Dan was never under the illusion that they would live forever, but he had imagined he would go before Emma, his wife. Wishing Emma a longer life than him had always felt benevolent; however, at that moment, he found his wishes selfish. His heart ached, and he was engulfed in indescribable loneliness. He looked at Emma’s picture on the eulogy and smiled, saying, “I’m glad you didn’t get to experience this.” Even then, he expressed love for her as he had in life.
Emma and Dan had been married for thirty wonderful years. They had remained friends through the ups and downs of their marriage. Their companionship had deepened with age, and Dan was going to bury his best friend — his person. Though in the company of their three children and grandchild, there was a deep void.
The months that followed after his wife’s passing were difficult for Dan. Readjusting after three decades of having someone was hard. Emma was a bubbly, nurturing woman. She complimented Dan’s quiet nature. She was talkative and funny and brought out Dan’s fun side. Dan, on the other hand, was reserved and enjoyed handy work. Without Emma, he would go for days without talking, although his children hired help for him.
He never spoke about his feelings, but his eyes spoke for him. Although he went about his typical day’s activities, there was a resignation in his eyes. Anyone who knew him before his wife’s death could see the difference. Then, eight months after Emma’s passing, something happened.
Dan was having a cup of tea, with lots of milk and tea leaves, the way he liked it. He had hardly a bite of the sweet potatoes that he was having with the tea when the doorbell rang. The house help opened the door. She looked confused.
“What is the matter Wanja?” Dan asked her.
“There is a flower delivery but I don’t think they have the right address,” said Wanja.
Dan woke up to check it out. Immediately he saw the flowers he felt a lump in his throat. He took the flowers and thanked the delivery guy. He stared at the flowers for a while and got lost in thoughts. It would have been their thirty-first anniversary. Every year on their anniversary, he sent Emma a bouquet of her favourite flowers, and since he could be forgetful, his daughter had automated the order. She must have forgotten to cancel it.
He sat down, still holding the flowers, figuring out what to do with them. After a while, he took a shower and left the house with the flowers. He went to Emma’s grave. It had been months since he was there. He placed the flowers down, and for the first time in months, he smiled. As he stood there, he remembered the fond moments he had shared with her. He imagined how she would have reacted had she still been around.
Emma always hugged him and then put her head on his chest. She would then video call one of their children to show them what he had gotten her. Sometimes, he would get an accompanying gift, but Emma cherished the flowers the most. One of the flowers in the bouquet was a chrysanthemum. Emma loved it in white because Dan had put one flower stem on her hair on the day they decided they wanted to be together for the rest of their lives.
They were young, and rings and proposals were not a thing back then. Emma and Dan had been walking in a field of sorts when Dan stopped and picked the nearest flower he could find, put it on her hair and professed his undying love and commitment to her. Totally swept off her feet by the charming man, Emma had agreed to be by his side for as long as there was life in her, and she had honoured her promise. They made their way to a studio to take a picture to commemorate that day.
At the studio, they had met a man who commended the choice of flower on Emma’s afro. It was obvious that the young couple was in love. Reading their body language, the man asked them, “Do you know what this flower symbolizes?”
“No, but at this moment, my love for her,” Dan had responded.
“Good pick as it’s associated with happiness and friendship,” the man told them and wished them both.
If ever there were omens, that was one for them because they enjoyed their good share of friendship and happiness together. Suddenly, Dan had an idea; he would grow chrysanthemums in honour of his wife. He spent more time talking to Emma and was convinced he could feel her presence and then went back to the house.
He called his children and told them what he had decided to do. They hadn’t heard him get excited about anything in so long. A spark had been lit in him. Initially, the plan was to grow the flowers not too far from the wife’s grave, but the daughter suggested he do it on another part of their land. Dan started with the white flowers, and as he grew more passionate about the project, he grew the flowers in other colours, too.
Over time, that part of the land looked so beautiful. They got professional landscapers to design it, too. The flower garden became a landmark in the community. One could give visitors directions using the garden as a reference point. Dan’s friends would visit and walk around the gardens as they talked. It was therapeutic. They started carrying seats to the garden when they didn’t want to take a walk. It led to Dan constructing a gazebo instead of having to carry seats back and forth.
On one occasion, Dan’s daughter came home with a friend. The friend was an artist and felt inspired to draw the place once she saw it.
“You have a magnificent place. You know you could host a sip and paint event here or something like that?” The friend suggested.
The family toyed with the idea and finally decided to give it a try. It worked. The garden became a place where some came to decompress, work remotely, explore their creative side or take walks with their loved ones. It also gave Dan a new lease of life and connected him to his wife in a different but meaningful way.
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