By Tonya Stevenson
It was just past 4 a.m. when that awaited phone call came. ” Do you want to come and see her before they take her? ” My husband had been there the night before; it had been a long, hard, wasting road, especially the last two weeks when Mom had not been eating or drinking. All of her sons (& family) had been there for her, and good with her, sparing her the fear of being put in an old folks home. Now she was gone.
He said, “No. That is okay. I don’t want to see her, again.”
His health is also challenged, and I was concerned for him as he was totally worn out, so though I knew his dad would be disappointed, I kept quiet, thinking he needed to sleep. After a few minutes, I knew he wasn’t going back to sleep, so I suggested we probably should go. I understood him not wanting to see his mother again in such a wasted state, but I knew Dad wouldn’t understand that, and he would need us all.
“Do you think so?” He questioned and then agreed. “You are probably right.”
Illness and death are a stark reminder of the fact that we live in a broken world, a world so far from that perfect world God created for man. This brokenness glares back at us, the horrible cost of our sin. As you watch a loved one waste to almost beyond recognition, often there is something in you that wants to draw back from the pain and ugliness of it all. We are glad that morning that we did not draw back.
There was the reverent quietness, the shared family grief, even relief that the suffering for her was over (except for Dad), the necessary phone calls. The sheriff and coroner showed up, both family friends, and as the boys talked with them, I watched Dad.
This bold courageous man, looked up to by so many, who was a striking six foot gentleman, who always saw the glass half full. His eighty-eight years and four broken vertebrae had stooped his frame. He rose from his chair and, with short hurried unsteady steps, bent over the hospital bed and again kissed the woman who had shared his life. Oblivious to the waste and death, he knew only the woman he loved.
He remained unsteadily on his feet while they prepared her to leave. He questioned if she would be protected from the April snows, then asked if he could kiss her again. Painstakingly, he bent over her, kissing her many times and promising her he would see her again. We watched as he struggled to do the hardest thing he had ever had to do in his life…let go of this woman he loved. Though his eyes are not good anymore, he stood at the glass doors staring out into the snowy morning as they loaded her and pulled out. In his lurching almost run, he headed for the den and watched until he could no longer see them. Having stood way too long for his frail health, he staggered back to his chair and sat crying in front of his boys and us wives.
Looking around he asks, “Why can’t I quit crying?”
I had been fighting tears since he’d first stood up, and my heart was crying the answer, but I stood waiting for another to speak. No one did.
He asked again, “Why can’t I quit crying?”
This time I couldn’t stand in silence anymore but went to him and knelt in front of his chair looking into his face and told him, “Because you were one, for almost 69 years, and you’ve just been ripped in half….but praise God, it is not forever.” It took me a couple of times to speak it loudly enough and unbroken enough for him to hear.
He sat quietly for a moment then said, “Thank you, thank you for that.”
I think I was the one who needed to say thank you, thank you for that, that beautiful picture of steadfast loyal blind love.
My husband and I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon with him and were blessed to hear him tells us of how he had first met Mom in their junior year of high school. Though he had never dated anyone before, when she had commanded his attention, he boldly called her out of a group of girls and asked her to the FFA picnic. He said, “She never hesitated, just said yes. After that we were two peas in a pod, we were always together.”
They married when they were both nineteen years old. They raised five boys and remained two peas in a pod for almost sixty-nine years. He understands how blessed he was to have had her and for so long but he says, “It wasn’t long enough.”
About 50 years into their marriage, they had run into one of Mom’s friends from high school who had told how the two of them had saved their nickels and dimes to get enough to buy a loaf of bread so they could go to the bakery, because Dad worked there. He had never noticed and did not know until then that Mom had actually picked him out long before he had even noticed her.
I grew up in a different world, where vows seemed a joke only to be thrown away. I learned the value of love because of its absence in our world, but I had almost come to believe it wasn’t real or possible. Yes, we live in a broken world, but God, in His goodness and love, still shines light into the dark, and beauty into the brokenness, as he calls us to believe in the gift of salvation He has provided for us in Jesus Christ, to trust in His eventual restoration of the earth. This is the legacy I will always hold of my husband’s parents; of all the things they have done in life, the greatest thing they’ve both done… was to love one another. That is the greatest example and gift they gave their family.
“So now faith, hope and love abide, these three: but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NET)
Who says thirteen’s unlucky?