9: The Red Pen

9: The Red Pen

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

The Red Pen

Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated.

~Alphonse de Lamartine

My thoughts turn to what has been with me for weeks. I am thinking about a past boyfriend whom I met again by chance. I cannot get him out of my mind.

He was not my boyfriend. He was the very special friend of my beloved sister Ivy when she was in high school. Ivy was 16 when she died in a plane crash with my father.

Ivy was sister number four, the baby, although in many ways she was probably the most mature within her short life. She was a very rare young woman who had the ability to empathize like few people I have ever known. She was stunning physically and within. She had long wavy brown hair, oval chocolate brown eyes and a smile that mesmerized. Her gentleness and insight were the foundation of a poise that was well beyond her age.

Seeing her friend David again was an overwhelming experience. I could only think of Ivy’s description of how she first met him while walking down the hall of her high school. She had told me that she knew instantly that she had to find out who he was. It was a romantic and womanly moment in her life.

When I ran into this incredibly handsome man, then in his late thirties and still single, I hugged him and he returned the warmth and greeted me by the nickname Ivy called me. My heart ached in response and yet I was filled with an indescribable fulfillment. I was looking into the eyes of someone who shared so much of my sister’s life in a way that belonged only to them. I am thankful that she had whatever they shared. She would sometimes ride on the back of his motorcycle, her long dark hair waving in the wind. I am glad that she rode on a motorcycle. I am grateful for every moment and experience she enjoyed in her life.

I told him that I was so happy that they shared a special relationship. He shook his head and smiled sweetly and shyly. He was a quiet man with an intensity that he also had as a boy. It was only to Ivy that he would open his heart. She would often listen to him for hours and advise him. She never told anyone what they talked about, but I know she reached him in a way no one else ever had. He needed her and she was there for him, as she always was when you needed her.

After the accident, David came to our home and sat in Ivy’s room shaking. He looked at my mother, my sisters and me but he could not speak. His silence eloquently expressed the depth of his loss.

I often wondered how he was able to express his grief. I wrote about mine. My ability to express my feelings through my writing saved me after the accident.

For David it was in his smile and private memories that she lived on. They shared the same birthday. I would always love him for being part of her life.

In time, David chose to express his grief in a college English class. He was not sure that he wanted to go on to school, but he decided to try it and enrolled in a community college.

His teacher assigned a composition about “the most important memory or experience of your life.” For whatever reason, David was ready to talk for the first time about the loss of his beloved friend. He opened his soul and poured his heart into his paper.

When David received his graded composition, it was covered with red ink marks. Spelling and grammar corrections were everywhere. There was not one comment about his subject. There was not one word about his feelings. There was not one phrase expressing condolence for his loss. David dropped out of college. He became a successful businessman.

Years after our chance meeting, I heard about David again and I was utterly shattered. In his early forties David learned he had cancer. His doctors had missed the diagnosis at first. He was in a wheelchair and his father had brought him home to die. Home was the house where he was raised, the house in which he and Ivy had spent time together.

I knew what I had to do. It took everything in me to do it. I pulled up in front of his house. His father had a wheelchair ramp constructed off the garage. Two full-time nurses shared shifts.

My heart was beating so fast and hard that it hurt. I knocked on the door and the nurse opened it. There he was. David was sitting in his chair. He raised his head as though it was a weight and his eyes met mine. That shy sweet smile was still there and as ill as he was, he was still that stunning young man.

He was very weak and I had to put my ear close to his mouth so I could hear him. “I talk to her every day,” he whispered. I tried with all my strength to contain myself. I did not want to embarrass him in any way. My eyes, however, filled with tears.

“She is with you, David,” I answered, smiling back at him. “She is with you.”

Then we sat together, my hand on his, and I read him the story I had written about them.

I think of Ivy’s favorite song, “Color My World,” by the group Chicago. The melody is beautiful, the lyrics loving and embracing. Like her life, like their love, the song is brief yet hauntingly unforgettable.

~Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners