Our landlord and the landlady live on the ground floor of our apartment. They are in their early 80s. They had renovated the ground floor into a small cafe.
But they chose not to.
They opened the cafe 35 years ago. The landlady single-handedly managed the cafe. The landlord who was a teacher later joined the wife after he retired. The cafe was not big. It was just a small cafe with 5 seats on the counter and on the other side, 2 tables with 8 chairs.
The landlady and me were quite close. She even had a few of my photos kept in the drawer. I was surprised to see that the photos of me taken 12 years ago were well kept. She was really a sweetheart.
The landlord was diagnosed to have Parkinson disease more than 10 years ago. His symptoms were mild and never escalated like what we see in severe disease like in Mohamad Ali, the famous boxer. The landlord had tremors which were only noticed by people close to him. Yeah...he was lucky that his symptoms were mild.
However last spring, he had contracted severe pneumonia which he finally succumbed to in July. He passed away without pain, peacefully with a smiling face, according to the landlady.
Then came the main question, what would happen to Den cafe. When we talked about Den cafe, it's always about the couple. It's impossible to imagine Den cafe without the image of the landlord. Furthermore, now that she's old and fragile, it would be stressful for her to handle it alone.
After one week of landlord's passing, I visited the landlady. She looked very thin and tired. I asked her how she was doing. She said, 'I am good...'.Which to me, was not true. She was trying to make me feel better. She did not want to show her sadness to me. She kept telling me that he didn't suffer much and that he must have left this world without regrets. She didn't discuss about her feelings. I suppose she's going through the first stage of grieving, which is, denial. I let her talked and lent her a listening ear. It must have been tough for her, after more than 50 years together.
In the middle of our conversation, she suddenly stood up, went to her drawer and looked for something. She then passed it to me. It was a picture.
Landlady: 'Do you have this picture?'
Me: 'No...I don't. Oh, it's really nostalgic...'
(it was a picture of me and the landlord, taken in the cafe 12 years ago)
Landlady: 'That's yours now.'
Me: 'Oh no...I can't have this. This is your memory of him.'
Landlady: 'I don't need that to remind me of him dear. He would want you to have that picture. I am sure...' She had tears in her eyes.
Me: 'Oh...thank you...' I had tears in my eyes too.
Then my son, Sya who saw us crying said, 'Mommy, why crying? Ojiichan is in heaven. We should not be sad...'. That innocent remark triggered more tears in us. She and I then hugged each other for a while.
Den cafe will be around for quite a while, it seems. I will be the regular customer from now on, to ensure she would be capable of continuing not only her passion, but also the memory of her late husband.
View from the apartment, facing the hospital where the landlord passed away
"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live" by Norman Cousins