A man named Roy was sitting on a park bench one warm and sunny day, staring off into the abyss of reality. His face lacked emotion and his eyes kept wandering; they did not wander because nothing was of interest, rather they wandered because nothing kept his interest. He kept looking and looking, hoping to find peace and tranquility in anything, even if it be for only a moment.
This man had acted in this precarious nature ever since two nights ago, when his wife of 21 years had suddenly passed away. Roy had quickly and thoroughly went through the initial shock of the tragedy, and firmly planted himself in the “nothing will ever matter again” stage of the supposed road to recovery. He had immense trouble going to sleep the night before due to the content chatter of his depressed subconscious, so he had taken a heavy dose of sleeping medicine to help him shut his eyes. Awaking this morning, nothing about the day appealed at all to him,so he lay in bed for 2-3 hours, wallowing in the pity that this would be the rest of his life. He couldn’t make sense of the pain he was feeling and didn’t understand the vast emptiness growing inside of him. He finally came around the thought that if he could only find an answer to one question, everything would once again be alright. All he needed to do, was find a reason for the world.
He got out of bed, and tried to morning routine, hoping to find solace in routine. The shower was unrefreshing, the dump was unrelieving, and the breakfast was unsatisfying. Everything seemed to be broken. He then remembered an article he read about loss, and how it said that many people cope by pretending that the person is still alive, or just pretending they went out-of-town for a few days. So he tried this. He pretended that his wife had finally made her way to Tampa, Florida, for the conference on Botany that she had always wanted to attend. This brought forth a half-smile to Roy’s face, as things didn’t seem so broken all of a sudden. These feeling of happiness lasted all of 4 minutes however, because as soon as Roy stepped out of his house he saw the Vase that his wife had painted and hung on the porch. He saw the beautiful garden that she had planted and worked on for years and years. And he saw that all of this beauty that she had created, would be no more, because there would never again be someone to take care of it. And just like that, Roy fell to his knees and cried. He soon got up and subdued his emotionally crippled state. He went inside to his kitchen, took two more of those sleeping pills and lay down in bed, saddened that this day had actually existed, but relieved that he had at least tried to make a go of it. He soon after went to sleep and stayed in that state for 14 long hours.
Early the next morning he awoke and did almost the same routine as the day before. He had heard numerous stories of how time always helps the healing process, and he was certain that two days would be plenty enough time for a man as strong hearted as he. The shower was unrefreshing, the dump was unrelieving, and the food was unsatisfying. He tried watching tv, but that too could not keep his attention for more than mere moments. Everything reminded him of her, and all those things needed to be stopped because memories of her were what brought him to his knees in sadness the day before. He decided to go for a walk, hoping the fresh air and the sight of other human beings would help him in any way. Maybe a conversation, although he wasnt sure he was ready for that quite yet. The misty morning reminded him of the first day he met her, so he looked at the sidewalk as he walked. The sound of children and families laughing and walking reminded him of how much fun they together had meeting new people, so he put in his headphones to drown out the world’s noise. The City buildings, the sky, the cars on the road all reminded him of her as well; although he wasnt quite sure why, but he was sure they did in some way or another. So he decided to get off his walk and go sit in the park. As he sat their, squeamish and uninterested in the world around him, he pondered about how he would do this every single day for the rest of his life. He didn’t understand the reason for the pain inside of him, and of what purpose it served for the evolution of the human race. “it would be easier” he thought, “If humans evolved to a point where they no longer felt sadness because of a loss. Oh how advanced, and happy we would be.”
As he looked around at all the people going about their daily lives, he also couldn’t understand how all of them could look so happy. Surely, he thought, most if not all of them had experienced a loss at some time in their life. How so, then, could they be so happy now? “There lost loved ones must be on permanent vacation in their minds” he deduced to be the only logical answer. Everyone looked like they had life all figured out, while he couldn’t even enjoy something as simple and satisfying as a morning dump. Everyone looked like they knew exactly where they were going, and who they would be going at it with…all except for one boy who finally caught his drifting attention. The boy appeared to be 15 or so years of age. The boy seemed to be the only other person in this world searching for something. He would look in a bush, then be disappointed, and go onwards. He would see something in one of the many gardens in this park that would bring a smile to his face, but then as soon as it had appeared it too left his face, and onwards the boy would go.
The boy soon made his way over to near where Roy was sitting, looking in a garden that was adjacent to the bench he was occupying. Roy’s fascination with this boy was finally something that had replaced his previous never-ending depressed state. So Roy thought it wouldn’t hurt to keep this feeling going on a little while longer. “Hey there, boy. What is it that you are looking for?” Asked Roy. The boy looked up at the man, broke his attention from the garden to answer the man. “Im looking for a particular flower sir.” Roy had deduced this much, so he went on with his inquiry. “What kind of flower are you looking for? And why are you looking for it so imperviously? A lot of these flowers are pretty.” The boy thought for a moment before he answered, “I’m looking for a petunia, sir! And I look for that particular flower because it is my mothers favorite, and her birthday is today!”
“Oh dear boy! Petunia’s dont grow in these parts of the world, unless someone grows them for their own specific purpose.” The boy took this news with disdain, and thanked the man for the information and was about to walk away… Suddenly, Roy had the urge to do something he knew was completely stupid. He dubbed this potential response stupid, because here he was not thinking about his wife for a solid 3 minutes, and he was about to throw that all away by bringing up something that would remind him of her and nothing but her. But, a voice that he previously had not heard inside of his heart told him to do it anyway.
“you’re in luck today, boy. My wife grows…My wife use to grow Petunia’s in her private garden for a college class she is…was taking. I have no use for these flowers now, so you are free to take them as you please.” The boy was beside himself with excitement, the excitement one only feels when he or she has found what they are looking for. The boy agreed to walk the block over to the man’s house to pick up these Petunia’s and off they went. On the way, the boy was full of life, telling Roy about all the wonderful things that was his mom. He told him about how she too use to grow them in her garden, and that she hadn’t done so in years. That’s why the boy had determined it to be the perfect gift for her, on this the day of her birthday celebration. Although Roy had up to this point thought that hearing such things would only hurt his bleeding heart, it was quite the opposite. It was relieving to hear such love through the words of another human being.
They soon got to his house, and the boy did a quick hop, and a victory dance that Roy could never even attempt. He picked the Petunia’s for the boy, and handed it over to him, telling him that he hopes she enjoys them as much as the previous owner of the flowers had. The boy was just about to leave, when he turned around to see Roy sitting on his porch, wallowing once again in his own pity. “Say, would you like to come with me to give these to my mother? She lives only a few blocks from here.” Asked the boy. Roy had no intention of doing so, as the rest of his afternoon had already been booked to go and wallow in some more of his own pity. But once again, something inside of him to go along with the boy, so that’s what they did.
On the walk, the boy had begun to notice a pattern in Roy’s demenour, so he decided to ask him about it. Roy bluntly refused, saying he did not want to talk about it. The boy ignored Roy’s words, and began to tell him that “everything would be alright. Just trust me, no matter what you are feeling right now, get rid of it. It wont help.” Roy made no attempts at interacting with the boy anymore, because he was fully immersed in his state. The boy attempted a few more kind words, to no avail. Roy couldn’t understand why this boy would be so upbeat about life, and started to wish that the boy would just shut up.
That is, until they got to his mother’s home. They walked through the large gates to her compound, and made their quick walk over to where the boy said his mother would be. Roy saw the excitement on the boys face as they approached her, and tears started to run down his face, for what seemed like the 20th time in two days. He saw the boy run up to his mother in excitement and full of smiles, and saw him tell his mother about his day and how happy he was to see her. He then told her he had a huge birthday surprise for her, at which point he took the Petunia’s which had been hiding behind his back, and laid it on his mother’s grave. “They are perfect, aren’t they? JUST like the ones you and I would grow in your garden! These are almost as pretty!”
Roy couldn’t control his manly demeanour any longer, and broke down to the ground in tears. The boy saw this, Smiled at his mother and told her, “he would be right back.” He walked over to Roy and hugged him. They sat there, together, for a while, as long as they both needed to.
After some time had passed, the boy began to speak again. “You know, I once had a pet dog who passed away one night while I was sleeping. I cried and cried the next day, hating the world for what it had done to my pet. My mother tried to cheer me up, but I felt like nothing would ever feel good again, that there would be no reason for the world anymore. She told me to give my heart some time to heal. And once it had enough time, to think about all the wonderful times my dog and I had together. I thought she was stupid at the time, but she was right. I asked her why humans felt such utter pain, when pain seems pointless, and all it does is hurt. She told me, that maybe the reason for the pain is that we can once again find our way to strength. So I asked her, whats the reason for strength? Why can’t we always have it? And to that, she said that maybe we can’t always have strength is because if we did, there would be no such thing as hope, as hope grows inside of you in time when you need it the most. And finally I asked her, what then was the point of hope? To which she smiled and said, “To face the world each and everyday, knowing that it can change even when you are not willing to!” I miss her a lot.. but whenever I do, I just think about her, and she doesn’t seem so far away.”
From the darkness of the lakes that had become his eyes, Roy looked through all the water and saw undeniable happiness in the eyes of the boy. “so tell me about the person who grew the garden! Do you remember when you met them?” Roy looked up at sky for a brief moment to make sure that it was still there. He then began to tell the boy about the women he had met on a misty day long time ago. No sooner had he begun his story, then a smile found its way to his face.
I dedicate this story to the friends and family I have lost over the years, as well as my Dog Neko, who was my best friend in the entire world. But most importantly, I dedicate this to you. I know sometimes you may feel utterly alone and that no one understands what you are going through, but know that there are others out there. It will get better, I swear to you, even though it seems like it never will. Please go out and find your reason for today, and don’t forget to smile.
Image by Urtsan