A grieving woman who lost her son in the war found more than closure when she visited his grave just after winter to meet it well tended.
Our story began on a fine afternoon in Afghanistan when the clear skies were stained with black smoke emitting from a falling fighter craft.
“Mayday! Mayday! This is Eagle 12417, our engines have been hit and we — ” was all Martin Stewart managed to say after realizing the radio was not working.
He slowly tilted his head to look out at the side of the aircraft that was about to carry him to his death. The ground was rushing up. He tried to jerk the controls once more, but there was no response.
The Eagle — the aircraft he piloted — had been hit by an EMP right out of nowhere. Martin had not seen it coming even though it was not a stretch to assume an enemy would try to take down an electrical plane with an EMP.
“Of course,” he thought sarcastically.
The Eagle had great firepower and speed, but it was defenseless against an EMP. “But how did they know?” Martin wondered as the ground drew even closer.
In the moments before his plane hit the side of a mountain, the brave pilot’s life flashed before his eyes; he saw his happy and sad moments, then he saw his mom. He only had enough time to whisper a goodbye he hoped would somehow reach her before the plane exploded with him in it.
Thelma Stewart was in the middle of slicing up some fruit to make her usual energy puree when a sad feeling suddenly overwhelmed her. She got lost in it, and before she realized it, the sharp edge of the knife bit through her finger, drawing a thin slice of blood.
Thelma quickly stuck it in her mouth and made her way to her room. She did not like how she felt, so she called her son’s phone — just to get him to make her feel better.
Her attempts to reach him failed, so she left him a message and returned to her kitchen. The next morning, she was awoken by hard knocks on her door.
“I’m sorry for waking you ma’am,” a behemoth of a man told her when she finally opened her door. Thelma didn’t know what to say, but before she could think of something, the man announced her son’s death to her.
Everything after that was a blur for Thelma. Nothing remained of her son’s body, she learned, and the man had personally come to deliver his personal effects with the tragic news. The months flew by for the shocked Thelma after that.
With her son’s death, Thelma was truly all alone. Her husband had been a drunk who had not cared for the child he fathered. He was dead to her and, for all she knew, was passed out in a gutter somewhere.
Thelma had to deal with her grief alone, but she found peace in caring for her son’s grave. She planted purple orchids by his headstone to signify her undying love for him as well as her sadness that she had to bury him.
Thelma tended the orchids regularly while talking to her son — she was able to do so regularly in warm weather; however, when winter fell upon the land, she was forced to remain indoors.
At 50, she was already feeling a throb in her knees that worsened whenever it snowed. It was no big deal, but it made her avoid being outside in the freezing cold.
Thelma bit her fingers every day as she felt the urge to visit her son’s grave and tend to her orchids. She had been doing it for so long; it had become a habit, one she now had to deny because of the snow. She eventually started a countdown to when she could get back to her routine.
When the ice started to melt from springtime heat, Thelma finally decided it was time to visit her son’s grave again. She stopped at a gardening store on her way to pick up seeds for purple orchids because she was certain the ones at the gravesite would not have survived the winter.
But as she walked towards her son’s grave, Thelma couldn’t believe what she saw from a distance. Her flowers had not only survived, but they were also in full bloom, and the area around the headstone was lively with colorful insects.
It made for a stark contrast against the other gravesites with their grass all brown and barren. This touched Thelma’s heart, releasing a torrent of tears she muffled with her handkerchief.
Initially, Thelma thought it was a miracle the flowers survived, but as she watched the grave, she saw a well-built man approaching it with a watering can. She watched in awe as he watered the flowers patiently and at just the right quantity.
As the man turned to walk away, Thelma wiped away the last of her tears and quickly got in his way. “Who are you?” she asked tenderly.
“My name is Sean Douglas,” he professed. “You’re probably wondering why I did that but I can assure you it’s nothing creepy.”
“I suggest you explain then, Mr. Douglas,” she answered, her eyes straying to her orchids.
“I buried my wife three graves over and I always bring flowers to her grave, but one day I noticed you crying on this grave.”
“And?” she said.
“Well, after I returned a week later and noticed the plants were drooping and suffering from neglect, I started to water them. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know you were staying away because of the nasty weather so I decided to help out until your return.”
“I don’t know what to say, Mr. Douglas,” Thelma said, and since she didn’t know how else to repay him, she hugged him tightly.
Douglas quickly became a steady fixture in her life after that, and he helped her cope with her grief. On days when she needed to spend some time at her son’s side, he would join her, and together, they would tend the flowers.
They slowly became more than friends, and Douglas was bent on keeping that because he did not want it to seem like he was taking advantage of her raw emotional state.
They went on picnics, dates, and many other adventures that further glued their hearts to each other. Then more than a year after they met, Douglas went down on his knees and popped the big question.
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“I’m glad I planted those flowers,” Thelma whispered just before her lips met his at the altar.
What did we learn from this story?
Be nice; it costs nothing. Douglas could have simply ignored Thelma’s flowers
during the winter — after all, he had no relationship with her — however, he did not. He knew from observing Thelma that the flowers meant a lot, so he decided to help her as soon as he figured out why she was staying away.
Grief is easier to deal with when you have coping mechanisms. When Thelma lost her son, she was shocked with despair and sadness. It would have overcome her had she not decided to find coping mechanisms. The orchids were her choice, and she planted them by her son’s headstone. It gave her a measure of peace, and she was able to endure life without him.