Of Love, Survival, and Finding Comfort

Being that it’s February and love is in the air, let me tell you a story. It’s a love story, in a way, probably just not what’s expected.

While I was having lunch early this week, I was sitting at a table beside a middle-aged woman, a guy who looked to be in his 20’s, and a young girl of about 13. I noticed them first because they’re the only non-Filipinos in the resto, second, because they’re beside me (duh), and third, because I heard them talking excitedly in a language I don’t know.

Anyway, as I was happily eating my cheese and sausages (yeah, yeah, how unhealthy can I get), the woman caught my eye, smiled at me, and said “I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you look so happy and contented by yourself.” I told her, no, I don’t mind, and said thanks because dates with myself are my thing now.  That got the ball rolling.

Just to give the salient points of the conversation, the guy she was with is her son and the young girl is her granddaughter. Her husband, daughter, and son-in-law (the parents of the girl), all died in the 2004 Asian tsunami. They were in Indonesia then. Her husband loved to travel, and so did her daughter. Her, not so much. She said that it was too much of a hassle sometimes and that, if not for the annual trips her husband insisted on, she preferred to stay put.

But every year after 2004, her son comes home from wherever he may be and the three of them pack their bags. I asked her why, if she doesn’t particularly enjoy leaving her home, does she do it. I found her answer to be very profound: because when you lose people you love, you begin to find comfort in the things they loved doing.

It has been eight years; she says the pain and longing never goes away, but that the annual trips help. They survived for a reason, she may not know exactly why the three of them did and the others didn’t. All she knows is that she feels more at peace when she’s out discovering what the world has to offer.

She could have been bitter. She could have just went on with her life, stayed at home, took care of her granddaughter. Instead, every year, she brings what remains of her family to new places with the belief that by doing so, they can recapture that feeling of wholeness.

Before I left, I thanked her. I was simply having lunch in what I thought to be a normal day and instead heard one of the most beautiful testimony of love I’ve had the privilege of hearing.

It was a beautiful day.

salman rushdie

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