Joy to Auntie Ann
A simple card lifts a heart deep in grief.
COME over, join us and have a good time. We have enough food, drink and presents for everyone.” Every Christmas season Auntie Ann would go around the neighbourhood, inviting almost everyone to join her family in the merriment.
At that time, Auntie Ann’s family was the only Indian-Catholic family in our community, which was predominantly Chinese with a few Malay families. She lived with her husband, Charles Ramanathan, who was a school teacher, together with their daughter, Betty.
This Indian family had a cordial relationship with all the folk living there, particularly Auntie Ann. She was always chirpy and she loved to go around chit-chatting or sharing her spicy Varuval Chicken with the Chinese housewives. Auntie Ann got along easily with them because she spoke fluent Hokkien.
Without fail, every Yuletide season, Auntie Ann’s family would throw a house party. They would bring out the Christmas tree to be set up in their living room. It would be decked in colourful twinkling lights and tinsel. Christmas carols and laughter would be heard all day long. They were a happy, close knit family – until one fateful day when Uncle Charles succumbed to a heart attack.
The sudden demise of her husband left Auntie Ann devastated. She became a recluse. She stayed indoors most of the time, only venturing outside to pick up the mail and newspapers at the front gate. She stopped mingling with the neighbours and going to the morning market. One her relatives helped to run her errands. The only time she left her house was when her friend came over to drive her to church.
The neighbours were very concerned about Auntie Ann’s wellbeing. Three years had passed, yet she still couldn’t come to terms with her husband’s death. She was still in mourning and we could see that she had lost her will to live. No one in the neighbourhood dared to greet or talk to her, as she always wore a forlorn look on her emaciated face. But we all hoped and prayed that she would recover from her grief. Auntie Ann and Betty had stopped celebrating Christmas in their home since the passing of Uncle Charles. Then came a year, when Auntie Ann started to see the light of Christmas – thanks to a card with a glowing star, so to speak.
This was what Betty told me: Among the many Christmas cards they received that year was an anonymous card addressed to her mum.
On the cover the word “joy” was made with a fancy typographic design with the letter “O” in the form of the Star of Bethlehem.
Underneath was a verse from Matthew 2:10: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
There was no signature, except the scribbled word “Love” together with a small smiley sketch.
Betty said that when her mum read that card, there was a trace of a smile on her face. This was the first time Auntie Ann smiled since the passing of her husband. It was as if the card had awoken her mother from her long-held grief. She recalled her mum saying that the card must be from someone special from faraway, just like the Christmas Star.
According to Betty, that year, her mum asked her to set up the Christmas tree. Both mother and daughter celebrated a simple Christmas get-together.
As time went by, Auntie Ann gradually pulled herself out of her bereavement. She started going to the morning market again and mingled with her neighbours. We were all delighted to see her spring back to her usual jolly self once more.
Till today, no one knows who sent that anonymous Christmas card to Auntie Ann. But we are pleased that the greeting card had miraculously brought joy back to Auntie Ann, and brought her back to us.
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