We were in the midst of preparing and had been ever since Dave was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. In the first part of 2011, different doctors told us six months, one to three years, and the most heart breaking of all, especially in hindsight, was in May when our GP privately told me, “maybe Sept, no more than October”. The chance we'd share Thanksgiving, much less Christmas, was slim; but then Dave began making a recovery, of sorts. He gained the thirty pounds he'd lost in hospital as well as strength. Granted, his energy was still low but we were overjoyed with the weight and strength gain; he no longer needed me to help him shower and dress and, if he got hungry and I was out doing errands, he could heat up something in the microwave...a huge step forward! In hindsight, it's so easy to see how we put on rose colored glasses and tricked ourselves into believing what we wanted to believe...one to three years.
Those three wonderful October weeks at the beach are now the last wonderful memories I have of Dave. We had a very short period of time at home, less than two weeks, between the beach and his death and, almost always, spent most of that time talking. Talking about this and that, what we needed to do to get ready for the end, the paper work, hospice, banks, the farm, vehicles, friends, family, finances and, most importantly, heaven. Sometimes we'd just sit in the sun room, drinking something and enjoying the sunlight as it played across the valley. As much as talk was our friend, so was silence and we were both comfortable in the white noise that is silence. The dogs, some snuffling and others snoring, the cats purring in splashes of sunshine, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee...the comfortableness of being together. Of knowing we had this moment, this now, this memory in the making.
Even so, with all the talking, I was left unprepared. We'd planned on sitting down and getting things “right” after I returned from a business trip. On the Tuesday before he died, Dave sent me on a business trip to tend to various things that needed attention. My trip would end on Saturday where I would celebrate, with family and friends, my parent's 60th wedding anniversary. The next day, Sunday, I'd head for home and, bright and early, Monday morning Dave and I were going to put together a notebook to help whoever was left behind. We both knew that would be me but we always rather danced around the end; it seemed gentler, kinder to us both.
At 11:30 Saturday morning, I received a phone call from Mom telling me the farm sitter was trying to get in touch with me. Long story short, Dave passed away, where he wanted, on our farm, about 11:00 and was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. I contacted Lynn at the funeral home, told her what had happened and asked her to make arrangements to have Dave's body moved to the funeral home. Lynn agreed and we made an appointment to speak by telephone the next day. There are times that living in a small community is a very good thing; Lynn and her husband David are so good at what they do; professional yet warm and caring.
Dave was gone and there was nothing I could do for him that I wasn't already doing so I made the decision to stay and M.C. Mom and Daddy's anniversary party, as they had asked. Was it difficult? Oh yes but, for me, it was necessary and the beginning of the end of the last gifts I could give Dave. When people ask Daddy about New Year's Resolutions, he always says, “if you're living the way you're supposed to live the rest of the year, you don't need to make New Year's Resolutions.” That's why I stayed to celebrate Mom and Daddy's 60th wedding anniversary; I'd done everything, within my power, for Dave during his life and he would not have wanted me to leave the party early. He was always big on doing the right thing and he taught me well by example.
If you're familiar with this post, perhaps you'll understand why I choose, at the party, to read God's love letter. During that sad, happy time it brought comfort to not only me but to the rest of the hurting people in that room. Aren't we all carrying around some kind of hurt or pain? There were people in that room who don't know Christ, who suffer from depression, who are struggling with finances, failing businesses, decreased faith and a host of other ills. Hearing how much God loves me/us, brought a lot of comfort to people that day; it was my privilege and God's gift to tell and remind them of His love.
“I, the Lord God, can be trusted with your heart.”
Labels. They define us whether we want to wear them or not. For more than 22 years, Dave and I were together; the first six plus years as neighbors and the rest as husband and wife. Dave taught me more in those twenty-two years than I anticipate learning in the rest of my life. Does that sound strange? It does even to my ear but it's true. He taught me how to be his wife and, in turn, I taught him how to love again. Cathy, his first wife, died of cancer the year before I met Dave. For so many years, she was the love of his life, the love of his youth but, in the end days, I, as well, became the love of his life, the love of his old age and there was a circularity, a roundness, a rightness in all of that and it was good. No. Actually, it was great. Would God have asked me to die for Dave, I would have said yes. As it turns out, God tells me it's not my time to die; it's my time to grieve, to take care of me, the animals, the farm and, as much as possible, help others prepare. Thus, this new blog, Wife to Widow
One last thing...least someone think Dave and I had a perfect marriage, we did not. Our first days were spent learning each other's ways, getting to know each other. Even after six years of courtship, the early days of marriage were still difficult. Yet, we made the decision “through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer” meant we were a team and would stay the course. We were better people for having done so, the marriage was strong and unbreakable. I used to tell people Dave and I had “loyalty issues”, meaning neither one need ever worry about being betrayed. Ultimately, the glue that was our bond was our word, our commitment to each other and it was that bond that carried us to the end.
Please, tell others about this new blog; take a button for your blog and let's help each other. It's a frosty world, we need to reflect the Light that leads, and warms, the way.
"Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining"
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning ~