A Tear and a Rose

By Patricia Reece Roper

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They couldn’t know what I was going through. Their fathers were still alive. But what they brought me was just what I needed at that moment.

I sat on my bed hugging my knees, staring at the walls, but seeing nothing. Although it was the end of July, I felt cold and numb. I wasn’t worried about what I would be doing tomorrow, or the next day, or next week even. Everything that had seemed a matter of extreme importance didn’t make any difference to me at all now.

“I hope that’s not for me,” I thought as I heard several car doors slam in the driveway. Smiling and trying to carry on small talk was certainly something I didn’t feel up to today. Besides, none of my friends—or anybody my age for that matter—would have even the smallest idea of what I was going through. All their fathers were still alive.

“I’ll be right there,” I answered when Mother called to me. When I entered the living room, I was a little surprised to find my whole Young Women class, not just the presidency or a chosen few, there to visit me. Somehow, it made me feel special, even important, to know that everyone cared enough to come. They were all standing around looking a bit awkward and embarrassed. It was obvious this kind of visit was something none of them had ever done before.

My adviser stepped forward and spoke for the class. “We just wanted to drop by and let you know we’re thinking of you at this difficult time.”

I nodded, forcing a phony smile on my lips. I hadn’t been able to really smile, or cry for that matter, since the funeral. She ended with the usual, “If there’s anything we can do, please let us know.”

Bev, one of my classmates and a pretty good friend, stepped forward to hand me a single red rose. As I reached out to take it, mumbling my gratitude for their kindness, something unexpected happened. Instead of letting go of the rose, Bev held on to it. Drawing me closer, she wrapped her arms around me and began sobbing. Her crying shattered my resistance, and I threw my arms around her and broke down with weeping of my own. All the pain and grief I had tried to store came flooding out. I hadn’t allowed myself to cry so hard, but with Bev’s arms around me, it was suddenly easy to do.

Then another of my classmates stepped forward and took Bev’s place. It was then that I realized they were all huddled together, wiping tears, and saying nothing. I was amazed at how much better such a good cry was making me feel. Without saying anything, they seemed to be providing just what I needed most. When they had each taken a turn at my side, they quietly whispered good-byes and left.

After the door closed behind them, I still stood where they had left me, clutching the rose.

“That was a wonderful thing they did,” my mother said from behind me. It was then I remembered she had been there, a witness to the whole beautiful scene.

“I didn’t know I needed that,” I quietly mumbled.

Each time I looked at the rose in my vase, I remembered the young women from my class and the supporting embraces they gave me. If there was something to be grateful for during this trying time, it was the feeling of knowing I did not have to endure this suffering alone.

Before my own experience with death, I had often wondered what to say and do for someone at such a time. For me the answer was pretty simple: don’t say anything; just be there. The greatest comfort I received was a shoulder to cry on, arms to hold me, tears of sorrow, and a single red rose to cherish.

Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh