For such a monumental thing to be accomplished in seconds defies logic. In fact it was almost insulting, but there it was.
It happened in less time than it took her to draw a breath. Anybody can become a widow. There were no special qualifications. It did not require planning to become a wife or mother or any of the other ritual roles of womanhood. It was neither dramatic nor majestic, it was a snapshot!
It was a sunny afternoon when her husband had a respiratory and cardiac arrest, slipped into a coma, and expired on the tenth day. Suddenly, she was past all actions, all decisions, her eyes were dry but heavy—then hot tears dropped in her heart!
She didn’t believe in signs and portents, but she thought that the atmosphere in the room did take the coloration of a significant change. For some reasons, she leaned close to her husband’s ear and whispered, “we’ll always be together, and I will always love you.” He raised his eyebrow and gave her a little dimpled smile. Then he was gone.
She imagined that the tears so long suppressed will flow from her, and her wails would shake the walls; yet she merely sat down next to his body, which had been as familiar as her own, and was no less so. Her fingers traced the outline of his nose, already amazingly cooling. He was her husband of 24 years, her doppelganger, her ally for most of her adult life—if she could only manage to see all these as terribly sad, instead of crippling and horrifying, she would not break in half. The worst moment, after all had come 10 days before, when she took his healthy body to the hospital for his yearly executive check up in the morning. But by seven in the evening, he had a cardiac and respiratory arrest. He used to call his four girls “my chicks.” Now they were hers alone.
She wanted to cry out. When something like this happened to someone so young, her life could be so cruel but she knew to do that would dishonor the very reason this was all so sad, which was that life is wonderful, and most wonderful for its smallest splendors: jasmine tea, her children who smelled like rain, bickering about whether to fix their play room, her books, her music.
While her husband was in peace now, she had somehow forgotten, in the years of her marriage, to observe the line when his life left off and hers began. She felt lame, stupid and at a distance from herself.
As for the children, who lived in a time different from adults, each day was not a step toward healing, but another step away from their father’s. Through her wall, she could hear the eldest daughter sobbing “Papa, Papa…please!” The 5 year old came home one day with a tight and secret smile, “My friend Tisha is a big liar, thinking if you wish on a star, it will come real. I know it won’t come real because I wished on a star for 10 days. It’s just a big story.”
Meanwhile, the roof quite literally fell because of the threatened court battles for the children’s guardianship by opulent the in-laws. When her lawyer sarcastically summoned up defense in “you’re protecting the children against their mother!” It fizzled out, but not until after every means to torture her—whether emotionally or physically—was thoroughly exhausted. She weathered the gale, heard the birds sing after a storm just like the life-threatening battle she won over the Big C, many years ago later in her life.
She had been working as a public relations director for a city mayor and trying to realize the dream of supporting herself with her writing, the foremost thing her husband had encouraged in his life time. But she counted on his support, when she bungled her first police magazine story, and was promptly sent back to fashion reporting by her editors. In deep humiliation, her editor sent her to Paris to have an exclusive interview with Veruschka, then the world’s number one mannequin.
Now, she had to figure out how to regroup.
It seemed like a smaller life than the life her husband tried to craft for herself. All she wanted was to write, cherishing the dream of spinning tales for fun and profit one day. It was a good thing. It was the right thing.
But to do that, she seemed a woman thinking only of herself instead of responsibilities. But to her, making decisions based on fear felt lonely and humbling, not virtuous. Does a good mother teach her children to be timid, to trade down their dreams? Does she teach them that the loss should not break their will, even as it breaks their hearts? And what is living in the time you’re given to do it except daring?
The girls have grown, raised their own families and are now watching her grow old, molded in the only way their father would have wanted them to be: strong willed, upright, compassionate and forgiving.
She still didn’t believe in signs and portents, nor that there were any more in store for them than this life. On the other hand, her life has made her willing just to be surprised.
And so perhaps, she thought aloud, when the atmosphere in the room changed again, and this time the coloration’s knock was for her, she will find out, it was her PDL, after all, blowing those beautiful fates in her directions.
Along the years, she had also finally stopped wondering… why was growing old with him too much to ask for?
E-mail Mylah at firstname.lastname@example.org