Love the one you’re with – a grief story

Published 1:27 pm Wednesday, November 29, 2017

She sat silently at the table and stared at the menu, tears clouding her eyes making it difficult to discern between the salads and the entrees.  Her hands shook ever so gently and just attempting to make a decision as to what she had an appetite for was overwhelming.  And then she saw them as they walked across the restaurant and sat at a table across from hers.  He reached out for her coat, pulled out her chair and kissed the top of her head before letting her know to order his favorite drink as he walked to the restroom.

She watched as the lady addressed the waitress, reached into her purse and pulled out her phone.  She spent the next few minutes speaking to someone, laughing softly every few minutes and then concluded the call, obviously anxious for her husband to return.  Once he did, they pulled out their menus together, discussed what they would order (her- the Caprese salad, him the Black and Bleu with extra bacon), and then silence.  Almost simultaneously, they both pulled out their phones and proceeded to scroll through social media, checking text messages and returning emails.

Across the room, the lady watched, a little guiltily, as the couple barely stopped what they were doing when the meal arrived.  She noticed how they paused long enough to grab their utensils, but then went right back to interacting with their phones, oblivious to one another, conversation nonexistent.  The more she watched them, the more she found herself becoming upset, especially as she stared across the table at the empty chair before her.  He used to bring her to this same restaurant and laugh at how they almost always seemed to pick out the same thing to eat.  She could recall countless conversations they had had and yet she almost felt as if it had all been a dream- that her times spent in this space never really happened.  And yet, it did.

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To the best of her recollection, they had become so comfortable over the years that they had started to exhibit some signs very similar to the couple across the aisle from her.  Sometimes they struggled to find things to talk about, but most of the time, even if they were quiet, it was simply because they just enjoyed being together and drew comfort from their unspoken silence.  What she would give to have one more chance, one more opportunity to walk in this door with him on her arm, the feeling of him beside her.  She wouldn’t take it for granted this time.  No, she would treasure every single moment and not even think about pulling out her phone.

Anger washed over her at the couple still occupied with everything and anything besides each other.  She wanted to scream at them to “wake up” – to pay attention to one another and make the best of every moment they have been given.  She wanted to march over there and take up their phones, turn them off and tell them to have a “real” conversation.  But instead, she took a pen out of her purse and began writing on a napkin, her feelings pouring out of her as fast as the tears streaming down her face.  And when she was done, she left cash on the table and handed her message to the waitress.

The couple, clearly preoccupied, was startled when their server arrived at their table a few minutes later.  She let them know that their meal had been paid for and then gave them a crumpled napkin that was covered in writing.  Not knowing what to say, they unraveled it and read what had been scrawled upon it- “Dear strangers.  My husband died last month, so I feel obliged to give a few words of wisdom:  Be more present for one another; don’t take your time for granted and talk more.  Be blessed”. Signed- A Silent Observer.