On a crisp evening in December, 80 year old Agnes, radiant and beautiful in a cream lace dress walked down the aisle. As the crowd stood smiling, she walked slowly towards the front of the church, pausing for a brief second as if to relive that moment. Her lips parted in a tiny smile as she remembered the same day 60 years ago when she, a nervous, young bride took her first steps toward her dream: a lifetime of love and happiness with the man she loved most dearly. David stood exactly the way he did all those years ago and as he saw her walk toward him, memories of their life together flashed before him. A tear trickled down his cheek. When she paused, he remembered how all those years ago she almost made his heart skip a beat when she stopped and pretended to take a few steps backward (much to the amusement of the crowd and a huge gasp from the priest). He loved that unpredictable and defiant streak she possessed. She was doing it again and this time, he couldn’t help but break into a huge smile as he rushed towards her. They embraced and walked together hand in hand. The crowd cheered loudly while their children and grandchildren looked happy at the most beautiful display of love they were lucky to witness all their life.
Agnes and David were poles apart in several ways and yet fate had something different for them. They met when David was appointed as the Dean of a prestigious university in a small town. Agnes worked as an assistant in the same department and although they never really connected initially, their friendship blossomed over the years. David was the shy one, who hardly spoke and Agnes, the ever popular extrovert would often tease him about his quiet demeanor. There was something about the way she embraced life and made the most of every moment that made him admire her. Soon it was time for him to move onto another assignment and he didn't have the heart to leave without her. Nothing was easy with Agnes and it took a lot of courage to approach her strict Catholic family. So a year later, and just before he could take up his new position, David and Agnes took their vows to begin life together.
In another part of the world, 33 year old Shreya and Anil sat quietly among packed cartons and suitcases. Married for five years, it was love at first smile for Shreya who met Anil at a wedding reception. His captivating smile was something she could not get over for days until she convinced her friend to make appropriate introductions. From then on it was a ride of a lifetime: date nights and movies, adventurous trips and holidays abroad. It seemed like they were perfect for each other and enjoyed similar interests. Anil felt he was ready to take the plunge, ready for commitment and everything that came with marriage. They were married in style, a grand celebration in a beautiful destination. Everything seemed perfect and happy as life began.
As fate would have it (and unfortunately for them), they soon realised that their differences were eroding their relationship to breaking point. They both had extremely demanding jobs that left them little time to bond and enjoy life together. Anil was extremely business driven, hell-bent and focused on making a fortune while Shreya put her dreams on hold to support him as much as she could. An argument a week earlier catapulted out of control, harsh words, past misgivings and a whole load of unpleasantness left them shattered. It wasn’t the first argument because everyday worries about their future constantly led them to become miserable in each other’s company. Anil began to avoid home, often seeking refuge with his friends and Shreya would often find herself sitting alone or busy taking care of house duties. The current arrangement wasn’t working. The final straw came when Anil accused Shreya of not being a good wife, a bitter argument that left both of them crushed. So she packed her five years of their life together and decided to leave. Anil seemed unfazed and quite unapologetic even as he looked around at their (almost) empty house. He felt she had failed him and could have done about better job supporting him when times were tough. Nothing could convince him that mistakes happen and that compromises can sometimes be taken for granted.
As David and Agnes renewed their vows, they remembered their 60 years of life together. It was anything but rosy with the many ups and downs they faced. Demanding jobs, children, constant transfers and time apart from each other could have easily taken a toll on their marriage. There were fights and arguments that sometimes made them sulk at each other for days but they never failed to remind themselves the reason for which they sought to be together. They embraced their differences, forgave each other’s mistakes and never took each other for granted when things were tough.
Two months later, David suffered a massive stroke that rendered him unconscious and in the hospital. The doctors were apprehensive about his recovery, especially because of his age and past illnesses. As the days passed, he grew weaker but Agnes sat by his bedside every day, holding onto his hand, as she tearfully whispered in his ear, "I'll hold your hand forever my darling David." And that she did, until the end. When the time came, she sadly bid farewell and although she was grateful for the 60 years of life they had been blessed with, she desperately wished that they had more time together- precious time that they did not have.
Shreya could not bring herself to forgive Anil for letting her go. Despite several attempts to work things out during the time spent apart, they often went back and forth eventually ending up with past misgivings. It was endless and sad because although young and full of life, they would not allow themselves the opportunity to give their relationship another chance. On the day Shreya finally left Anil, she held on to his hand at the airport. Fighting back tears, she remembered how five years ago he made a solemn promise to take care of her saying: "I'll hold your hand forever my darling Shreya." Somehow he'd forgotten or even if he hadn't he didn't seem to care. As the cabin lights dimmed for takeoff, and the plane taxied down the runway leaving behind the brightly lit terminal, Shreya vowed never to return.
This is not a true story but I feel there are so many couples like Agnes and David: who have spent years together and are left grieving for their loved ones. (And) then there are many like Shreya and Anil who allow petty differences to make life so much harder for each other. Who often give up without facing challenges and allowing each other a second chance. We may never know the circumstances or reasons why people live apart or separate but I think sometimes, we just need to look beyond the negativity, the flaws and the many ups and downs that life renders because in the end, nothing matters except the one holding (tightly) onto your hand.