IT happened faster than it took her to draw a breath. Anybody can become a widow—there are no special qualifications. It did not require planning to become a wife, mother, or any other part of womanhood.
It was a sunny afternoon when her husband suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest. He slipped into a coma and expired on the tenth day. Suddenly, she was past all actions, all decisions, her eyes were dry but heavy, but hot tears dropped in her heart!
She didn’t believe in signs and portents, but she thought that the atmosphere in the room showed the significant change in her life. For some reason, 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, gave her a little dimpled smile then he was gone.
She imagined that the tears so long suppressed would flow from her eyes, and her wails would shake the walls; yet she merely sat down next to his body and traced the outline of his nose. He was her husband of 24 years, her ally for most of her adult life. If she could only manage to see all of this as sadness, 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. However, by seven in the evening, he was gone. He used to call his four girls “my chicks.” Now they were hers alone.
She wanted to cry out. When something like this happens to someone so young, one would think that life has been so cruel. But she knew to do that would dishonor the very reason why losing someone you love is all so sad—which is that life is wonderful. That what makes life special is because of small splendors like jasmine tea, her children that smelled like rain, her books and her music.
While her husband was in peace now, she had somehow forgotten, in the years of her marriage, to observe the line where his life left off and hers began. She felt lame, stupid, 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. Through her wall, she could hear the eldest daughter sobbing “Papa, Papa…please!”
The five-year-old came home one day with a secret smile and said, “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 the opulent in-laws. Her lawyer sarcastically summoned up defense that the in-laws were “protecting” the children against their mother, the matter died down—but not until they exhausted her. She weathered the gale, heard the birds sing after a storm just like the life threatening battle she won over the Big C (cancer), 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 story, and was promptly sent back to fashion reporting by her editors, in deep humiliation. He 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.
Life seemed smaller compared to what her husband tried to craft for her. 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 loss should not break their will, even if it breaks their heart?
The girls grew up, 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 in this life. On the other hand, her life has made her willing just to be surprised.
Along the years, she had also finally stopped wondering… why was growing old with him too much to ask for?