A poor peasant widow lost her 20-year-old son, the best worker in the village. Her landlady heard about the woman’s sorrow and decided to visit her on the day of the funeral.
The poor woman was at home, eating shchi (a simple Russian soup, with cabbage being the main ingredient), steadily swallowing one spoon of soup after another. Her face looked hollow, her eyes were red, but she appeared solemn.
“God! How can this woman eat at this moment?”, thought her noble landlady. She recalled one spring several years ago, when she had lost her 9-month-old daughter and could not even contemplate renting a dacha for the summer.
The poor woman kept on eating.
“Tatiana! I am sorry, but didn’t you love your son? I’m surprised you didn't lose your appetite! How can you eat your shchi just now?”
“My son died", said the woman quietly. “That means I am dead too. But shchi can’t go to waste - it’s been seasoned with salt.”
The landlady just shrugged and walked away.
I remember reading this simple story at school and at that time thinking mostly about its meaning in the context of ‘the well-fed doesn’t understand the hungry’. Decades on, Turgenev’s story came to my mind as I was contemplating grief. However hard your loss hits you, life goes on.
P.S. If you are curious about Turgenev's other works, you'll find a good selection of his short stories here.