Monday, February 18, 2013

On Holding Hands at Our Advanced Age

Dear John,
 
No nightmares last night. I spent a good part of the night with fairytale creatures, evading dragons. But that was fun. Every time I woke up, the animals had arrayed themselves on and over me in new and different configurations. Altogether a pleasant and entertaining night.
 
A very special memory has been rattling around in my head. It was a bit of nurses' conversation outside your room in CCU at Methodist last winter. One of the nurses had just left the room, and we heard her say to a group of other nurses, "Wow.You can tell they really love each other." She sounded amazed, and the rest of them agreed and said how special it was to watch us together.
 
I remember we looked at each other and giggled a little. Then we talked about it, wondering what was wrong with all the other married couples they saw every day. I'd always thought we were fairly normal - well, not in many ways, but at least in loving each other. After all, that's usually why people get married.
 
But we were different. After 34 years of marriage, we loved each other  more like teenage kids than settled middle-aged adults. It drove my parents to distraction; it made Mama take me aside when I turned 25 and tell me we were too old to hold hands in public. The way we felt about each other was always obvious, and people either loved it or hated it, I guess.
 
It probably goes back to the same old thing - we never had the luxury of taking each other for granted. I'm still realizing how central that was to who we were and what our marriage became. We cherished every moment because each one could be the last. And the last one came two months after the nurses had that conversation. I'm thankful to know that you (and everybody else in sight) knew how much I love you. Neither of us left anything unsaid. That comforts me right now. I love you, adore you, and worship the ground you walk on. I did from the day I met you. I always will. I never cared who knew it, and I still don't. I told Mama that you and I would still be holding hands when we were old and gray and in the nursing home.
 
My hands are empty now. But they will be filled again one day. My heart aches, but it isn't empty - it's still full of you. And it will stay full because you are more fully alive than I am, not gone but only out of sight for a while. Separation is painful, but thanks be to God, temporary. I always pray for all the medical people who have cared for us. Maybe the same nurses will see us together again and see that we still love each other.
 
With love that will not die,
Your wife.

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