“Sadness flies away on the wings of time.” ~ Jean de La Fontaine
I walk past the house of the Smiths every day while returning from my morning jog. Most of the days Mrs. Smith is up and about working on her garden or strolling with her earplugs in. Each time she sees me she beams warmly at me.
We had never really exchanged any words, but she was still part of my day with her radiant smile and soothing demeanor. Recently, I rarely saw her or if at all she was there she would sit still staring into space, listless and morose.
I often got a gut call to inquire after her when she wasn’t there for days in a row, but I hesitated until one day I saw her garden deserted, plants dying and grass unkempt. I rang the doorbell and a woman answered after what seemed like eternity. My mind juggled with the idea of turning back and moving on in the direction I came from, after all I had a lot to accomplish in the day, while a part of me kept pushing me to find out if everything was okay with her.
She was sitting on a couch looking grim. An attendant was offering her tea and scones. I stood there for some time watching her bite on one without much interest. She looked up and our eyes met. She smiled but it was forced and fragmented.
I sat beside her without waiting for an invitation. “How are you?” I asked casually. She said, “Don’t know this time it has lasted longer than usual.” I looked at her attendant and she said, “Her depression is like seasons, it comes like a storm tearing her down and when it goes she is left more feeble and alone.”
I learnt she was suffering from bipolar depression. After talking to her for a long time, I gathered it all started when her children moved out for higher studies. Her husband is mostly occupied with his work and her loneliness gradually took a toll on her mental condition.
I walked back with a heavy heart but a resolve to make her see the brighter side of the day. Every morning I started stopping by to spend some time with her in the garden, tending to her plants, watering the pots, weeding the grass and then treating ourselves to hot cups of tea. What I learned every day after spending some additional morning time with her was her effervescent smile which started on her face and reflected on mine and ended at the beautiful November flower bed in her garden. New hope blossomed in her.
One day she was again back to her dark tunnel. She sat on the bench looking at a snail who had broken its shell. She said, “Bob, the snail will soon die! Its protective layer is chipped.” I could see she was metaphorically trying to say something about how she saw herself. I asked her, “When did you last speak to your children?” She said, “They don’t call.” “So why don’t you?” I questioned. She looked at me and gave me an understanding look. I picked up the snail carefully and kept it in a little safe place in the garden. Snails have a natural process of repairing their shells.
Few days later I took Mrs. Smith to the snail with a broken shell and she smiled with tears rolling down her sunken cheeks. “The shell is repaired!” She remarked gleefully. I nodded. She smiled, “Our soul also repairs with a little love and attention, doesn’t it?” I smiled gladly.
Today morning I received an invitation from the Smiths for Thanksgiving Dinner. She is preparing the Turkey. I am grateful and happy for her.