Love endures

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”. (1Corinthians 13:4-8)
She read these verses from the Bible again. She had read these verses many times before, but it always brought tears in her eyes. Her emotions stirred, the past came in front of her eyes. The tears were difficult to control today. They just came flowing down like a stream. Sorrow was hard to hide and pain was hard to bear. These words always made her believe in love and strengthened her faith in it. She did everything she could to live up to these words. The verses always reminded her of someone, her special one- the love of her life. He wasn’t with her now. All that remained of him were his memories. It had been 10 years ago, on this day that he left her!
It was still dark outside. The sun hadn’t risen yet. But she was awake every day before dawn. It had been her habit for all these years. She got up, opened the window, stood there and let the wind blow through her face. Her tears dried, but her pain never ceased. She thought of him. How would he have looked now? He was handsome, always smartly dressed. He would have looked handsome even now. She walked to the mirror and looked at herself. She looked older than she was. She was beautiful before but the pain had taken its toll. Her beauty was lost to the struggle she went through when he left. She wasn’t like this before. She may not have been the most beautiful woman, but her simplicity gave her a charm that none could match. That was he had told when they met for the first time, “Your simplicity is your charm. I’m flattered.” Flashback! She remembered their story- her love story!

The household of the Pinto’s was filled with activity that day. There were people coming to see their daughter, Mary. Everyone loved Mary. There was something about her that made everyone happy. She was kind, gentle and brought cheer all around. She was a loving and responsible daughter to her mother who had lost her husband at a young age and had to bear the responsibility of bring up her 5 children single handedly, of whom Mary was the eldest. Mary was just 15 when her father left her. But even then, she had understanding beyond her years. She had just completed her Class 10 examinations then and as everybody had expected she had done well. She would’ve got a seat in any college of repute, but she chose not to and decided to go to the local college. Reason? There were two. One, she didn’t have the money and two she didn’t want to go away when her mother needed her. She studied and also worked at the fields. She became a mother to her siblings. Yes, she was hurt. But she chose not to bring out her emotions. She became an introvert, never sharing her feelings with anyone. Work kept her busy and she didn’t have time to bother about herself. She completed college and got a job. Life improved for her family.
It was time now to get Mary married. Mary never thought about getting married. She was satisfied with life as it had been then. But her mother wanted to see Mary happily married and left no stone unturned in searching a boy for Mary. There had been many alliances for Mary, but she refused them all. She never wanted anybody to get close to her. And she didn’t take any interest in meeting this man who was coming to meet her. She only agreed to meet him to keep her mother happy. And then he came!
He wasn’t like the others who had come to meet her. He was different. He had a certain aura about himself that made her give him a chance. The discussions between the families began. She looked at him and he looked at her. Their eyes met, but none of them spoke. He wanted to speak to her. He wanted to know her better. But how could he do so when everyone was around? “Excuse me”, he said and all eyes were drawn to him. “I’m sorry for interrupting your discussions. But I need to talk to Mary. Can I? , he asked . “Of course, you can! Speak to her now. We are all here”, came the reply. But he didn’t want to talk to her there in front of everyone. He knew she wouldn’t speak freely when everyone was around and so wanted to take her outside. “Can Mary and I go for a walk in the fields?” he asked. “What?” A boy and girl were not allowed to talk in private until they were engaged. He knew that well, but he also knew that he had to talk to her in private. “Do you know what you are asking for? Don’t you know our customs and traditions? You can talk to her here, right before us. But you can’t take her outside now”. “But I have to! I need to talk to her alone before we take a decision” he retorted. He kept giving his reasons for it. Mary saw all this. There was something different about this man and she knew that well. Even she had the urge to talk to him. She wasn’t interested in meeting him before and in her indifference, she even forgot his name. For the first time in her life, somebody wanted to talk to her about her. “Even I want to talk to him in private. So can we go out please?” she asked. Silence. Discussions. And finally, they agreed.
It was 5 in the evening and the lush green fields looked beautiful. The light breeze beckoned them to walk further. He looked at her. She wore a light pink saree which looked stunning on her. She was fair. There was no hint of any make up on her face. Her silky hair was tied up in a clip which he felt like removing. A few strands of hair fell on her face with the breeze and she pushed them back. She was simple, she was plain. Yet, she was beautiful. They stopped near a tiny stream. “Hi! I’m Francis” he said. Her lips curved into a smile, the first smile of hers that he had seen. “Hi! I’m Mary” she replied. There was an awkward silence between them. But sometimes even silence is beautiful. ‘Come on, speak’ he told himself. But he didn’t know what to speak. He just wanted to see her and admire her angelic beauty. A few questions about each other’s work followed. She was quite reserved, her replies were crisp and to the point. Nothing more, nothing less. It hurt him a little. He wanted her to talk, he wanted to know her better. “Mary, tell me honestly. Don’t you want to talk to me? Tell me” . She was quiet. “Tell me Mary” he pleaded. Tears came down from her eyes. He had never wanted to hurt her and couldn’t bear to see her crying. He liked this girl a lot. He asked the question he feared the most “Do you love somebody else?”. She cried more and managed to utter a feeble “No”. “Then why are you crying Mary?”. “I’ve never spoken to anybody about myself. I’ve always kept my thoughts, my feelings to myself. I never had someone who would listen to me or would ask when something was wrong. I kept hiding my feelings so much that now my feelings are almost dead. So when you asked me to tell more about myself, I didn’t know what to tell. It hurt me that I didn’t know myself”.
He was shocked. He was sad that he had brought tears in her eyes. He held her hands; she hesitated and pulled them back. But his grip was firm. “Look at me” he said. She obeyed. She looked into his eyes. He was handsome. She felt better being there with him. He made her feel secure. “Mary, I understand that all these days you didn’t have anybody to share your feelings and your thoughts with. But now, things are different. I promise to be there for you. I promise to share all your joys and sorrows. I promise I’ll keep you happy always. But I promise all this only if you agree. I don’t want to marry you unless you want me to. Even I never gave much thought to getting married and settling down. I came here just to make my parents happy. But the moment I saw you, I knew you were special. Your simplicity is your charm. I’m flattered. And now I know, you are the one for me. Mary, will you marry me?” He waited eagerly for her reply. She was quiet for some time. And then she spoke just one word – “Yes” she said. He was happy. Both of them had tears in their eyes and this time they were tears of joy. As the sun set, they hugged. They hurried back before anybody could come in search of them.
They announced their decision to get married and the news was welcome to both their families. The wedding took place as planned. After the wedding, they were off to the city where he worked and she also found a job there. She had found not only her life partner but also her best friend in him. He was happy to have her around. She kept him happy and he kept her happy. She was more cheerful now and seeing her that way gave him pleasure. They were blessed with two beautiful children, a girl and a boy. They had their share of problems, but their togetherness always gave them the strength to bear all difficulties bravely. They fought sometimes, but they were back together within a few hours. When they were upset with each other, they read the Bible. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”. (1Corinthians 13:4-8) became their favorite verses. They were happy, they were satisfied. But it wasn’t to be happily ever after.
It was just after their 10th wedding anniversary, that he fell sick. She was there to take care of him as always. But something wasn’t right this time around. Instead of getting better, his condition became worse. And then the worst came true. He was diagnosed with Cancer- last stage. The doctors told that he had just 6 months more to live. Mary was shattered. She didn’t tell the news to Francis. He kept asking her what the doctors told but she kept assuring him that he would be fine. But Francis knew that something was amiss and that he would be dying soon. She kept looking after him, day and night. And though he was in pain he tried not to show it as he didn’t want her to be worried. She hid her sorrow to keep him happy and he hid his pain to see her happy. Both of them knew that the end was fast approaching. It was true love that they shared and their favorite verses gave them the strength. The end came as the doctors had predicted. He passed away with her by his side and the last words he uttered were “Mary, I love you!”.
She was broken completely after his death. She had lost her husband, her best friend and her life. The only reason why she was alive was because of her children- the fruits of their love. Most of the dreams they had dreamt of together didn’t come true. She was alone in that city and had the responsibility of bringing up those little kids. She didn’t know what to do, she didn’t know how to manage all of it alone. She found a letter addressed to her at his bedside. She hurriedly tore the envelope open and started reading it.
Dear Mary,
Let me tell you that I love you a lot. But I know something is wrong. I know I’m sick and that my health is deteriorating with every passing day. And I know you are hiding something from me. I know we never kept secrets from each other and I know you well enough that this time you are hiding it from me for a reason. I don’t mind that. But I’m sad that I’m not able to keep you happy. I’m troubling you more than I ever should.
The day I met you was the best day of my life. I’ve loved you a lot ever since. I love you more than my life. We’ve had our share of joys and sorrows, but have faced everything together. I feel really sorry for the times I hurt you and I fought with you. I never did anything intentionally. But you have always been my strength. You have made me happy. You have cared for me always. And I love you for everything.
I know this may be my last letter to you. And I’m happy that you’ve been with me through this journey of life. I know that the journey will be difficult for you hereafter. But always remember I’m with you. You showed me what love is and I know your love for others will help you. I know you will take good care of our children and bring them up well and see them successful in life. I know you are a strong woman. I know you will face life bravely.
I love you,Mary. I will love you always. I wish I die with you by my side. Take care.
Yours lovingly,
She had tears in her eyes when she read it and vowed to face life bravely!

She searched for that letter and found it and smelt it. It brought him closer to her. She wanted to go back in time and have him back ever again. “Good morning, Mumma”. She was drawn back to reality. It was her daughter who came and hugged her tight! It had been a decade since Francis left and her children were teenagers now and so far they were doing well. She had always found strength thinking about his love and the faith he had in her. Love endured!