Joy to Aun­tie Ann

A sim­ple card lifts a heart deep in grief.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By TAN LAY KHIM

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.

This page is for sto­ries that are heart-warm­ing or thought­pro­vok­ing. If you have an orig­i­nal one to share, e-mail it to star2. heart@thes­

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