A curious florist notices that an 89-year-old man has been buying red roses every day, so she decides to follow him to discover his secret and learns a valuable lesson in love.
Sarah Melville felt that she had the most romantic job in the world. Unfortunately, her boyfriend Jake wasn’t a romantic — not at all. There were no red roses for Sarah, no chocolate boxes, no candlelight, and no sweet music.
Sarah sighed as she carefully arranged a bouquet of tulips in her flower shop, then she cheered up because her favorite customer was coming into the shop! The dapper 80-plus man was always courteous, charming, and he always bought a red rose.
“Mr. Courtney!” Sarah exclaimed. “Looking sharp as ever! So what will it be today?”
Mr. Courtney smiled and kissed Sarah’s hand. “My dear, how could I get through a day without seeing your lovely face? And of course, I need a red, red rose, for love…”
Sarah laughed and moved to where she kept the long-stemmed red roses and carefully selected the most perfect of them all. Then she surrounded it with lacy fern, silk paper, and a wide red satin ribbon.
She brought the lovely rose out to Mr. Courtney and he smiled with pleasure. “So perfect, my dear!” he cried. “As always!”
Mr. Courtney reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He opened it and frowned. “Oh, no!” he gasped. “I thought…I have no money!” The distinguished old man looked embarrassed.
“Forgive me,” he said. “I’ve put you to work, and I can’t pay for my rose…”
“That’s alright, Mr. Courtney,” Sarah said gently. “You can pay for the rose tomorrow.”
“Are you sure?” asked Mr. Courtney. “I don’t want to take advantage of your kindness…”
“Not at all,” she said. “I don’t mind a bit. You’re one of my best customers — and the most charming.”
“Thank you, my dear,” Mr. Courtney said, with tears in his eyes. “You have no idea what this means to me.” Sarah watched as Mr. Courtney walked away happily with his one perfect rose.
“I wonder,” Sarah said to herself. “Where does he go every day with that one red rose? Maybe he has a sweetheart!” She smiled to herself, then on an impulse, she quickly locked the shop and followed Mr. Courtney down the road.
Even though Mr. Courtney had quite a lead on Sarah, he had a bad limp and that allowed her to quickly catch up with him. She stayed behind just far enough to stay out of sight
As he walked along, Mr. Courtney greeted people along the way and Sarah could see that he was as popular with the store owners on this street as he was with her.
Then Mr. Courtney turned a corner, and Sarah saw where he was headed: It was the cemetery. She followed the elderly man into the cemetery and saw him stop at a certain grave.
Mr. Courtney stood for a long moment before the grave with his head bowed. He bent down and seemed to be arranging something. Then he knelt and placed that single white rose down.
The old man’s bent shoulders were heaving and Sarah realized that he was crying. A cry of distress escaped her lips, and Mr. Courtney turned around. He quickly dashed the tears from his eyes.
“Miss Melville,” he said, and his voice wasn’t quite as friendly as usual. “What brings you here?”
“Oh, Mr. Courtney,” Sarah said, flushing with shame at being discovered spying on her customer. “I’m so sorry…I was so curious. You see, I’m a romantic and I wondered who you gave that rose to every day!”
Mr. Courtney got to his feet and beckoned Sarah over. “Come then,” he said. “Come meet my sweetheart.”
Sarah walked over and saw that the grave was covered with dozens of roses, some faded, others fresher, and on top, the glorious red rose she’d wrapped just an hour before.
The headstone was marble and held the black and white portrait of a lovely woman with a 1960s hairstyle. The headstone read: Daphne Martin-Courtney, Beloved Wife and Mother, Always and Forever Yours.
The date of Daphne’s death was a mere six months before. “Your wife?” Sarah asked. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Courtney, I had no idea…”
“You know,” he said sadly. “I always thought I’d die first, I’m 89, and she was just 84… We were married for sixty years…”
“Sixty years!” Sarah exclaimed. “That’s incredible.
“Let me tell you something, never a day went by that I didn’t bring my Daphne a red rose,” Mr. Courtney said. “And I will continue doing so until the day I die.”
“You loved her. I wish…” Sarah blushed. “I wish I was loved like that! How did you and Daphne meet?”
Mr. Courtney smiled. “Well, my dear, back in 1962, I was a Major in the US Army and serving in Vietnam. I was wounded and transported back to the states, to the Walter Reed Military Hospital.
“They hoped that the specialists at Walter Reed could fix me. You see, I had lesions to my spine, but the doctors told me there was a chance they could…There were some revolutionary new surgeries…
“Anyway, there was a young nurse assigned to my ward, a beautiful girl, and the sight of her made me smile. I fell in love, madly, and somehow she loved me too…”
Sarah smiled. “I find that very easy to believe! You are a charming and loveable man!”
Mr. Courtney shook his head. “You flatter me, my dear! Yes, Daphne loved me and I asked her to marry me, even though I knew I had many months of further surgeries and painful physiotherapy ahead of me.
“I asked her to marry me and she said yes! I was overjoyed, but my timing was terrible because that afternoon, the chief surgeon came to me. He told me that the first operation hadn’t gone as well as he’d hoped.
“He said, ‘Courtney, I don’t believe in soft-soaping my patients. A man needs to know what he can count on. So… Your first surgery wasn’t as successful as I could have wished. My prognosis is that the possibility of you walking again — although not impossible — is remote. I give you a 5% chance on the outside.’ I listened to him, and my joy turned to ashes.
“I realized that all my plans for the future had been built on a fantasy. I would never walk again, I would never be a true husband or father of children. I would be a cripple and a burden to the woman I loved.”
“You must have been shattered!” gasped Sarah…
Mr. Courtney nodded. “That night I didn’t sleep a wink. I kept thinking about Daphne, about my future which now seemed to stretch before me like a dark and lonely road to nowhere.
“I’ll admit to you that that night I considered suicide. I refused to be a pitiful shadow of the active athletic man I’d always been. I preferred death to that! But I hadn’t taken Daphne’s determination into account.
“The next morning, when she came in she could see straight away that something was wrong. Even then she could read me like a book! I told her that I’d been carried away by emotion, that the proposal was a mistake.
“She just looked at me. ‘No,’ she said to me, ‘The mistake is what you are making now. What’s going on?’ She wouldn’t give up until I told her everything, so I spilled it all.
“I told her what the surgeon had told me — that my chances of a full recovery, of walking again, were virtually nil. She said to me: ‘And why would that affect us?’ I stared at her!
“I couldn’t believe it. I said: “I will be a cripple, a burden to you. I won’t be able to be a husband to you except in name only. You will never have children with me. You will spend your life changing my diapers!
But Daphne wouldn’t listen. ‘What does any of that matter to me? I’m not marrying you for your body, or to have children. I love you, you are my soulmate. If I walk away from you I will regret it for the rest of my life.’
Mr. Courtney grinned and looked 50 years younger. “Daphne was quite a headstrong young woman and I was about to learn just how headstrong and how determined she could be. She said: ‘As for the surgeon, he doesn’t know everything. I’ll have you know that 5% seem like pretty good odds to me. You have less of a chance playing the roulette in Vegas!
“‘I’ll take those odds, Johnny. I’m betting on you. And besides, the surgeon doesn’t know one thing: We’re playing with loaded dice. You see, I’ve seen love work miracles, and we have all the time in the world, an entire lifetime.’
“‘And so I married her. The pastor married us in the ward the night before my second surgery, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lovelier sight than my Daphne in her white dress and her bouquet of red roses.
“She whispered to me: ‘I’m yours, always and forever,’ and those were the words I clung to all through the terrible ordeal of my recovery. It took two years but I finally did walk out on my own feet.
“I had a limp, but I was walking; I’d never run again, but I could love Daphne, I could father the children she so longed for. We were together for sixty wonderful years, and then God took her away…”
Sarah had tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Courtney. What a wonderful story…”
Yes,” the old man said. “But it’s not finished yet. While I remember Daphne, while I bring her the red roses she loves, our love story goes on…”
At that moment Sarah’s phone rang. “Oh,” she gasped “It’s my boyfriend!” She hesitated, then she hurried to answer and hit the loudspeaker by accident.
Where the hell are you Sarah? I’m here at the door of the shop like an idiot! If you’re not here in ten minutes I’m gone!” Jack’s angry voice shattered the calm of the cemetery.
“I’ll be there!” gasped Sarah and Jack hung up abruptly without even saying goodbye.
Mr. Courtney was looking at Sarah sadly, “Oh, my dear,” he said, “You deserve so much more! If this man loved you, he’d wait for you no matter how long it took. He’d dedicate his life to you, every moment of it.”
“You’re right,” Sarah said. “I do deserve better. I deserve to be cherished just like you cherished Daphne, and she loved you. I tell you what. Since I won’t be hurrying back to the shop, how about we have some coffee?”
From then on, Mr. Courtney and Sarah became the best of friends and she always had the most beautiful roses for him and Daphne. And when Sarah finally did meet the right man, Mr. Courtney walked her down the aisle and gave her away.
What can we learn from this story?
True love never gives up on the beloved. Mr. Courtney’s Daphne refused to give up and her love helped him in his recovery.
We all deserve to be cherished and loved. Sarah realized that her boyfriend wasn’t treating her well, the way that Mr. Courtney had treated Daphne.