To die of a broken heart

On Christmas morning they found him in his bed and there was nothing they could do for him.

In his fifties, he was not a healthy man, but neither was he gravely ill. He had grown very fat of late, and you could see he did not really care about things; he always seemed distracted, drawn, as if in a world of his own no one was allowed to enter. After his wife had suddenly left him a few years ago he was never the same.

He had been a happy carefree boy, though. The son of rich parents, he was quite modest and never gave himself airs. He was a good student and soon became a Chemical Engineer so that he might work in the family business, a Pharmaceutical company created by his father that had grown to become one of the most important in the country. He had an inseparable group of friends from his childhood days and a teenage sweetheart who was beautiful and he was proud to show her to the world.

They began dating at an early age and after a few years she was like a member of the family. She came from a middle class family, unlike his, and soon she was having a taste of what life with him would be; she had opportunities only accessible to affluent people, like going to Paris or London with his mother on shopping sprees when it was not even usual for young people to travel abroad, let alone to indulge in expensive shopping…

He was a handsome boy but he aged prematurely. In his early twenties his hair was already thinning and he was putting on weight. Sometimes people – always mischievous – wondered what that beautiful girl saw in him, because he was neither handsome nor particularly attentive or romantic – rather the contrary – but then they reminded themselves he was rich. But of course this was just gossip. At the time they both seemed to be in love and happy together.

When they married – and their wedding was a grand occasion – they set up the home of everyone’s dreams; while all of us “mortals” had to moved into small apartments in a suburban area because we could not afford to live in the city, they had a two storied one in a very good quarter, and their huge bedroom had a closet for her clothes – the ultimate luxury – and even a fireplace that seemed incredibly romantic!

Time went by and they had two children. But they did not seem happy anymore. In fact, they led mostly separate lives – we could see her always by herself or with her children. More than alone, she looked lonely, so very lonely. An interior decorator, she never stopped working although of course she didn’t need to. He paid all the bills and she kept what she earned for herself, to buy clothes and accessories. To us it seemed she was never too worried in building a career to earn serious money, but only to keep herself occupied at a time when very few women stayed at home. But then, some said he didn’t want her to take her career too seriously, he felt there was no need to. It seemed he took most of the decisions for her, and he didn’t really ask her opinion about most of the issues regarding their life.

Even so, a few years ago I was surprised to hear they had divorced. There was much gossip, as she had not only left him, but their children as well, who were young adults at the time. He had tried to remonstrate with her but to no avail. She had simply packed and left. The children stayed because she had no means to give them a home, or the standard of life they were used to.  When she first left, everyone was saying she must have found someone else, but as time passed and she was always seen by herself people simply had to conclude this was not the case; a possible explanation was that she simply could not face life with him anymore, she could not bear the sight of him, so she had given up everything.

We’ll never know the truth, of course. Apparently there were no third parties involved from either side; he was deeply distressed by her leaving and constantly tried to win her back. Was it the erosion of daily life that so often kills the love people feel for each other or was it that they simply grew apart and wanted different things from life? Was it, as some people said, that he always bossed her around and she had no say in her children’s education or how the house was ran, or any relevant family decisions? Only they know.

She, who was used to having so much, lived through very hard times. But she never lost her youthful look, it seemed she did not age, and maybe that was part of her allure, her candid “little girl” looks and her athletic body, her dreamy eyes that always seemed to hide something. The fact is he never lost hope of having her back and some time ago he even resorted to a last plan. He hired her – as they had managed to keep on somewhat cordial terms – to decorate a magnificent house he had built for him and their children, and he gave her total freedom to decorate it according to her taste. He strongly hoped the house would create a new bond between them and when it was finally finished, he told her he still loved her and wanted her back, and also that he wanted them all to live there like a family again. Her reaction could not have been worse and she sharply told him she would never go back to him in her life. After that he became very depressed and lost all hope.

Lately he was drinking heavily and taking pills for depression. He had grown very fat and looked much older than his age. He was very heavy and lost his breath easily. His work took more and more of his time. He was more and more isolated from his friends and he seemed to have lost all joy in life.

He spent Christmas Eve with his family but retired early. No one saw him alive again. When news of his death reached us we thought it might have been a heart attack, but afterwards someone mentioned he had recently undergone an operation and had suffered an internal haemorrhage. But, for me, this is not really important. This may have been the immediate cause of his death, but deep down I know he had given up on life. When he finally accepted the fact that he would never get back the love of his life, he simply died of a broken heart.