The best and most beautiful things in life cannot be seen, not touched, but are felt in the heart.
– Helen Keller
My husband, Lee, and I don’t always march to the same drummer. I’m a detailed perfectionist, while he’s prone to jump right in and do it, “or it won’t get done.” And while I ponder world problems and dream of a hate-free society, he avoids deep philosophical discussions, preferring instead light, playful banter.
And neither is right or wrong. We study the Bible together and each has an abiding faith. I didn’t, until recently, consider Lee a bona fide romantic. One exceptional time he said, “Y’know, Sue, the sweetest sound coming from your mouth is my name- –Lee.”
“Really?” I asked, surprised at the simplicity of his sentiment.
“Yeah,” he said quite sincerely.
Hey, I can handle that. “Okay, I’ll say it more often – Lee.”
A huge grin slid from one ear to the other. “Thanks,” he said softly.
I kept my promise.
One sunny day I drove in from work and saw him toiling feverishly in our pansy bed. Back and neck injury-related problems long ago retired me from this particular creative pastime. How I miss working alongside him. Sighing, I went inside and prepared lunch.
“Hungry?” I called from the doorway, curious about his intense preoccupation amid scattered mulch, bucket, and minute-budded greenery. His concentration was nothing new, but he usually finished a planting design much quicker.
I opened my mouth to question his slow progress, but something stopped me. Probably his wrinkled brow and the near-desperate way he gauged the placement of the tiny plants.
“I’ll eat later,” he murmured, and proceeded to move the mulch about and re-dig.
After he finished, he called, “Come look at it, Sue.”
I gazed at the flimsy patches of green, and started to ask, “Why?” Again, the words froze, undelivered.
“What d’ya think?” He wiped sweat from his brow looking extremely pleased with himself.
“It’s . . . nice,” I said, squashing my disappointment that he’d not filled the bed as was his custom. I love the vibrant colors during winter’s dismal days. Yet on some level, I knew this was not the time to critique his work. The smile I gave him must have worked, because he gave me a quick, sweaty kiss and hug.
Oh well, the important thing, I tried to convince myself, is that he had enjoyed doing it.
I studiously avoided looking at this fragile bed as winter set in.
In late January, my neck and back started acting up again, making getting about difficult. Depression settled over me like leaden fog. Even driving proved difficult because rotating my neck and torso to see out the side car windows was excruciating. That day, on my way home from the grocery store, I nearly sideswiped an eighteen- wheeler, whose driver, red-faced and shaking a sausage-sized fist, yelled obscenities at me. It was the final straw. I burst into tears.
When I turned blindly into my drive, I braked and laid my head on the steering wheel to vent my sense of helplessness. I tried to think of all the good things in my life: my children, grandchildren … Lee.
And my pansies. I needed a good laugh. I lifted my head to look at them. They blurred and swam in my teary vision, slowly clearing.
My breath caught in my throat.
Shimmering under a golden sun, framed against a little white-railed porch, I witnessed my husband’s tribute in rioting, loving color.
The blossoms spelled S-U- E.
Author’s note: What’s in a Name? appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul Love Stories, 2008, compiled by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Peter Veggo
Emily Sue Harvey is the author of six novels, Song of Renewal, Unto These Hills, Homefires,
Space, Cocoon, and Twilight Time, all published by The Story Plant. The e-book versions of
Song of Renewal and Twilight Time will be at a special $2.99 price throughout the month of