Tuesday, March 5, 2013
"Papa! Why is uncle crying?" Five year old Amanda tugged at her father's leg.
Lifting her up, her father smiled and replied "He is crying because he is happy!" looking at the elderly man sending off his newlywed daughter with her husband. "People cry when they are happy?" The naive little girl asked.
With a slight chuckle he said "You will understand that when you grow up child!"
"Thank you Father!" Amanda said as she looked at the small piece of paper in her hand.
The priest just smiled "I am sure he will be happy to see you. Give him my regards!"
She left the church clutching the paper with a determined look on her face.
'Hope he is doing well. Am coming to meet you Mister!' she thought as she got ready to go home.
3 years back:
Amanda was always a bit different from the other teens her age. She did have all the fun she could but she was also the type to help out at the church. Every Sunday one can find her cleaning up the church along with a few others and sits through the mass. This activity of hers made her close to most of the elderly people in and around that neighbourhood. She became everyone's favourite teenager there with her cheery smile and pep talks. It was a small church in her village. So it never got visitors from other villages since there was a very big Catholic Church in the next village, Oaklands.
Being the only volunteer that particular Sunday, she found the work a little hard but manageable since the crowd was small and she knew almost everyone in it.
There was this particular man who was a stranger to her. She was sure that he did not live in her village. But he was always there every Sunday. The elderly man looked like he was in his early 50's and always had a small smile on his face. He made small talk with people who sat next to him.
Curiosity got the best of her and before she knew it, she was sitting next to him through the mass.
They had a small 10 minute break in between and that was when she decided to ask him about his whereabouts.
But before she could even open her mouth he asked her "I have seen you help out here. You live here?"
"Yeah! I live a few blocks down the road. I see you every week. You must be living nearby!"
He gave out a soft laughter "I am not from your village dear child! My house is in Oaklands..."
Before she could talk again, the priest started off shutting her up in the process.
People started moving out; a lot of murmur and the rustling of coats were heard. Amanda stayed behind to clean up and saw that the man next to her made no move to leave.
"Aren't you gonna leave?" She asked him.
"Nope! I would like to spend a little more time here if that's not a problem." He said looking at me and then turned back to look at the statue of Christ.
As she did her work the elderly man got up and offered to help her. She couldn't decline his tempting offer and they both ended up cleaning the place together.
"Thanks Mister... We managed to finish early!" She exclaimed.
As they bid farewell with the priest and got out into the cold evening she asked again "How old are you man? You seem pretty active for an old person"
"Why don't you make a guess?"
"Ummm around 50?"
Giving off a deep chuckle "I am a 71 year old man!" He said. That made her jaw fall to the ground. 'He looks so darn young!' She thought.
The old man made it a habit to come early every Sunday and leave late. He enjoyed being in the presence of young Amanda and she loved his company.
One fine day she was clearing the leaves that had fallen on the grass bed. "Hey Mister!" She called out snapping him out of his day dream.
"What are you dreaming about?" She enquired.
"Just wondering the work of The Lord... He makes us live with no certainty and yet we always keep hoping for the best!" He paused before continuing "the lord makes us suffer so much and yet we come to him for comfort..."
She did not half understand what the old man was talking about.
Amanda stopped her car near the St.Antonio's Church, the famous church in Oaklands.
'It says 237C West Road... This seems to be west road but there is no house in the vicinity' she thought. She looked around for some more time before going into the church.
Inside the church she sees a lady who must be in her late 30's. "Hi, I am looking for Mr.Samuel Joy... Do you happen to know anyone by that name?" Amanda asked.
"I am sorry but I am new here. Please wait while I ask the head nun... She knows everyone in this village!" The lady replied and went in leaving Amanda all alone with her thoughts. Amanda sat down reminiscing her moments with the old man. A tear rolled down as she remembered the day he opened up to her.
That day 3 years ago:
"Why do you come here Mister? Your village has a bigger church right?" 17 year old Amanda asked him.
"That is because I love this chapel very much!" He said with a small smile adorning his face.
"No! There must be some other reason! Tell me..." She urged him.
He slowly took out his wallet and dug a passport size photo out of it. She noticed that his hands had started trembling while getting the photo from him. It was a picture of a guy who resembled him a lot.
'His son I guess!' She thought.
"That is my son. He loves to go around on his bike and explore various places. Out of all the villages he had visited he had told me that this church used to be his most favourite hang out spot..."
At the mention of the word ‘used to’ Amanda looked up from the picture to see the old man in tears.
"My son is no more... He died in a road accident a few months ago!" He said trembling. She just hugged him.
"It's alright Mister... Your son is with The Lord now. He is happy there!" She tried to comfort him.
"I am just waiting for The Lord to take me with him. I got no one else to live for!" He cried to her.
"Please don't cry Mister! You have got The Lord to live for. I am there for you right!"
The last few words made him smile through his tears.
Amanda was torn away from her day dreaming by the nun's voice.
"How may I help you my dear?" The old lady asked.
"I am looking for Mr.Samuel Joy. The address says 237C, West Road. But I don't find any other house in the vicinity." She answered.
The nun became quiet for a moment. "Please follow me." She said and walked through the back doors of the church. Amanda looked around and saw that they were walking through a cemetery. She did not like the strange feeling that crept through her. The nun stopped at a particular head stone made from black marble.
"The Samuel Joy you were asking for is sleeping peacefully here!" The nun answered. "Are you Amanda by any chance?" She added.
All Amanda could do was nod. She was trying to digest the details mentioned on the tombstone.
A good teacher, husband, father
Pastor Samuel Joy (1939-2011)
"He was a priest?" She asked in disbelief.
The nun was surprised. "He never told you that?"
"I did not even know his name!" Amanda said gaining a very amazed look from the nun.
"That's news. He always speaks about you! I wonder why he never mentioned anything about himself to you..." Amanda just kneeled beside the stone as tears rolled down her cheek.
"He has said a lot to more than just his mere name..." She said.
3 years ago:
It has been a year since Amanda befriended the old man. They both were so close yet she did not even know his name and he did not know hers. She was accepted in a college that was located in the city.
She was leaving.
She met him at the church as usual that Sunday.
"I am leaving Mister!" She said. He was silent.
She looked up to see him smiling. "Aren't you sad?" She asked him.
"Why would I be sad? You are just chasing your dreams. I am happy for you!" He said.
There was a silence that prevailed.
"You know, my son would have been in college now if he were alive today... He couldn't, instead you are going! I am very glad"
Amanda couldn't find the strength to say good bye...
"Please be happy alright" she said hugging him.
He broke the embrace and looked into her tear filled eyes. "Honestly speaking child... The departure of my soul from this world is the only thing that can make me truly happy! I cannot give you false promises that I will try to be happy..."
She hit him lightly. She hated when he spoke like this. "Fine! At least promise to take good care of yourself..."
He laughed a bit and said "That I can do!"
Just when she was going to step out of the church she turned around and said "By the way my name is Amanda!" making him smile.
She had stopped crying and narrated everything to the nun. How she met him and how they spent their Sundays together. When she came back for the holidays she could no more find her favourite old man and started searching for his name.
Fortunately he had donated some clothes for the church and they had his details on the register. That was how she managed to find him.
"Don't worry my child! He is always with us!" The nun tried to comfort her. Just then there was someone to see the nun, Amanda was left alone again.
A small smile spread across her face when she realized something. The smile converted into a wider one. She remembered his last words to her. She realized that he is truly happy now and that made her smile like a mad woman.
A single tear rolled down from her right eye*.
I would like to dedicate this story for the old man who used to greet me every morning at the temple. I am sad to tell you that he is no more now. Just like Amanda even I never learned his name, not even now I know his name.
I miss you old man!
*In case you did not get the hint about the last line, I read somewhere that when you cry out of happiness the first tear drop comes from the right eye and if you cry from sadness the first tear comes through the left eye. I don’t know if it is proved. But I thought I will use it here!
I have been typing the entire story in my phone all day. I couldn't stop myself from writing it like this. I didn't want to forget the story that quickly formed in my head when I learned that I have to spend a long day at work sitting idle because I have no work allocated for the day :-P
Anyways I hope you all enjoy the story! Not the usual romance stuff, but this is a little deep.
Pl ignore if you find any typos. Or post it in the comments and I shall correct them. :)