The Smile

It’s always the smile.

Chauncey didn’t intentionally eavesdrop on casual conversations. Well, at least he didn’t go out of his way to do it, but the proximity and the ratio of people in a room at any time set the course. The more crowded the room was, the less likely he’d be able to single out a target. If, however, there was only one couple sitting near him, then the chances of them having frank discussions was minimal. The ideal was two or three groups of people. Then he could catch a smattering of several conversations in one sitting.

Today was Chauncey’s lucky day as far as eavesdropping goes, though it wasn’t Judith’s.

As Chauncey ate, he overheard Benton consoling his mother-in-law, Judith. She wasn’t in tears, but her face was solemn and determined. The mood was downcast.

She kept saying as if in a trance, “59 years we were married, 59 years, Benton.”

“And he was a good man, Judith. You both raised Sonia well. Now they’re both gone.”

Judith muttered as she shifted food around on her plate with her fork, and Benton acknowledged, but neither were talkative. By the looks of their plates, they weren’t hungry either.

“I’ve been thinking about them both lately – obviously – and I know it’s trite and cliché, but they really are in a better place, Judith.”

Chauncey opened the internet app on his phone and searched the local news over the last week.

Father and Daughter Killed in Hit and Run on Route 522.

Now he understood and had context for that conversation.

And above all, Chauncey now had compassion for both of them.

Just as he was reading through the article, Chauncey glanced over at Judith. She looked at Benton with a focused intensity. Benton said nothing as he studied his mother-in-law. While they had both lost two loved ones, the pain must have been double for her, a husband and a daughter.

Judith’s gaze slowly turned into a smile. Nodding, she said, “It’s going to be all right, Benton. Everything’s going to be all right.”

She meant every word of it. Her smile from heaven itself gave it away. There would be moments of darkness and despair along the way, but in the end, the newly widowed Judith knew it would be all right.

Even the eavesdropper at the next table believed the words Judith just spoke. And he, too, was in tears at what he was hearing.



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