Posted on July 3, 2016 by Patricia Ann McNair7.3.2016 Journal Prompt Photo by William Eggleston July 3, 2016: When her husband passed… Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Helen made her way to her usual spot in the diner. The manager smiled in recognition as she entered. She didn’t need anyone to seat her. They all knew her at Sally’s and many didn’t even look up when she walked to the usual table along the wall and sat down. She and Ed had been coming there for years on Sunday after church. But this was her first time there by herself.
It had been years since she had needed to look at a menu. The wait staff all knew her order, even the rookies. One egg over easy, two slices of bacon—“not burned.” Whole wheat toast with a side of strawberry jam. A cup of hot tea with a slice of lemon. It was always the same. For years it had given her comfort, the routine of the breakfast after church.
It was different now of course. It could never be the same. She and Ed had been married for 62 years. They had lived through raising their kids. They had some scares when Ed lost his first job, but then quickly found another. Helen herself had been sickly for several years as she was treated for cancer. They had survived all that and had many happy years. Then suddenly Ed had a stroke. Nothing seemed to fit together like it did before.
The end had been hard. Helen knew she couldn’t have made it without their daughter Mary’s help. As she nibbled at her whole wheat toast, she thought about how Mary had stopped by every day to check on them, and had even spent the night several times to make sure that they were safe. After trying to recover with visits to rehab and taking lots of new medicines that Helen had never heard of, her beloved Ed had to be rushed to the hospital where he died in Emergency.
Their family had been there for her, the church people have been kind. But when he passed Helen was left with a large hole in her heart, a pain that would not go away. Today was her first try at getting back into her old routine. “Maybe that will get me out of these blues,” she hoped. Sunday morning was especially hard, it seemed. Ed came to church with her each Sunday, and was the social center of many of their friends. Once in awhile he would help as a greeter or usher. “We gotta give hugs to each other,” was his famous phrase. Big or little, young or old, he would greet people at the door and give hugs to anyone who wanted one. And after church was over and the last hug was given, they would head over to Sally’s Diner for a late breakfast.
And now he’s gone. The conversation has stopped. Helen took another sip of her tea lost in her sadness. No joking with the waitress. No shaking hands with the regulars. Just the sameness of the egg and bacon, toast and jam, and the smiles of the waitress as she tried to pierce Helen’s darkness. Helen could sense that they were all trying to help her, and she forced a smile of recognition. It seemed to help a little. Ed wouldn’t have wanted her to just wither away she thought. Ed wouldn’t have wanted her to disappoint their friends at Sally’s. No, she thought, as her head cleared a little. She remembered that even as he sat in his wheelchair at home he would reach up to give his visitors a hug.
Even though he’s gone his memory is with us, she remembers the preacher saying at his funeral. Ed had told her that he would never leave her, and sitting there along the wall in the diner Helen thought she could almost hear his voice. Telling her that he was safe, that he was waiting for her, that he was with friends. Her eyes fell on the church bulletin she had brought with her and she saw that her name was on the prayer list. “Please remember to pray for Helen who has just lost her husband Ed.” It was right there in print! She wasn’t sure that she wanted people praying for her like she was sick or dying. She would have to call the church tomorrow and have them remove her from the prayer list.
Putting her napkin down she saw their old friends Nancy and Mike seated across the diner from where she had been. Getting up slowly she made her way to them with thoughts of Ed running through her mind. “We gotta give hugs to each other,” ringing in her ears. Helen knew in that moment that she was going to be all right.
Dave! Thanks for this. Glad to see your work again. Well done, sir!
Learning to slow it down…. Baby steps but moving forward. Glad to have you back
Glad to have you back, too!