what he was trying to say. For the last three weeks she was living in her own sorrow losing contact with the outer world…
She looked out of window. Outside it was very cold. She saw people bundled up in warm coats going about their busy lives. Opposite to her house a beggar woman was sitting on the roadside dressed in a torn old sari. Beside her were a few plastic bags of belongings. She looked down when anyone came near her, and shyly looked up to glance when they went by. She had nothing to protect her against the cold.
Lalitha took a new blanket from her wardrobe and Rs.100/- from her purse and walked up to her and gave her. The beggar looked at her with surprise. Slowly tears welled up in her eyes and she said faintly, “Thank you amma”.
Her husband used to do such little acts of kindness voluntarily to others. Seeing the beggar’s happiness, Lalitha felt a great satisfaction. She felt as if her husband was watching her from above. She looked at the blue sky and smiled with tears. She came back to her house and life. She decided that hereafter her remaining life would be spent in helping and caring others. While lessening others’ burdens of grief she would lighten her own grief. She was sure that her husband would rest in peace.