A Haiku for Henry
The telephone rang and Kumiko answered before it could ring twice.
The voice on the other end was urgent. ‘Mrs Marsden, it’s the hospital. Can you get here quickly?’
Although she’d known for some days that this moment would come, Kumiko’s heart plummeted. Henry must be fading fast. She threw her coat on and grabbed her handbag. The car was parked outside. She got in and, suppressing sobs, stopped only at the florists on the corner to buy a beautiful red rose, the closest she could get to a peony, just a day or so from being in full bloom.
The nurse on reception took her to the private room. Henry lay, eyes half closed, the skin on his face like parchment, his sparse white hair matted to his head. As she came into his view, his cracked lips mouthed, ‘Kumiko, darling…’
Bravely fighting her tears, she showed him the rose. ‘For you, Darling,’ unable to avoid the comparison with the energetic young rugby-playing buck whom she’d first met at the party in Tokyo celebrating the merger of their two employers so many years ago.
Henry’s lips crinkled into a near-smile and his eyes brightened. He reached out and their right hands met, fingers familiarly entwining. He mouthed, ‘I love you,’ before his eyes closed slowly as if taking in the final vision of his wife of sixty years, before he gave a deep sigh and was gone.
Kumiko remembered her mother’s words to her on the death of her father. ‘The soul,’ she had asserted, ‘takes with it to eternity the last earthly words it hears.’
She leant over him and whispered in his ear, ‘I love you,’ then in her own tongue and her mother’s, ‘Aishi teru.’
Kumiko sat up long into the night and the eastern skies were lightening when she finally picked up her pen and wrote in her diary the words she would later inscribe on a plain card to go, along with the rose, with Henry to his grave.
The songs of my heart
Spirit and soul are with you
Always my Darling