A Tale of Love, Loss, and the Importance of Communication

A sunset over the ocean.
A forensic expert with decades of experience unraveling the mysteries behind life's final curtain call shares a profound perspective that illuminates the intricate web of causality that binds our actions to their outcomes. (Image: Bogdan Sonyachny via Dreamstime)

Two years into our marriage, my husband consulted me about bringing his mother from the countryside to spend her later years with us. Little did I know it would alter the course of our lives.

My husband’s father passed away when he was young, leaving his mother to raise him single-handedly and to provide for his college education. I readily agreed and immediately prepared a room for his mother. The room had a south-facing balcony where she could enjoy the sunshine and grow flowers and plants. Standing in the sunlit room, my husband joyfully lifted me and spun me around, saying: “Let’s go fetch Mom!”

Conflicts and tensions arise

However, my mother-in-law struggled to adjust to city life. I liked buying fresh flowers for the living room, but she couldn’t bear the expense, saying: “Don’t you young people know how to save?” I smiled and replied: “Mom, having fresh flowers at home uplifts the mood.” She grumbled, and my husband added: “Mom, this is a city habit. You’ll get used to it.”

Gradually, in our happy life, discord began to arise. For example, my mother-in-law disapproved of my husband preparing breakfast. To her, it was absurd for a grown man to cook for his wife. Her displeasure was evident at the breakfast table, but I pretended not to notice. She would clatter her chopsticks loudly in her otherwise silent protest.

Working as a dance teacher, I often felt tired and found solace in my warm bed every morning. I didn’t want to relinquish this daily comfort and disregarded my mother-in-law’s objections. Occasionally, she helped with household chores, but this only made things even busier for me. She’d collect all the used garbage bags to sell, making the house full of plastic waste bags. She refused to wash dishes with detergent, so I had to rewash them or redo other tasks discreetly to not hurt her pride.

One evening, she caught me secretly washing dishes. Slamming her door shut, she cried loudly in her room. My husband, torn between the two of us, remained silent all night. Frustrated, I asked: “What did I do wrong?” He retorted: “Can’t you just compromise? A few dirty dishes won’t kill anyone.” After that, my mother-in-law stopped talking to me, and tension-filled our home. My husband struggled, unsure how to please both of us.

One evening, she caught me secretly washing dishes. Slamming her door shut, she cried loudly in her room. My husband, torn between the two of us, remained silent all night. (Image: Shutterstock)

Their first intense argument

My mother-in-law refused to let her son cook breakfast, taking on the “grave responsibility” herself. She watched him eating happily, then glanced at me, silently blaming my lack of wifely duty. To avoid awkwardness, I bought milk for breakfast on my way to work. One night, my husband asked angrily: “Ludi, do you avoid eating at home because you think my mom’s cooking isn’t clean?” Turning away, he left me in tears. Eventually, he sighed: “Ludi, for my sake, can you eat breakfast at home?” Reluctantly, I returned to the awkward breakfast table.

That morning, as I drank the porridge my mother-in-law made, I suddenly felt nauseous. Everything inside me seemed to rush out. I tried desperately to contain it but failed. Rushing to the bathroom, I vomited uncontrollably. As I gasped for air and finally calmed down, I heard my mother-in-law crying and complaining in her hometown dialect.

My husband stood at the bathroom door, glaring at me angrily. I couldn’t speak, unable to explain that it wasn’t intentional. My husband and I began our first intense argument while my mother-in-law watched, then rose and staggered out of the house. My husband shot me a hateful look before storming downstairs to chase after her.

An unexpected pregnancy

My husband didn’t come home or even call for three whole days. Fuming, I thought about how much I’d endured since my mother-in-law arrived. What more did they want from me? Over those days, I felt constantly nauseous and had no appetite, and with the chaotic household chores, my mood hit rock bottom. Eventually, a colleague said: “Ludi, you look terrible. You should see a doctor.”

To my surprise, the hospital examination revealed that I was pregnant. I realized why I had suddenly vomited that morning. But amid the happiness was a tinge of bitterness. How could my husband and experienced mother-in-law not have considered this as the cause? At the entrance of the hospital, I saw my husband. In just three days, he looked utterly worn out. I wanted to walk away, but his appearance tugged at my heart, and I couldn’t resist calling out to him. He turned and saw me, but his eyes betrayed disdain, piercing my heart with coldness.

I told myself not to look at him as I hailed a taxi. I wanted to shout: “Honey, I’m going to give you a baby!” and be lifted and spun in happiness. But that didn’t happen. In the taxi, tears streamed down my face. How could a single argument deteriorate our relationship to this extent? Back home, lying in bed, I thought of my husband and his disdainful gaze. Clutching the corner of the blanket, I cried.

That night, I was awakened by the sound of drawers being rummaged in the house. When I turned on the light, I saw my husband’s tear-streaked face as he gathered money. I looked at him coldly in silence. He ignored me, grabbing his wallet before hastily leaving. I wondered if perhaps my husband intended to leave me altogether. He was rational, so his distinction between love and money was evident. I smiled bitterly, tears streaming down my face.

Outside of a medical building with a large sign with the words "Patient Entrance".
To my surprise, the hospital examination revealed that I was pregnant. I realized why I had suddenly vomited that morning. But amid the happiness was a tinge of bitterness. (Image: Ken Cole via Dreamstime)

A tragic accident

The next day, I didn’t go to work. I went to his company to clear my thoughts and converse properly with my husband. The secretary looked at me strangely, saying: “Mr. Chen’s mother was hit by a bus and is in the hospital.” I was dumbfounded. Rushing to the hospital, I found my husband. By then, his mother was gone. He never looked at me, his expression stiff. As I looked at my mother-in-law’s pale, gaunt face, my tears were unstoppable. “Oh my God! How could this be?” 

Even after burying his mother, my husband didn’t speak to me and couldn’t even look at me without deep disdain.

I had to learn the details of the terrible accident from others. After leaving home in a daze, my mother-in-law walked toward the nearby bus station. The more my husband chased after her, the faster she went. As she was crossing the road, a bus struck her head-on. I finally understood my husband’s disdain. Suppose I hadn’t vomited that morning if we hadn’t quarreled. In his heart, I was the sinner who indirectly killed his mother.

Spiraling downward

My husband silently moved into my mother-in-law’s room, returning home every night reeking of alcohol. Meanwhile, I was suffocating under guilt and wounded pride, wanting to explain to him, wanting to tell him about our child. But seeing his icy gaze, I swallowed my words.

Days passed in suffocating repetition, my husband coming home later and later. Our standoff grew more awkward than that of strangers. I was a knot in his heart. One day, passing by a Western restaurant, I saw my husband sitting face-to-face with a young woman through the floor-to-ceiling glass window. He gently tucked her hair behind her ear, and everything became clear.

I stood still, then entered the restaurant, standing in front of my husband, staring at him with eyes void of tears and without saying a word. The girl glanced at me, then at my husband, wanting to leave. My husband reached out to stop her, his gaze equally cold and unyielding. All I could hear was my slow heartbeat, each thump echoing on the brink of a deathly silence. The loser was me. If I stood there any longer, I would collapse, along with the baby inside me.

Everything seemed lost

That night, my husband didn’t come home. It was his way of making me understand: With my mother-in-law’s passing, our love died, too. My husband never returned. Sometimes, coming home from work, I noticed our wardrobe had been disturbed — my husband had returned to retrieve his belongings. I didn’t want to call him, and my original thought of explaining the situation vanished. Everything seemed lost.

I lived alone, going to the hospital for prenatal check-ups by myself. Seeing men gently supporting their wives for prenatal check-ups shattered my heart. Colleagues vaguely suggested I consider an abortion, but I refused. I was adamant, almost crazy, wanting to give birth to this child, perhaps as compensation for my mother-in-law’s death.

Coming home from work one day, I found my husband sitting in the living room, his eyes complex, mirroring mine. As I removed my coat, I said to myself: “Don’t cry, don’t cry.” My eyes stung, but I held back the tears as my husband’s eyes fixed on my swollen belly. I smiled, walked over, pulled the divorce papers over without looking, signed my name, and pushed them back to him.

“Ludi, are you pregnant?” It was the first time my husband had spoken to me since my mother-in-law’s accident. I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore, and they cascaded uncontrollably. I said: “Yes, but it’s okay, you can leave.” My husband didn’t leave. In the darkness, we just stared at each other. Slowly, he lay down beside me, tears soaking the sheets.

My heart was devoid of love.
Many things had become so distant in my heart that I couldn’t reach them even if I ran. I lost count of how often my husband said ‘I’m sorry’ to me. I once thought I could forgive him, but now I just couldn’t. (Image: Kiosea39 via Dreamstime)

My heart was cold as ice

Many things had become so distant in my heart that I couldn’t reach them even if I ran. I lost count of how often my husband said “I’m sorry” to me. I once thought I could forgive him, but now I just couldn’t. I could never forget those cold eyes when he looked at me in front of that girl in the restaurant. We’d carved deep scars in each other’s hearts. Mine were unintentional; his were deliberate. I hoped for reconciliation, but the past can’t be undone!

Except for the warmth in my heart when I thought of the baby inside me, my heart was cold as ice toward my husband. I refused any food he bought, any gifts, any conversation. After signing that paper, our marriage and love completely vanished from my heart.

Sometimes, my husband tried to return to our bedroom. When he did, I would go to the living room, and he had to return to his mother’s room. At night, sometimes faint moans came from his room. It was an old trick: He pretended to be sick when I ignored him. I always surrendered, rushing to care for him as he grabbed me and laughed. He forgot, back then, that I did it out of love. Now, what did we have left?

The moans from his room continued until our baby was born. He bought things for the baby almost daily, filling his room with baby supplies, toys, and books. I knew he was trying to touch my heart, which had become petrified. When he was home, he stayed in his room, typing away on the computer. Perhaps he was having an online love affair, but I no longer cared.

Rushing to the hospital

One late spring night the following year, severe pain made me cry out. My husband rushed in as if he hadn’t even undressed for bed, anticipating this moment. He carried me downstairs, hailed a cab, held my hand tightly, and wiped the sweat from my forehead. At the hospital, he rushed me to the maternity ward. Lying on his warm, thin shoulder, I thought: who else in this life would love me like he does?

My husband held onto the door and watched me enter the delivery room, his eyes warm. I smiled at him through the pain. When we emerged from the delivery room, he looked at me and our son, eyes moist with joy. I touched his hand. He smiled, then slowly collapsed, exhausted. I shouted his name as he smiled, not opening his tired eyes. I thought I couldn’t shed another tear for my husband, but the pain tearing through my heart proved otherwise.

Chinese baby dressed in white and lying on a gray blanket.
Back at the hospital, my husband remained unconscious. I brought in our son, placed him in my husband’s arms, and said: ‘Open your eyes and smile; I want our son to remember the warmth of being in your arms.’ (Image: Anna Kraynova via Dreamstime)

Letters to his son and wife

When I talked to the doctor, he said my husband’s cancer was already in a terminal stage when it was discovered five months ago. His endurance for so long was an absolute miracle. “Prepare for the worst,” the doctor said. Ignoring the nurse’s protests, I rushed home into my husband’s room and turned on the computer. My heart was suffocating with pain. His cancer had been discovered five months ago; his moans were real.

The 200,000 characters on the computer were messages my husband wrote to our son:

“For you, my son, I have been persisting, waiting to see you before I fall. That is my greatest wish now… I know your life will have many joys and challenges if I could accompany you through this growth journey; how wonderful that would be. But Dad doesn’t have that chance. Dad has written down on the computer all the possible problems you may face throughout your life. When you encounter these challenges, you can refer to Dad’s advice.

After finishing these 200,000 characters, my dearest child, I feel like I’ve experienced your entire growth process with you. Truly, Dad is very gratified. Do love your mom well. She has to work very hard, loves you the most, and is also the person I love the most. From your time in kindergarten to elementary school, high school, college, to work, love, and every aspect of life, I’ve written it all down.”

My husband also wrote me a letter:

“My dear, marrying you is the greatest joy of my life. Forgive me for the hurt I caused you; forgive me for hiding the truth about my illness because I didn’t want you to be sad while waiting for the birth of our baby. My dear, if you cry, you have forgiven me, and I can smile. Thank you for always loving me. I worry I won’t have the chance to give our child these gifts. Please, every year, send him a few gifts on my behalf, by the dates written on the gift boxes.”

Back at the hospital, my husband remained unconscious. I brought in our son, placed him in my husband’s arms, and said: “Open your eyes and smile; I want our son to remember the warmth of being in your arms.” My husband struggled to open his eyes, smiling faintly. Our son nestled in his embrace, his little pink arms waving. I clicked the camera shutter, tears flowing down my face.

I dedicate this story as a tribute to those in love, or about to fall in love. Communication is crucial. Sacrifice for those you love! Forgive and don’t hold onto resentment. Always remember… caring for love begins with the will to nourish and protect it, seeing things from the others person’s perspective, and a commitment to good communication.

Translated by Katy Liu and edited by Tatiana Denning

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  • Tatiana Denning

    Dr. Denning has always believed in root-cause medicine. With a focus on wellness and prevention. she has used both her medical degree and her degree in psychology, to create a program with proven results. Dr. Denning's desire to correct the underlying causes underlying cause of many chronic medical conditions has been the driving force for her focus on nutrition and weight management. With years of experience in the field, Dr. Denning has helped thousands of patients lose thousands of pounds.