Life is all about being grateful for everything, and enjoying every moment. The people we meet in life often teach us lessons, which will never be forgotten.
(The following story is a work of fiction. None of these events actually occurred.)
It was just another winter evening. Cold, Dark and Bleak. Winter was laying it’s icy hands on every object that it could find- carefully wrapping its long fingers around them. Soft flakes drifted down from the pines, onto the ground. The sun had decided to hide behind the grey, towering clouds. It was beginning to grow darker by noon. I had been home all day, procrastinating. Or rather, Binge-watching. The second season of my favourite show had started airing two weeks ago, but I’d been so caught up with my job, that I did’t have the time to plonk myself down on the couch, and marvel at the clever punchlines, and the to burst out laughing, at the perfectly timed jokes. So, after binge watching for about 8 hours, I finally completed the season. Whew.
I decided to go out for a stroll. It had been a while, since the last time I had the opportunity to spend some time alone, reflecting back on the past week, and planning for the week ahead of me. I rushed through the things I had to do, before stepping outside- I hastily wore my winter coat and my gloves, slipped into my shoes, and made sure that the doors of the house were locked. ‘It’s freezing outside’, I thought to myself, and jogged to the park.
I have been living in this neighbourhood since I was two. Naturally, I have many memories associated with this place. How the flowers along the sidewalk bloomed in spring, how the trees changed colour in the fall, how the snowflakes gently fell to the ground in the winter, and the sound of the ice-cream man’s bell, in the summer. I’d made so many friends- Merriam, Scott, Brian, Robbie and Nick- whom I’d grown up with. We spent the most memorable years of our lives at the neighbourhood park. Whenever I was sad, upset, or just needed to be alone for a while, I’d just jog down to the park. But today was different. I just wanted to get away from the madness- the pressure at work, deadlines and assignments to be submitted. As soon as I entered the park, I suddenly felt much younger, more at ease. I sat down on a bench, in one corner of the park. I looked around, and saw so many young kids. Waiting in line for the swing, giggling on the see-saw, squealing as the merry-go-round started moving faster. The gloominess of the surroundings had not dampened their spirits, obviously.
One particular kid caught my attention. He was about eight years old, and was bursting with energy. He was like a ray of sunshine, daring to shine through the dark clouds around. His mother was sitting beside him, gingerly holding his hands in hers. He wore a bright orange cap, and I figured out that he was bald. He smiled at me, and waved. Excitedly. I smiled warmly, and waved back. ‘What a nice little kid,’ I thought. He motioned for me to come play with him, and I gave a short, hollow laugh. Wasn’t I clearly too old to play with an eight year old?
He sensed denial and realised that I wasn’t to keen on joining him. He clasped his tiny hands together and pleaded me to join him. I reluctantly got up and took fast paced steps towards him. On seeing me, his eyes lit up like an entire constellation. He told me that his name was Taylor and that he loved meeting new people and getting to know them. When I asked him if he liked school, he told me that he had stopped going to school a few months ago. He said that the doctors told him that he was really sick, and that he should not go to school anymore. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I silently whispered. An hour went by, talking to him. In the middle of our conversation, he saw a firefly. His eyes gleamed, and he chased it. He followed it to the bushes, running behind it. I smiled at him. He was enjoying every second of his life, and he did not let his sickness drag him down. After he had taken off behind the firefly, I asked his mother about his health. A tear trickled down her cheek, and glistened under the light of the lamp-post. Taylor was diagnosed with Leukaemia (also spelled as ‘Leukemia’), about six months ago. The doctors had asked him to stay at home, and had prescribed expensive medicines and chemotherapy. Taylor’s father had died when he was just three years old, and Myrna was the sole breadwinner of the family. She worked at the Town Library, but her income was not sufficient, to cater to his medical needs. She worked multiple jobs, in order to pay for the sessions. In the end, she only hoped that a miracle would see them through.
Taylor had suffered from seizures, frequent headaches, nausea and other symptoms of the merciless disease. Even after all that he had been through, he still managed to be happy. Combating all the hardships, always trying his best to pull through.Of late, his condition had deteriorated. He had grown weaker, and the cancer had gotten worse. I suppressed my tears. No parent should every see their children lose to diseases, and fade away. My heart ached for Myrna. Apart from being a single parent, she had been through a lot already. Her eyes searched for Taylor. She finally spotted him, playing with the other kids. ‘I hope he’ll pull through’, she said. Her voice cracked, and her eyes were moist. She closed them, and pear- shaped tears trickled down her cheeks. I sighed. Life was so cruel, sometimes. All this while, I had been thinking that the pressure I was going through was the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone. I’d pitied myself, for the wrong reasons. I was wrong. So wrong. I had to be grateful for everything that I had.
I had to get home, as it was almost ten. I promised Taylor that I would see him again. Soon. He flashed a toothless smile, and waved. It was something so angelic and innocent, that it was etched in my memory. If anyone would ask me what comes to my mind first, on hearing the word angelic, I’d say Taylor’s face. Those innocent eyes, and that toothless smile…
Over the next week, I saw him several times. At the park, at the library, and at the toy store. I was there, buying a stuffed toy, for my niece. It was a pleasant surprise, to see Taylor there. He was standing at the door, staring inside. I could see a sparkle in his eyes, and followed his gaze. He wanted the limited edition action figure, of a very popular movie franchise. I smiled at him, and without another word, went inside. I came outside with two parcels. I saw that he was still standing there. I handed the carefully wrapped parcel to him. ‘This is for you, young man,’ I said, and he was overjoyed. He gave me a quick hug, and ran, to keep up with his mother. She turned around, and mouthed two words. ‘Thank You’.
Over the next few weeks, I kept checking up on Taylor. I’d call Myrna, to make sure that he was doing okay. 5 weeks after the first time I’d seen him, Myrna called me up. She asked me to come over for dinner, that night. It was Friday, and I would come home from work by six o’clock, in the evening. I graciously accepted her invitation, and promised to be there that evening. At seven, I was at their front door. Taylor opened the door, and welcomed me inside. Their small house was cozy and comfortable, despite its size. After a hearty meal, Taylor asked me to follow him to his room. On reaching, I saw that the walls were lined with various doodles that he had made. I sat down on the bed, and listened to him, as he spoke. ‘The last time we visited the doctor, he told me that I didn’t have too long to live.’ I felt a lump in my throat. ‘But, I’m so grateful, for waking up to a beautiful day. Getting the opportunity to spend time with the people who mean a lot to me. It’s not always about the number of days a person lives for. It’s how you make those days special, and add life to your days- not days to your life.’ I smiled. I was trying hard to forget, that his days were numbered. ‘Thank you so much, for today. You made me really happy. I’d love to have another dinner party soon!’, he said cheerfully. Later, he pointed at the doodles on his wall, and explained the significance of each of them. I saw Rainbows, Happy faces, and a United world. Later, he asked if I could stay to play with him, and his action figures.
The next day, I received a call in the evening, after I came back from work. ‘Hello Tom,’ said the voice at the other end. I recognised it to be Myrna’s. I could sense the tension in her voice. ‘Is everything okay?’ I asked. ‘Taylor passed away last night, he died peacefully. He was so happy. Thank you.’ She broke down. I promised to visit her that evening, and attend the funeral the next day. The next morning, I went to pay my last respects. I placed the action figure in his coffin. The one that he loved so much. He was a songbird, and had flown into my life, and filled it with melody. However, he couldn’t stay forever. He had other world to sing in. I also placed a bouquet of white roses- just like the ones in the bush in the park.
Like the firefly, his life was elusive too. But, it had made mine so much brighter.
I have a picture in my living room, that says- ‘Songbirds have many worlds to sing in’.
He’ll always be remembered.