40 Years Today

May 15, 2022

Dear Larry:

It was 40 years ago today at 12:00 noon when our lives changed forever.  We were married in a very private yet elegant church service with only 18 people to witness us pledge our lives to each other.  When I woke up this morning, my first thought was about us and that day and that on this day I have to do what would have been our 40th wedding without you.

Our dear friend asked me this morning if I would share some of the great things that we had so he could still believe that real love does exist.  This simple yet compassionate request brought our years together flooding into my heart and soul.  Memories accompanied by tears and longings.

Every time you passed me, you made a point of touching me.  I soft touch on my head or shoulder, squeeze on my arm, stroke to my cheek.  This was an action of trusting intimacy that we always shared.  Don’t forget that I am here.  I never forget that you are.

When we were alone together, you gathered me in your arms and softly kissed my forehead.  It was warm and protective and left me with the security that your arms were always around me and that my world was insulated by your devotion to me.

You had an instinctive way of standing back and letting me do me.  It was an unspoken empowerment as well as a statement of your respect for me in the arena of our business.  However, you were always close enough to catch me before I fell and never shamed me for mistakes and misjudgments I may have made. 

You hated obligatory holidays.  Rarely did you give me any gift or card on Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  Your reaction was, “She is not my mother” and the day would pass.  We even stopped exchanging anniversary, birthday, and Christmas gifts.  We opted for experiences together.  Most of our anniversaries were spent on the beach in Jamaica…..just you and me….with no other distractions.  But you never stopped showing me in very unexpected ways that you cherished me.  Roses would appear on my office desk for no reason.  I would find a little box with a beautiful piece of jewelry on my pillow.  You would have me open the glove box in the car to get your sunglasses and there would be airline tickets for our next adventure together.  Not obligatory.  Voluntary.  Voluntary is so much better! 

You set a silent standard in your life.  There were things you would not tolerate around you or us.  Lying.  Stealing.  Dishonest practices.  Disloyalty.   Cowardice.  You felt no need to lecture others on their behavior.  You lived by this code and had no problem eliminating the people who could not live by your standards from your life….and our lives.  This was such a lesson for me.  I want to fix it. I want to heal it.  I want there to be a final chapter before I close the book and walk away.  You didn’t.  None of that mattered to you.  I think your way is much less painful.

It was evident to anyone who encountered us that we were a solid team.   You always had my back…..even when I was wrong.  I was aware that you were the solid and unshakable foundation of our relationship.  You were our strength.  You were steadfast.  You were dependable.  You released me to fly on my own yet held the rope to be able to pull me back in.  I feel ungrounded now knowing that I must maneuver this world without the safety of you pulling me to the safety of you. 

You have been gone now for 4 years.  I don’t think that there is any way to “get used to it”.  I think I have just become numb.  There is no way of missing the hole left behind by your huge presence in this world.  I am so proud and humbled by seeing the lives that you touched and profoundly changed.  Some appreciated it and some have yet to discover the reality of the opportunity they neglected to seize.  Know, my love, that the person whose life was changed most profoundly by your presence, was me.  I am forever a much better person because of you.  My life was enriched during the 35 years that I had the honor of being your wife.

Today, I know that I cannot control the tears and will honestly make no effort to.  This is our special day, and we will celebrate.  On these days, I make myself shift to a mood of gratitude.  I am acutely aware of the rare gift that we shared together in our married life.  Few couples get to experience the rare and intimate relationship that we had, and I am thankful to our God for giving that to us.  Being human, however, I crave more and miss your touch, your kiss on my forehead and your presence every moment of every day.

You are not physically here, but I feel your arms protecting me.  Happy 40th anniversary, my love.

Your wife,

P

Your Priority

Dear Larry:

On the 24th of this month, four years ago, you died.  I have been without you for 4 years and from a cerebral place, it is inconceivable that you have been gone this long.  A day does not go by that someone who interacted with you mentions to me how much you are missed and what an impact you had on their lives.  It is an immense source of pride for me, and the well-wisher ends up leaving our lobby uncomfortable as inevitably they see the tears, they feel that they provoked, rolling from my eyes.  Even after nearly 4 years I cannot talk about you without dealing with tears.  I can’t stop them, as you well know, but I also think that there is a part of me that never wants them to stop.  They symbolize US and the intense and intimate life that we shared together, and I never want to let that go without being held in a place of honor.

Reflecting back, there is so much that I miss.  Lately, based on what has gone on in my life without you, one thing keeps coming up for me.  My experience with you was that every moment or every day, I was your priority.  You created a place for me where I felt cherished, and I knew that you were my protector.  No questions asked.  It was in your DNA, and you never had to think about it.  One incident keeps coming into my mind.  This is a memory from very long ago, but it symbolizes perfectly what I am attempting to articulate.

You and I had a business meeting in New Orleans.  We took my white Volkswagen convertible and began our trip east on I-10.  You drove.   I remember we talked and laughed about everything except the meeting were about to have.  We didn’t need to.  We were prepared. 

Part of this interstate highway has a section separating the east from the west bound roads with a thicket of trees and Palmetto.  Drivers cannot see the other side of the highway due to the denseness of the overgrowth.  With no warning at all, a deer popped out of this thicket while being chased by a dozen hunting dog.  There were no options, and you knew right away that we were going to hit this deer and he was flying at windshield level.  This deer was going to hit us and in a worst case, demolish the front end of the car, the windshield and end up in our laps.  I saw you jerk the car to the right.  The deer hit your side of the car shattering your window.  The antlers cut your face missing your left eye by a centimeter.  The entire left side of the car was destroyed and covered with blood and deer hide.  Somehow you managed to stay in control of the car and get us safely onto the shoulder of the road.  Blood was gushing from your face.  I was shaking with fear.  You were calm, as usual, and spent the next moment comforting me and reassuring me that your gash was just a minor cut.

I was expressing my gratitude to you for remaining so calm through this potentially deadly incident and that I knew that in a crisis, you were the person I always wanted to be with.  You were clear headed and logical.   You were AIRBORN. You worked best under pressure, and we were safe because of you.  I remember you saying, “I wanted to be sure that the deer did not hurt you”.

Reflecting back, I realize that you took the chance of that deer landing in your lap and potentially hurting or killing you, but without hesitation, you turned INTO it so it would not hurt me.  You literally would have died for me and never thought twice about it.  THIS is my example of how you made me your priority every minute of every day.  How blessed was I to have a husband who cherished me to this extent?  How lucky was I to have the blessing from God to have a husband create a life for me where I knew that nothing, in your mind, would ever take priority over me? 

As your 4th year death date approaches, I wanted you to know that I do not take this for granted.  I realize and appreciate the man you were and what an honor it was for 35 years for me to be

Your wife

P

The Cost of Being a Coward

Dear Larry:

It has been 3 ½ years now that you have been away from me.  On the night that marked this milestone, I was unable to sleep and relived over and over that last day as well as the last moment that I saw your face.  It threw me back into the last few months that we had together and has left me feeling very sad for opportunities that I missed and caused you to miss also.

You were very clear headed about the reality that unless something close to a miracle happened and you were able to get organ donations for your very rare blood type, that you would not survive.  You were also well aware of the reality that I was far too fragile for you to address this with me and that I would never allow even the possibility of you dying to live for a moment in my head or body.   Now, I am wracked with the guilt of conversations that never happened and how my cowardice denied you the opportunity to say to me the things that died with you.  What did you need to tell me?  What did I sacrifice hearing in order to serve my own fears?  Why did I refuse to put my fears away to open up a place for you to talk without the anticipation of shattering me? What did my denial cost you?   What did it cost me?  Did is damage US?  So, now I find myself caught up in endless “what if” and “if only” conversations that I realize can do no good and that I cannot go back in time to make this up to you.  I am so sorry, my love, for you having to be the strong one even while you were dying.  I am so sorry that even in your last hours that you had to protect me from shattering.  It should have been the other way around and I should have be standing strong for you, but I admit that I never let even the possibility of losing you enter my mind.  Even today, after 3 ½ years, it is hard to grip the reality that you are never coming home.

At this point, all of the unsolicited feedback tells me that I should be much further along in my healing than I am.  I am still at day 1 and I should be out discovering a new life and a new purpose.  Well, thank you for the feedback, albeit unwanted, but I am where I am and, apparently, I am there for a reason.  Every morning when I drive to work, we talk.  I ask you to be with me on that day and help me to discover my purpose and to become aware of what I am supposed to do now that I am on my own.  You have not served that vision up for me yet, but I feel your presence and even though your physical body is away from me that your spirit stays to protect me.  Maybe you are now my guardian angel and God has assigned you to take care of me even while living in Heaven.

Forgive me, my love.  I let you down and cannot go back and repair this.  Once again, in spite of your physical fragility, you protected me to the very end.

I miss you.

Your wife

P

An Unanticipated Evening in Paris

Dear Larry:

While you were serving in the US Army, you were stationed in Germany.   You had focused on German History for your undergraduate degree, so this was a perfect placement for you.  Your job was to coordinate all things mechanized going to Vietnam, so your rare personal time off was precious.   When you were able to have a weekend off, you used this opportunity to travel as much as you could to see as much of Europe as possible in this limited amount of time. 

After we got married, you talked often about taking me to Europe.  You, of course, wanted to return to Germany.  I had my heart set on France and, of course, Paris.  I picked up a course in the French language and would listen to tapes every day.   You knew enough German to get by and I remember telling you that I thought it was bit of “The Ugly American” to go to a country and expect them all to speak English.  It was my obligation to learn enough French to at least negotiate a meal, a hotel room, the location of the Metro and, in moments of desperation, a rest room.

We had an opportunity to go to an industry convention in Monte Carlo, Monaco!  We would fly from New York to Paris.  Connection was Paris to Nice and then we would motor coach to Monte Carlo.  The attire every night was black tie and evening dresses.  Thankfully, this was before the airlines limited baggage or there would have been no way to pull off a weeks’ worth of evening attire in one suitcase each.

As we landed in Paris, I could see the Eiffel Tower but knew that we had a tight connection.  We would not leave De Gaulle Airport to visit the city on this trip.  When we arrived in Monte Carlo, the first thing that we saw was the yacht owned my Aristotle Onassis parked across from our hotel and we both knew that this was how the “other half” lived!

So, we got to experience Monte Carlo.  The glitz.  The glamour.  The jewelry.   The gambling.  The phonies.  The uber rich and those pretending to be so.  We got to check that off of our bucket list.  It was nice for a week, but it was not for US. 

On the day prior to our departure, the French people had “A General Strike”.  I had no idea what that was and was informed that the folks just got ticked off at the government now and then and decided that one day they simply would not go to work.  They shut down government services, industry, hospitality, retail, and transportation.  They walked around with picket signs being hostile and then the next day went back to their jobs.  Oh well.  Not our problem.  We did not depart until the next day anyway.

We caught our short flight from Nice back to Paris.  We got our boarding passes for the Paris to New York leg of the flight, and we were eager to get back home because you had LSU vs Notre Dame football tickets in your pocket and Tiger Stadium was our destination before even going home!  So, our flight was boarding and as we stepped up to hand our boarding passes to the flight attendant, the doors closed on the airplane.  Wait—-we have boarding passes as do the 30 other people standing behind us!  Bedlam ensued in several different languages as we were informed that due to the general strike the day before that preference was being given to the people who had missed their flights the prior day.  But we have boarding passes!!! 

Needless to say, chaos followed as people realized that all of our bags were on their way to New York.  We had no clothes or toiletries and no guarantee that we would be able to be seated on a flight the following day.  People argued and screamed, and you had seen enough!  You stepped forward and became the self-imposed leader of our motley gang.  You demanded that we all be taken to a hotel immediately and that our transportation for the next day be scheduled.  I knew what you had in mind!  I was thrilled!

We were finally put on a bus and brought to a hotel.  We had tickets and boarding passes for the next morning and a hotel key.  The airlines gave us each a small bag with toiletries.  You suggested that we go to our room and at least brush our teeth.  We did that and then we hit the streets of Paris!!

It was around 9PM but the city was still buzzing.  We got a city map, familiarized ourselves with the Metro system and we were on our way!  Eiffel Tower.  Arc de Triomphe.  Napoleon’s tomb.  Champs-Elysses!  I was in Paris, and I was with you!

We walked the streets of Paris all night long and knew that soon the sun would rise, and we would need to return to the hotel in order to depart for the airport and our trip back to America.  We knew that we had missed our football game, but this experience was a reasonable trade off!

You planned this adventure by keeping the best for last.  As the moonlight twinkled on the water of the River Seine, you walked me onto one of the beautiful Paris bridges to the finale of the night; Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris.  It was a breathtaking sight in person as I had seen it a million times in pictures.  You stood with your back against the bridge and pulled me into your chest with your arms wrapped around my waist.  You whispered in my ear, “I promised to take you to Paris, my love”.    It was unplanned.  It was spontaneous.  It was perfect because I got to experience an unanticipated evening in Paris, and I got to do it with you.

I miss you, my love,

Your wife

P

I Don’t Know What to do with This

Dear Larry:

I am sure that most people think that I am a bit nuts when I say that you speak to me.  You have sent me messages, not symbols, but words on several occasions since you went to heaven.  When you speak to me, I know that you have a very significant thing that you want me to know and that it is intended for me to shift my life.  Your last message to me was about three weeks ago and I am still reeling at your words, the meaning and what I am supposed to do with this.

Many of your clothing items that meant something special to you are still in the same hall closet.  Your 509th jacket.  Your marathon tee shirts.  Your LSU and Arkansas State game day apparel.  I opened the closet to put a stack of clean shirts in and you took that moment to speak to me.  You said, “I have to release you” and my knees buckled as I screamed, “NO!”.   That was all you said.  From that day until now, you have not even come to me in a dream, and I am profoundly shaken.  I feel unstable and ungrounded without your visits and, at least in a dream, the opportunity to touch you. 

I wrote about this before and still wonder if I am keeping you tethered to earth and to me and postponing your opportunity to become the angel you are intended to be.  Does my constant conversation with you keep you stuck?  Is it selfish of me to expect that we would continue the same relationship in spite of the fact that your world is completely different?  Does the phrase “Till Death do us Part” now apply?  Do you want out?  You kept your promise to me on earth and now have the rules changed?  As usual, I have a million questions and possible scenarios and absolutely zero solutions.  Living is the question is getting exhausting because there never seems to be an answers available.

Here is what I choose to believe and how I want to interpret your message.  It is typical YOU and exactly how you would have handled this had you been on earth next to me and holding my hand.  I know in my soul what your intentions would be. 

You said that to attempt to free me, not you.    I believe that you are trying to but a bomb under me so that I realize that I have to find a way to live and breathe again because I am still on earth.  You were slapping me into the reality that you are in fact not here and you are not coming back.  I, however, am and have chosen (with very little power to control it) to live in the fog of grief for nearly three and a half years and this was your attempt to help lead me out of the fog.  Even if this broke your heart, you would have endured that if you believed that it would at least put my feet on the path to living again.  I know you too well.  You did it for me and not for you.  That was what you did and what was who you were,

So now, what do I do with this?  The past three and a half years have designed perfect excuses for me to climb into a hole and stay there.  Covid has been the convenient excuse to avoid any and all social interactions as it was far less uncomfortable to stay in our sunroom than to expose myself so that people can actually see that I am still fragile.  If I burst into tears in our house alone, it is much less embarrassing than in a restaurant with other people.  I am out of practice and less motivated to go out and practice now that I have to do that alone.  It feels unnatural.  It feels like I am living outside of my own skin.  You are not standing next to me.

Every night as I lay in our bed alone, my last words for that day are to you.  Now my last thought for that evening is a prayer to you to come to me in a dream so that I know that you have not really released me. 

Regardless, I am forever

Your loving wife

P

The Subject No One Wants to Talk About

Dear Larry:

This one is hard.  Does it breach our privacy?  Does it diminish our promises to each other?  Does it create a crack into the protective shell that we created around us and our bond?   I have to address it because it lives for me and drives so much of my current reality.   That reality is without you.

When our spouse dies, we also lose our lover.   It is such an intimate subject that no one ever approaches it, but it is real, and it is painful.  It is not the loss of the obvious part that brings so much pain.  It is the other stuff.

I miss your touch.  If I had my eyes closed and a dozen different people touched me, I could have picked yours from the crowd.  The dance we did for 35 years made me so familiar with how it felt to be touched by you that I knew the moisture of your skin and the temperature of your hand.  One of the last things I remember looking at before they took you away from me was your hands.  I missed seeing your class ring on your right hand.  The two other things that you always wore were now gone too.  Your bracelet and your wedding ring.  Your hand looked naked without the ring I placed there 35 years prior, and I remember touching that spot before they took you away forever.  Your bracelet was now on my arm next to the identical one you put on me so many years ago.  You loved our bracelets and the meaning that we attached to them.  To this day, I have not taken it off since screwing it in place on the night you died.

I miss your physical protection.   The safety that you offered me when you wrapped around me made me feel like nothing could invade our world and that if attempted that you would ward it off in order to keep me safe.  I took for granted how welcoming you were whenever I reached for you, and you were always withing arm’s reach.  God, I miss that.

I miss the sensation of your skin on mine.  Does it get more intimate than this?   There is no reason to try and hide anything because this is the safest place to be vulnerable and you were there to catch me if I fell.  You slept with you chest against my back.  Your skin on my skin.

Most of all I think I miss knowing that for one person on this earth I was the most cherished thing.   After feeling so valued for all of those years with you, the contrast now knocks me off balance.  Feeling not cherished is a sad and lonely place and there is little sense on looking for it now that you are gone because no one can fill that gap for me.  No one will ever to be able to do it like you did.

I never told you this and I think I made the right choice in keeping it to myself.  You knew that all of my life I got flashes of intuition.  Someone once told me that these were messages from spirit guides, and they warned me so that I would never be surprised.  One night after you had been diagnosed but before you went to the hospital, we had a beautiful and intimate night.  After you went to sleep, I remember stroking your face and watching you.  Then the thought came to me:  There will one day when it will be the last time that this happens.  And sadly, this was the last time.  I never told you because I did not want to ever breathe the words “last time” and make reality that there was a real possibility that you might die, and your side of the bed become empty forever.

Damn it.  I lost my lover.  I miss my lover.  I miss everything about this part of our marriage and there is a part of me that is angry that it is gone.  I am not angry with you because you did not want to die.  I am angry with the circumstances left behind after all is said and done.  I miss you physically.  I miss your touch.  I miss us as a couple.  Please know that I hold these memories so sacred and that forever I am

Your wife and lover.

P

Friday Nights

Dear Larry:

High school football is a Friday night religion in the South.  In the small suburban community we live in, we used to laugh and say that if you wanted to rob any house in this town, Friday night was the time to do it because everyone was at the local high school football stadium.    While the children were living at home, this was our ritual.  We attended every sporting event that any one of them participated in, had season tickets, cheered our athlete and his team, and enjoyed the experience of being proud parents.  I think this phase is a small step in the process of accepting that this little boy is approaching manhood and slowly and gently leading parents to the reality of that day by day we need to let go.  You handled this much better than I ever did.  I struggled with the letting go part and how our lives and new relationships with these grown men would look.  Would they consult with us before making major decisions?  Would they seek advice about the new girl in their lives?  Would they make mistakes and lean on us while they recovered?  None of this ever bothered you.  You said that we raised them as best we knew how with love and commitment.  We demonstrated what a marriage and family can look like and the moral obligations of taking care of family.  You taught them and then you stepped away.  They know where to find us, you said.  They know we will always be available.  If you do not let them go, then you have no faith in us and the values we taught them.

When they had all moved out and we officially became empty nesters, you declared that Friday night from that point on was going to be our Date Night.   We started closing our offices early on Friday so that we could have dinner and a movie or dancing at a street party or a drive with the top down.  There would be no talk about the business.  This was about US and this well-earned time together. 

I remember one incident so vividly that it shook me to my bones.  We entered the restaurant and, as always, you were holding my hand.   As we were being brought to our table, I saw a group of 5 ladies, about my age and a bit older, sitting together at a round table.   My feet stopped moving.  My breath was gone for a brief moment.  You looked at me, waited a moment and began to move again.  I grabbed your arm and drew it to my heart as close as I could get it.  You never asked and I never told you that my silent prayer was “There but by the grace of God go I”. 

I was never really good at the “girlfriend” thing.  There are theories that come to mind as to why female relationships were always a challenge and really not particularly enjoyable to me, but it is not especially relevant at this point.  You were always there, and you filled me up, so I felt very little need to seek out anyone else.  So now, with you gone and all of the drastic and unanticipated changes in our foundation, I find myself lost. 

A recent conversation with a friend, who also is a widow, brought some clarity.  She said to me, “You are the only one I can talk to about this” and I knew exactly what she meant.    Now I experience why those 5 women gathered together at dinner.  We just need someone to cling to those who will just allow us to live in our memories and accept our sadness because our husband and best friend and confidant and lover and companion and safety net is not standing next to us holding our hands.  A gathering of sadness?  Sometimes.  Sometimes not.  Sometimes it is just a way to comfort ourselves on the compassion shared by other women who do not have to say a word as they are in the same place.  We gather.  Take a breath.  Go into tomorrow with the silent prayer to God to show us how to endure this with dignity and grace. 

I miss you so much.

Your wife

P

Frozen Memories

Dear Larry:

 In spite of knowing that you have been away from me for three years, there are still times that I cannot process the reality that you are not coming back.  Yesterday was one of those times.  Most of the time my head knows it, but it has yet to get to my heart.  I wonder if when your heart is broken that it gives you a defense against reality.   

I have become aware that when I think about you, I am stuck in your last three months.  My memories keep me frozen in your health struggles, your brave suffering, the 24/7 vigilance to keep them from hurting you, the heart wrenching decisions I was forced to make on your behalf and your final moments.   Part of this, I am sure has to do with the fact that I always believed, until the moment you took your last breath, that you would beat this thing.  It never was reality for me that you would die.  But you did.

The grief that came about when you died was something that I never imagined a human being could physically endure.  Maybe it is that grief that has pushed out the sweet and satisfying memories of 35 years with you.  I wonder if there is a place in the process of grief where the sad memories of your last three months get pushed down into a sacred place in my heart to make way for the comforting and joyful remembrances of our amazing life together. Strangely, I want this to happen just as badly as I do not want it to happen.  One of the many paradox I face without you.

Last night as I was going through things in the closet that I need to discard, I found my wedding dress.  The dress I wore to marry you.   Memories flooded back as I recalled how anxious we were to be married.  Neither of us cared much about how the wedding would look.  We just wanted to be married.

I did not want to do the whole white puffy dress tradition.  I did that already and it did not work out so well.  I found a pretty, soft apricot color dress with knife pleats, fitted waist.  Simple.  We chose identical wide gold wedding bands.  Simple.  We each engraved a message inside the bands for each other.  Simple.  Private.  Intimate.  You wore your beautiful charcoal gray mourning suit.  My God, you were stunning!

The sweet contentment of that day enveloped me as I held my dress and, for a brief moment, put away the sadness of your absence.  For just a heartbeat, we were together at the altar, holding hands surrounded by two families who loved us, our children who appreciated us and all of the hopes and dreams of our future as we united as a forever couple and our children as one family.  As I folded my dress and put it away in a box for storage, I saw tears that I tried to hold back fall and land on my dress.  I did not bother to wipe them up.  It seemed an appropriate addition to the memory box which is filled with the joy of us and now a bit of the pain.

Maybe one day, on this horrible grief journey, I may get to the place where all of my memories are sweet and comforting celebrating the blessing we were fortunate enough to experience in our life as a married couple.   There is no doubt in my mind that this is what you would create for me if you had a choice.  You would be broken hearted that your absence has created this process of grief for me.  I am grateful, however, that I did get that one fleeting moment of warm memories of you and us. 

I miss you.

Your wife.

P

As the Date Approaches

Dear Larry:

This week will mark three years since you died.  I hear the date approaching like a tidal wave roaring miles away getting louder as it gets closer.  The anticipation swells every day waiting for another milestone to hit marking more time that you have been away from me.  What I have observed since you have been gone is that the fear during the expectation of these dates is far worse than the actual date itself.  During the wait, my mind goes back to those last days and knowing what we have missed.  I should have.  I could have.  If only I would have.  If only we could have had a few more minutes. We needed one last conversation.   Did I make the right choice?  Was this what you really wanted?  And on and on.  On the anniversary dates, I find it easier to just be able to live in memories and gratitude for you, what we built and accomplished, the lives we touched and the fulfilling years that we were able to spend together. 

So much has happened!  Some you would be so proud of and some you would be ashamed and broken hearted.  There have been joyful times, but much of the time has been set in a mood of heartbreak.  People have surprised me in both good ways and horrible ways.  I have seen the ugly side of people I thought had our backs. I often ask myself how you would have handled these situations.  Our styles were always very different, and I wonder how different things would be with you here or if I decided to do things your way.  The results would certainly be different….I do not know if for better or worse…..but certainly different.

People, when handing out advice on someone else’s grief, will say that time heals and that it will get better.  Well, I can tell you from the experience of losing you that time does not heal, and it does not get better.  The void is always there in everything that I do because time cannot erase the 35 years that we partnered in everything.  In a crowded room nothing can eradicate the feeling of emptiness because you are not standing next to me holding my hand. 

I think you sense my sadness because you have come to me almost every night in a dream.  One night I felt your thumb softly stroking my cheek and I woke up expecting to see you next to me.  The sweetest dream was when you held me on our couch, and I felt your kiss one more time.  I woke up feeling both happy and sad for having a real experience with you yet knowing that it was only a dream.

Three years.  I still cannot wrap my brain around the reality that you have been gone for three years and you are never coming back.  Know, my love, that you are not forgotten and that you live in the hearts of those of us who had the privilege to share your life with you.  A life well lived.

I miss you.

Your wife:

P

A Simple Gesture

Dear Larry:

It was such a simple gesture.  It should have been just an ordinary moment.  It happens every day or at least it used to.  It turned out for me, to not be simple at all and certainly not ordinary.

As I walked to the office, I reached for the door.  He said, “Oh no” and grabbed the handle and opened the door.  I heard myself gasp and freeze in place as I instinctively brought my hand to my heart.  What swallowed me at that moment brought back feelings that I have not experienced for the two years and eleven months since you have been gone.  I just said, “That makes me cry” and he knew he had touched a sensitive spot.  He asked, “Are you OK?” before we began our business meeting.  I lied and said “Yes”.

What that moment swept me back to was being with you and the things that I desperately miss since you have been gone.  You took care of me—-my heart, my body, my soul…with an instinct only honed by years of being together.  It never looked like an obligation.  I experienced it as your depth of love for me and as a “want to” rather than a “have to”.  I miss feeling cherished and valued.  I miss feeling safe when you held me.  I miss knowing that no matter what the circumstance, you defended me even when I was wrong.  I miss that you are no longer here to protect me and deflect from me the things that you knew weighed heavy on my mind or heart.  I miss not having you as a place to go to put my head on your chest when I just need to cry.  I miss having you as my only safe place to pour out my frustrations and challenges and hear your calm and logical suggestions for solutions.  I am floating without the safety of you tethered at the other end to pull me back securely to the ground.  I am raw and vulnerable without you standing in front of me as my personal warrior.  Without you, I feel like I am just faking it and I am not especially happy with how I need to be in this world to survive without you by my side as my parachute.

I know in my guts that you sent this man and his son to help me though a very difficult business situation.  I told them both exactly that when we first met and as we stood on the parking lot looking at the devastation the hurricane created to our building, we looked on the ground and there were 3 dimes and a penny.  I told them that you sent these for us.  There was a dime for each one of us and the penny was for me.  When we finalized our deal, he had thoughtfully taped the 3 dimes and 1 penny to the bottom of the paperwork.  With that, I knew that you were still taking care of me from heaven and you sent them to take care of me on earth because you could no longer do it.    Know my love, that you picked well, and he has done what you sent him to me to do and more.    Still, I desperately miss your physical presence and how you protected me while standing back and allowing me to stand in my dignity.  I was so blessed to have the honor of being your wife. 

I love you,

Your wife

P

What You Sent Me

Dear Larry:

There are mornings that I wake up from my restless sleep with an overwhelming sense of sadness.  This was one of those mornings.  I habitually reach across the bed and stroke your pillow as the reality sinks in once again that you are not there.  Today I cannot shake the sadness no matter how hard I try to distract myself. 

Certain moments are seared into my memory and come flooding back with unanticipated triggers.  A places we used to go.  A particular song.  When I see roses.  When I park my car and your place is vacant.  I am never prepared for the emotional head on collision of these memories and the emptiness and sadness that remain after the reflections fade.

The one that haunts most me is the day that you died.  That memory is with me constantly and I live in regret that on that day we were not able to talk.  I did not want to make the decision.  I wanted it to be your choice and I wanted to talk with you about it.  That never happened and if I have any regrets about those days, it is that we did not get to have one last conversation.

I talked with you that entire day.  They let me lie down next to you and, over the tubes and wires. hold on to you one last time.  I begged you to let me know that I was doing the right thing  I told you over and over how much you meant to me and how I loved you with my entire heart and soul.  I begged you to send me signs to let me know that this was what you would want.    You loved the color black so I asked you to send me black butterflies and when I saw them, I would know that you sent them to me. 

I know you heard me.  They told me that when I spoke to you that your heart rate increased and when I stopped, it would decrease.  I know that you knew that I was there until your very last moment.  This image never leaves of my mind and as painful as it is, I never want it to.  It is part of our journey and it was how our earthly journey ended. 

When I am in our back yard, I find myself looking for the butterflies or signs in the clouds that you are sending me messages. I always find a heart in the clouds and tell myself that you sent it.  Whether you did or not, I like to believe that it is a sign from you.

Recently I found myself in a situation where I required some physical therapy.  The therapist was warm and inviting and, as she worked on my back, I shared with her that you had died.   She was so kind and compassionate and said that she felt your presence with us and oddly, I did too.  She asked that I turn over to lie on my back and as I looked at the ceiling, it was filled with black butterflies!  Dozens of them!  It took my breathe away because I knew that you sent these to me!  The tears flooded from my eyes and I absorbed with the overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by you. 

Your absence leaves such a hole in my life and that can not be explained.  I have given up trying to convey this to anymore.  It can only be experienced, and I do not wish that on anyone.  I do, however, try to live in the gratitude that we shared a wonderful life together and the blessing that you were to me every day that I had the honor to be your wife.

I love you

P

I Keep Looking

Dear Larry:

Last night I looked for you all night long.  Remember those dreams that I used to tell you about where it was final exams and I realized that not only had I not gone to class all semester or dropped the course but had also forgotten where the class was held?  I ran around all night trying to figure out a way to drop the class at the last moment or just find the classroom and give the exam by best shot in spite of having no knowledge of the coursework.  Of course, I never succeeded in finding the classroom nor taking the exam.  I would wake up agitated and exhausted from a restless and upsetting night.

We were supposed to meet at a sporting event, an LSU game.  Prior to the game, I had a business meeting planned, so we agreed to meet in a sports bar for dinner and then go on to the event.  When I arrived at the restaurant, you were not there which was highly unusual.  You always beat me to our arranged meetings because you said, “If you are on time, you are already late”.  I began to search the restaurant for you.  When that was unsuccessful, I reached for my cell phone.  When I began to dial, I continued to input improper numbers.  I would get errors and busy signals and realized that I had forgotten your phone number.   I spent the rest of the night repeating all of the telephone numbers that I could remember but knowing that none of those were yours.    I was frustrated and upset because I had promised to meet you and could not even remember your telephone number to find you.  Finally, I remembered that your number is only 2 digits different from mine and I began to dial.  Then I woke up.

Reality hits me every morning when I have had a dream about you or, on those very precious nights, when you actually come to me.  The sadness overwhelms me as a turn over to the place where you used to be…..to the place where you still should be.  That side is empty, and it reflects the empty feeling inside of me when my days and nights were filled with you and us.  Now there is just me and after 35 years with you, it just does not seem like enough and the empty pit will never be filled.   

Significant days for us are approaching quickly.  Soon it will be what should have been our 38th anniversary.  I think we would have traveled together somewhere neither of us have ever been.  Maybe someplace in Germany or the British Isles.  You would have planned the trip and simply told me to be packed for the day we were leaving.  You did it all and I just showed up and it would have been perfect.  The most perfect part was that we would have been together to celebrate another milestone.  A celebration of US.  Now I face those days without you and my heart breaks for what you had to endure your last days and the courageous way you lived your life until your last breath.  Every moment of every day, it was my honor to be your wife and now every moment of every day my heart breaks because you are gone from me. 

I must admit that I search every day for you.  As I am driving, I look at the clouds to discern a heart or an image that I believe you sent especially for me.  I wait for the cardinal who visits me every morning.  He flies onto the patio as I drink coffee, perches on a chair and turns to me.   It is as if he nods in acknowledgement knowing that usually you would have been sitting next to me having morning coffee too.  He flies away and arrives again the next morning to repeat the greeting.  This morning you sent a rainbow for me in the spray of the rain shower. 

I am certain that some people would find this a little bit crazy. Trust me.  I am not crazy.  It does seem that finding anything that I can interpret as a connection to you provides me comfort in an atmosphere of emotional chaos.  If it fills my heart for one moment of one day, what harm can that be?

I miss you.

Love,

P

There Are Things I Need To Tell You

Dear Larry;

Two years ago tonight you died.  You did not pass away or get your wings or go on to your heavenly reward.  You died and even after two entire years without you, I still have trouble conceptualizing that you are not here and you are never coming back.  Often, I wake up before daybreak and forget that you are gone.  It takes me a moment to remember that I am there alone and your absence brings tears every single time when reality hits me that you will never again be by my side. 

There is so much I need to tell you.  So much has changed.  Some you would be so proud to know.  Some would make you angry and disappointed.  Then there are those dramatic things that have happened that would simply make you ashamed.  I know.  I am there too.  We tried as hard as we knew how.  Provided as best we could.  Loved and disciplined from a place of love with the intention of developing good and responsible adults.  Sometimes, apparently, our best was not good enough and the interpretation of our best efforts has turned into an ugly story which lives and grows in the retelling.  You and I both know the truth, but your heart would still be broken as mine is.

I have learned the hard lesson of grief.  I had never before thought about grief.  I had sadness and experienced the emptiness of loss before, but this is something entirely different.  Honestly, grief is merciless.  It sweeps into your life and simply takes over without invitation or permission.   And then it takes you over.  It controls your thoughts and emotions and moods and motivation and appetite and sleeping and health and never gives you the option of sending it away.  It moves itself into a permanent mood of your life that you never wanted and now it is there like and unwanted acquaintance that, once present, is a continual challenge to ask to go away.  But it never seems to go.

The grief of your absence has now slotted itself in the place where you used to be.  When I think of you, the sadness overwhelms and even when we laugh and remember warm and tender moments or laugh at your quirks and the funny things unique to you, the grief is a shroud which covers this all never really letting joy seep though.   Eventually I have come to realize that grief is now a part of me, unwelcomed, but there regardless. 

What all the books and “experts” say is wrong.  Grief is not a journey.  It is now an uncomfortable part of my life, but it is nevertheless now a part of me.   There is no such thing as “closure”.  I have no idea what that is supposed to be, but it sounds like to have that I have to close the door on you, and I am completely unwilling to do that.  Closure would have me put you and our life together and our memories away in order to “move on”.  If that is how it is done, that I will learn to be content stuck where I am, but closure is not a possibility for me and for us. 

There have been decisions that I have made for us since you died, and I pray that you are guiding me from Heaven or have taken your place as my Guardian Angel.  You know how lost I am without you, and because of that you come to me often in dreams.  They are comforting, oddly, but leave me with the experience of being touched by you sharing, for just a tiny moment, our life together.  Your absence has left a hole so huge.  You were a significance presence and your essence is missed.

Tonight, I know that I will relive over and over your last moments here with me.  I can’t get it out of my head and in a way do not want to.  Above all, I want to honor you for the man that you were.  A man of integrity.  A man of his word.  A man of dignity.  A loyal friend.  My husband.  My blessing.

I love you,

P

Coincidence?

Dear Larry:

It was the day of the big game.  “Game of the Century” the football sports reporters were touting.  Our team was defending our unbeaten and #1 ranking against our arch nemesis.  Our season was depending on this game as we had National Championship withing our reach.  This hurdle was standing in our way.

You would have loved this scenario.  It was the alignment of all of the football planets!  It was building to an exciting crescendo and we were all gathering to support our team.  Everyone was coming over, even the twins, all dressed in our school’s purple and gold and screaming encouragement.   It was the exact family chaos that you waited for and enjoyed every moment.

As usual that morning, I went to the post office to gather our company mail.  As I stood there sorting junk in one stack, checks in another, bills in a third I saw the postcard. I really just glanced at it and put it in its own stack.  I discarded the junk, prepared the checks for deposit and decided to deal with the bills on Monday.   I looked at the postcard and doubled over in agony.  It was as if today you sent me this postcard.  It was exactly something that you would say.

Remember when my father died?  I flew up to get my mother to bring her to bury him at home.  We left early in the morning to be sure we arrived in time for the flight but to also give her time to not be rushed.  I told her that we would get to the airport early enough to have breakfast there.

We arrived at the airport, checked in and made it through security.  We looked for the nearest restaurant that was not fast food and made our way to a table.  The waitress put our menus in front of us and I gasped at what I saw.  Then I laughed and pushed the menu to my mother for her to read.  I said, “Leave it to Daddy to put his request in writing”.  The menu read TAKE CARE OF YOUR MOTHER.  As she took in what was happening around us, I glanced above her head only to have to gasp one more time.  Right above her head, and I had not noticed this before, was a poster of Audrey Hepburn.  My mother’s name is Audrey! 

I was so shaken with the COINCIDENCES that I called my brother.  He and his daughter were waiting near the airport to receive my father’s body and escort it to the funeral home.  I told him about the menu message and the poster, and the phone went silent.  Hello?  Hello?   He told me, after taking a moment to catch his breath, that he and his daughter were in a diner 600 miles away from us having breakfast and above his daughter’s head was a poster of Audrey Hepburn.  Another coincidence?  I am beginning to wonder.

On that morning at the post office, I took in what was written on your postcard.  It was a picture of a pedant.  On the side was written “I Love You” and the pendent was engraved with:

Priscilla

I loved you then,

I loved you still.

I always have,

I always will.

Larry

This sounded exactly like you!  You would have written this and then complained about its simplicity, but would have given it to me anyway.

The reality was that it was an advertisement for husbands to buy this pendent for their wives.  The other reality is that you would have never allowed anything gold plated to touch my body!  I get it.  It was a sales pitch.  Plain and simple.  Still, it touched my soul with love and pain and the emptiness of losing you.

Coincidence?  I do not believe in coincidence.  I know it was you.

That afternoon our team fought to a stunning victory and will compete for the National Championship.  Everyone there told me that they felt your presence with us on that day.  We were victorious and you were there.   I believe that all of these things are signs from you.  You have sent me so many since you died. I believe that you want to continue to remind me that you are my guardian angel and that even now when I pray for you to protect me, you are still here. 

I love you.

Your wife,

P

You Hear My Prayer

Dear Larry:

Every night before I go to sleep, I spend some time quietly thinking about you.  I don’t think so much about memories and the moments we shared, I think more about how you are now.  I wonder how you spend your day in heaven.  The concept of no human body is difficult for me to comprehend, but often I feel you with me in whatever new form you are in, and I try to imagine you in your new self.  You are my guardian angel; I am certain, and I hope that all of the things that I ask of you do not tether you to this earth and to me if your goal is to be a spirit of God.  Go if you have to, my love, because in the spirit way, you are no longer mine, but I will continue to talk and pray to you every night if and until you send me the message to stop.

My last thoughts each night are of you.  I tell you that I love you and miss you and I ask you to come to me in my dreams.  Last week, you did.

We had worked that day and, as we often did while you were here, we planned to meet for dinner.  I parked in a high-rise parking garage and got out of car.  It was a glorious sunny and warm day and I began to walk across the lot toward the exit.  It was then that I saw you and I stopped walking.  I looked at you and you took my breathe away.  You were dressed immaculately as you always were.  Beautiful black slacks.  Sharp pressed creases.  White starched shirt with your monogram on each cuff.  The onyx and mother of pearl cuff links that I had given you.  Your black and white tweed jacket hanging from your fingertips, slung over your shoulder.  Your wedding ring catching the sunlight.  The love bracelet you always wore that now, in life, I wear next to mine.  Young.  Fit.  Healthy.  Your beautiful prematurely gray hair. It was YOU when we were US.  You turned and saw me.  “There you are!” you said, and I sensed a true joy in your spirit to see me.  “I have missed you”, I said and ran to you.  You opened your arms and caught me as we met.  You put one arm around my waist and your other hand behind my head, drew me onto your chest and held me there. 

When I woke up, I remembered the dream right away and I thanked you for coming to me.  As I thought about each moment of that dream, I noticed a very different reaction in myself.   Every other time you have come to me, I woke up with tears streaming down my face and the ache of loneliness and loss in my heart for you.  This time, I awoke in a state of calm and peace and the realization of a feeling that I have not felt in the 18 months since you have been gone.  I felt cherished!  I felt the strength of your hand holding my head safely to your chest.  I felt the steadiness of your arm around my waist.  I felt your protection enclosing me.  I felt how you always cherished me and told me how I was a gift to you.  Having not felt that in 18 months, it felt like going home to you and it brought me security and comfort.  I know that this was your way of offering me one more moment to feel cherished by you.  Thank you, my love, for coming to me and giving me a chance to relive one more time how it felt for me to have the honor of being your wife.

Forever your wife,

P

Empty Vessels

Dear Larry:


When I woke up this morning and even before I opened my eyes, I remembered that tonight marks 18 months that you are gone.  It really does not matter if it is milestone day or not.  I relive that day every day with flashbacks of you that find me doubled over in grief.  I hated to see you in pain and the humiliation that illness served up for you.  “If I ever get to the point where I cannot wipe my own butt, shoot me up with morphine and let me go.”  You told me this so many times over our 35 years.  You never wanted to have to sacrifice your dignity.  In this process, you were almost compelled to surrender it and that did not suit you.  You made me promise that you got to make the final decision.  Keeping that promise was my final gift to you, but it was never the gift I ever wanted to give to you.

As I woke up, still with my eyes closed, I thought of you.  A vision flashed before me of dozens of stone vessels.  I could see vapors rising from some.  Some were filled with fluids and some seemed empty.  Each was far too heavy to ever be moved and I knew instinctively that these vessels were permanent.  I also knew that they were mine.

In my semi dream state, I was drawn to two of the vessels.  They were brown with Aztec type engravings on the sides.  One was brimming over and the other was empty.   All of the other vessels that I saw before were there, but appeared to be in a cloud.  Clearly, these were the two which I was to pay attention to and in here, someplace, was the lesson that I was intended to learn.

I knew right away that the full vessel was the one that represented my love for you and your love for me.  It was bubbling and steaming and running over the sides with excitement and energy.  It seemed huge to me and the experience of seeing it made me relive a moment of how it felt to be loved by you.  For a brief moment, I forgot that you were gone and just lived in the warmth and security of you.

Then I was draw to the empty vessel.  It, I realized, represented acceptance.  My message was that I would have to find a way, no matter how long it would take, to transfer what was in our first vessel and, drop by drop, find a way to put it into the empty vessel until it was full and bubbling and overflowing.  My challenge was to take the memories and the commitments that we shared and attach ethereal meanings to them   Take them from earth to heaven. Find peace and comfort in how it was then and not struggle with how it is now.   

The cloud still surrounded the other vessels, but I knew what they were.  They are hope and dreams and the future, but they are still shrouded in the clouds and not yet available for me.  You told me in a dream after you died, as I searched for my purpose to go on, that I have work to do.  This is apparently part of the work that I need to do. I have to design a way in my life to fill the empty vessel of acceptance before I can do anything else.

It is a slow and painful road.  It is a journey only I can do, and I have to do it alone.  I pray that you are now my angel standing next to me and guiding me through all of the decisions that I have to make.  Keep me safe and send me the strength and dignity to walk this unwanted path.

I miss you and will always be

Your wife

P

Grow Old with Me

Dear Larry:

Your grandfather lived to be 103 years old.   He did not die of an illness.  He just wore out.  I think I always assumed that it would be the same longevity with you.  After all, you were never sick!  Your first hospital stay was in your mid 60’s after your son ran over your foot with a forklift in our plant and you sacrificed one- and one-half toes.   We had visions and plans of growing old together and taking care of each other until the bitter end.  In our plans, the bitter end saw us as 100 years old together and finally dying in each other’s arms.  It did not turn out that way.

Your funeral services were on Holy Saturday.  The next day was Easter.  I had to drag myself to Easter Mass, but God and I needed to have a talk.  As I look back now, I have very little memory of that time period.  I do not know how I got to church.  I do not remember getting dressed or even having coffee.  One thing about that day, however, is etched into my memory.

It should have been a glorious day with pastel dresses and Easter eggs.   We should have gathered for our traditional family feast with the children hunting multicolored plastic eggs filled with candy and coins.  It should have been a crisp Spring day with the daffodils just peaking out of the ground to be the first blossoms to celebrate the beginning of a fresh renewed season of growth.  We should have washed chocolate off of smiling young faces and warned them not to fill up on candy before dinner.  We should have held hands and thanked God together for the meal we were about to share.  None of that happened on that Easter Day.

I sat in the pew and prayed to God and to you. I prayed for God to welcome you into Paradise.  You were a good man.  You earned this.  For me, I prayed for the strength and guidance to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life now.  You, my constant companion for 35 years, were gone and I think that I have forgotten how to be me without you.  My reality on that day was that I really did not want to be me without you.  Who do I have to share my goals with?  Who do I have to share my nonsensical night dreams with and who will laugh with me about my unconscious talking and singing?  Who will sit next to me on the couch during college football games and yell like we are insane at the stupid calls and amazing touchdowns?  Who will hold me when I laugh and who will embrace me when I cry?  Who will hold my hand as I get old?

There was a part of me on that day, I think, that believed that you would walk from the altar to my pew take me by the hand and answer all of these questions.  I watched and waited and, of course, that did not happen.  The tears poured out of my eyes and there was no way to stop them.  It was all too new and just too raw.  All I wanted was to have you back.

And then I saw them.  They looked to be well over 90.  They slowly walked to the front pew with matching walkers.  He politely stepped aside and motioned to her to enter the pew first.  She smiled at him and proceeded to her seat.  I assume it was their son who moved both of the walkers away and joined his parents in the handicapped front row of the church.  They sat side by side and he sweetly took her hand.  She turned her face to him, and they exchanged the intimate look that comes with 60 years of marriage.  No need to speak.   They both knew.

I noticed the hearing aids.  Her aids were tucked under her hair and he wore his proudly.  New models.  Shiny and silver.  He touched the volume to accommodate the background noise in the church.  They sat together like that had for decades. Secure in their partnership.  Secure in their dependence on each other.  Secure that if she needed to rise that he would rise first to hold out his weathered hand and invite her to lean on him.  No words.  Just a familiar knowing.

As I watched them, my heart broke as I realized that we will never have this.  We won’t share walkers or hearing aids.  We will no longer have the knowing looks and taken for granted companionship.   We talked about growing old together and the things we planned to do.   Travel the world.  Sell our business.  Spoil our grand kids.  Being together.  Dying together.  Instead, less than 24 hours before, I kissed you goodbye for the last time.

Looking at this beautiful couple reminded me so vividly of what the next phase of my life was to be.  More questions than answers.  More confusion than peace.  More loneliness than the comfort of your presence.  Me.  Alone.  Without you.  Exactly what we never wanted.

Now 17 months have gone by and my petitions to God are still the same.  I ask for the courage and for guidance from the Almighty to lead me into what my life is to be now that He decided that He needed you more than I do.  This is a journey I never wanted to take alone, but here I am and after 17 months of missing you and have many more questions than answers.  One thing that I do know is that I was blessed with a husband of honor and integrity who I could depend on any time of day to reach out his hand to me and always be prepared for me to lean on him.

I miss you

Your wife,

P

I Hate That Word

Dear Larry:

Life goes on.  That is reality.  I can remember a few days, after you died, driving the same roads that I have driven everyday for 35 years.  The same houses.  The same cars, The same trees and dogs.  I became infuriated.  It is NOT the same.  How do they dare go about life as if nothing has happened?  Everything has changed because you are gone and yet it all still looks the same.  How am I supposed to pretend that everything is exactly how it used to be?

But life goes on.  Bills have to be paid.  Grass has to be cut.  Trash need to be taken to the curb. Except now, for me, all of those tasks look very different.  I do them alone.  I do the ones that you used to do in addition to the ones I had to do before.  Some I do promptly.  Some I put off because at times I simply do not have the emotional strength to put one foot in front of the other.  They eventually all get done because you expect that of me.

It was within weeks after I kissed you goodbye for the last time that things needed to be handled.  I know that I had neglected my health during your illness and grief was wreaking havoc on my mind and body.  I realized that I was an emotional mess and for my own sanity, I needed to get some medical attention.    First, of course, we needed to get blood work done.

She was so kind.  She knew when she first looked at me that I was fragile and that things were not normal.  She had no way to know.  She seemed to muster an extra dose of compassion but had the instinct not to ask.  She put her hand gently on my arm as if she could transfer courage from her hand to my body.  She sensed that I was about to collapse emotionally and treated me with the tenderness you offer to a helpless infant. 

But she had a job to do.  I knew what was coming and could already feel the anxiety of the emotional train wreck that I knew could not be avoided.  It was the first time.  I never wanted this.  I never prepared for this and have no way of knowing how anyone ever could prepare. 

“Are you name and address correct?  “Are there any other changes since your last visit?”

The tears flooded and there was nothing I could do to stop them.  My body shook and I doubled over in agony.  “Please, please, please don’t make me say it!  I have never had to say it before, and this will be the first time.  I beg you.  Please do not make me say the word.”

She got up from her computer and knelt down in front of me.  She gently and tenderly surrounded me in her arms and rocked me like an injured child.  “You don’t have to say it.  Let’s just leave it as it is for now.”   How I appreciated this woman’s instincts and compassion that day.   She walked me to the door, hugged me and said she would pray for us.

Most people do not mean to be cruel and do not intend to be the emotional sabotage that you spend your day praying that you can avoid.  But life continues to go on and “normal” is that people travel in pairs.  People expect pairs.  There are always questions for the odd man out.

I wear my wedding rings, so the assumption is that there is a husband someplace.  Sitting at dinner in a social situation recently with people I had never met before brings about the predictable questions.  Where do you live?  Do you have children?  What do you do for a living? 

I knew it was coming.  In fact, I was waiting for it as I felt the anxiety building waiting to see which one would have the courage to ask.  “Where is your man?”  he asked.  I felt the heaviness in the air which fell over our dinner table and the discomfort of the momentary pause in the conversation as I heard myself gasp.  Don’t cry.  Breathe.  Just wait.  “My husband passed away”, I said, but I think he sensed it as he regretted asking.  “I am so sorry”, he said.  “I am too”, I responded.

In the 16 months that you have been gone, I have never referred to myself by the word I hate.  Widow.  It makes it all too final.  It would be an admission on my part that you are not coming back and that now I have to describe myself as your “widow”.  I am now and will forever hold myself proudly as your wife. 

I miss you.

Your wife,

P

Please Go

Dear Larry:

We had the privilege during our life together to travel much of the world.   Oh my, the adventures we had!  Our experiences were funny and scary and intimate and priceless.  The stories we were able to tell were so memorable.  But, none of it would have been as special had I not been able to do them with you.

You took care of it all.  “Just pack and be ready to go” was generally what you told me.  I packed and you took care of the rest.  You took such good care of this that I realized, after you had gone, that I had not made an airline reservation for myself in over 20 years. 

Towers and arcs.  Battlegrounds and tombs.  Kangaroos and Great Barrier Reefs.  Onion domes and wooden shoes.  Gondolas and chopsticks. Mountains and beaches.  Castles and Eagles Nest. Schnitzel and croque monsieur.  Wine and vodka.  The Pope and gyros.  Thwarting a robbery in Rome.  I could go on and on.  How blessed were we to be able to share these experiences together?  I miss my travel buddy and my dependable travel agent.

When you were in the hospital, we had the opportunity to talk for hours.  You pulled me to your side and whispered in my ear, “Please, go.  Please do not stop traveling.  Plan trips and continue to scratch places off of our bucket list”.  You told me that our loving and compassionate travel companions had already promised you that they would take me along with them on future trips.  There were so may places we still wanted to visit!  We had finally talked you into going back to Vietnam, but this was going to have to wait.  How can I do this without you, and do I really want to?  The most fulfilling part was going with you.

Since you have been gone, I have ventured out cautiously with the safety and security of loving friends.  The experience is always bittersweet because you are not sitting next to me and I can always guide the conversation to how you would love or hate a particular destination or dinner or entertainment.  My companions are generous is sharing memories of you, laughing and crying together and all just missing your presence. 

Now I am taking a really big step.  I think you would be proud of me.  I planned it all, invited someone very special to join me and soon we depart.  There are parts of me that are excited to share this with a person who has always had my heart, but parts of me are terrified.  I am in fear of doing this without your supervision of the journey, but more just sad that you can’t go with us.  I will journey without my protector.  I will take on this experience like a flight without a parachute.  You will not be there for me to rest my head on your shoulder or wrestle my bags from the overhead compartment.  You will not say at 6:00 AM “Of course we will have a Mimosa.  It’s cocktail time someplace!”.  You will not be there to protect my heart from being broken by your absence.  I will miss you so badly every step of the way.  I will wear your bracelet and you Airborne Wings so in those ways you will be with me.  And you will be in me heart as you always are.

I hear you, my love.  “Please, go”.  I am going because you wanted me to.  It will, however, be bittersweet because you are gone.

I love you so much and miss you so badly that it physically hurts.

Your wife

P

Two By Two

Dear Larry:

Looks like Noah got it right.  Upon God’s request, he loaded up the arc with two of each animal on earth.  He found one male and one female to put on the arc in order to save the species from the great flood that was yet to come.  Two.  One each.  Male.  Female.  This is the way of the world.  This is how it was meant to be.  Two by two.  Couples.

You made me promise that I would continue to do the things that we loved to do together.  I have done that although often I have had to force myself.   Going out of the comfort zone of our home is so awkward for me.  My life was accustomed to being on your arm and the depth of our experiences was defined by having new adventures together.  You were my protector and when you were with me, it just felt right. 

Now, I feel vulnerable and exposed.  Putting myself in pubic situations is uncomfortable and unnatural.  I hate the word widow because it so closely describes how singular I feel, and it shakes my foundation to the core.  It is not just a word; it is a way that I now have to be in the world around me.    This is the existence that I never wanted and pray every day to have our old life back. 

So, I ventured out under the protection of great friends and metaphorically got onto the arc.  The room is for two.  This bed is too big for only me.  The dinner table is set for 6 except that the chair next to me is always empty.  Couples and me.  You are missing and that chair stands as a reminder to me every night that you are not coming back to fill it.

Yesterday we ventured out.  Everyone got on the bus to take us to our new experience.  Couples.  Men and Women.  Mothers and sons.  Best friend and best friend.  And me.  The bus driver counts to see how many passengers he will be responsible for.  47.  And odd number.  “Who is the odd one? he asks.  “It’s me”, I respond.  “We will have to warn everyone” he said in an attempt to say something humorous. It stuck me like a knife in my gut.  Oh please, God, please help me to not burst into tears.    I already know that you are not here.  I know that I am alone.  Now an entire bus load of people also know that I am alone.  Don’t cry.  Don’t cry.  Hold it together. 

We reach our destination and he asks again, “Who is my odd one?” and again I am forced to declare that I am the one.   I am the odd man out.  I am the one out of sync with nature and the way things are intended to be.  Just walk.  Just breathe.  Distract yourself and this soon will pass.

When asked the third time by the coordinator at our destination about who was the odd one, I simply did not respond.  I have already claimed this twice and was not going to do it again.  I have now had to claim this distinction for 15 months and I am unwilling to say to out loud one more time.

You and I did not anticipate this.  We planned to grow old together and share experiences all over the world together.  Neither of us accepted the possibility that one of us would have to take this journey alone.  I know that I did not and feel ill equipped to handle it.  The song of this life is off key.  I march on my left foot while the rest of the people are on their right.   Everything is out of sync because you are gone.  Me without you is something I did not want and never asked for. I was given no choice and neither were you.

Know, my love, that I am doing the best that I know how to carry this off with the dignity of our relationship and marriage in mind.  Sometimes I actually pull it off, but inside I know I am hanging by a thread.

I miss you so much.  Your absence is blaring.

Your wife,

P

Our Spock Mind Meld

Dear Larry:

You loved Star Trek and all things Sci-Fi.  I walked out of these movies rubbing my ears and saying, “What the heck was that all about?   I don’t get it”.   You would just laugh when I predictably went into my rote diatribe about how all of those movies are alike.  They have some space mission.  Some alien force sneaks its way onto the vessel—-unbeknownst to the captain who, by the way, has the most sophisticated computer and security systems imaginable—and takes control of the computer system and the vessel.  They all run around in a panic.  They blow up stuff.  They do impressive outer space ship maneuvers to avoid getting blown up.  Some folks get sick (so the ship doc gets a part in the show) or sucked out of the space ship (it beats having to fire the bad actors) until the Captain, #1 or Spock, in a moment of genius, figure it out, destroy the alien or send him back to his ship and all live happily ever after.  You thought I was committing sacrilege!   You saw and reported distinct differences in all of the movies.  I only went because you loved them, and I liked popcorn.  Ironically, our last movie together was a Star Trek movie.

We were together so much and for so long, I think that we developed our own version of the Spock Mind Meld.  This happened for us mainly when we were out in public at gathering with lots of people.  We would both be engaged in different conversations and look at each other across the room. We would shift our eyes to the person we wanted to criticize and continue our individual conversations. Later, when we reunited, we would talk about what we meant, and we always got it!  I knew exactly what you were telling me with your eyes, and you did too.  “Where in this modern world does a dude find a seersucker suit and why does he decide to wear it?  And, oh by the way, his little son had on one as well!”  Then we laughed.  Most of the time there was no need to speak it as all we needed was the shift in the eyes and a nod between us and we just knew.  This was our version of the Spock Mind Meld.  This was our own version of a telepathic melding of two minds into a common thought.  Sometimes it got downright spooky!

It became a joke between us.  You would be out around lunch time and call to ask what I wanted to have for lunch.  You hated it when I said it, but I always said, “Just get me what I like”.  That drove you nuts, but you always managed to get me exactly what I liked, and I always loved that you took care of me.  Never did you decide to eat lunch and not offer the same for me. 

I think while you were in the hospital you turned your mind meld off.  You did not want me to know what you believed. You did not think that you would survive but did not want me to give up hope.   I wonder if you just did not want to see the look of desperation on my face.   You knew that I would never give up on you no matter what they said.  This was better left unspoken.

Now that you are gone, I miss having someone who understands my every thought and need without explanation.  I now have no one to give ”the glance” and know that they get it.  I have to go into laborious explanation, they will never get it and I think I need to quit trying.  I am chasing a rainbow that you took with you when you went to Heaven and I will never be able to catch it.  It was uniquely “Our Thing” and I will never recapture it. 

The vacancy created by the loss of intimacy of our mind to mind conversations leaves me empty.  I have spent much of the last 14 months searching for that among the living around me and all I find is sadness and frustration.  The bottom line is that most people are far too absorbed in themselves to even notice.  I have only succeeded in creating more sadness ad emptiness for myself.

As I was walking today, I was listening to music and Sammy Davis Jr. offered me his solution.  “I Gotta Be Me” blared in my ears and the words made me fall to my knees on the walking path.  I feel like you sent those words to me exactly at they moment.  “Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong.  Whether I find a place in this world or never belong.  I’ve gotta be me.” I played it 4 times while on my knees doubled up in tears and the 5th time, I picked myself up.  I looked to the sky for a sign from you and you sent me clouds shaped like a kiss.  Your message to me today was profound.  You know how hard this week has been for me and this was the message I received.  If they love me or hate me, I have to be true to me and true to the memory of US.

I love the messages that you send me.  It is as if our Spock Mind Meld transcends life and death.   Know my love, that I look for them and do not ignore them.  They are your gift to me from Heaven.  I miss you so much that my heart aches.

Your wife,

P

My Teacher, My Student

My love:

I always believed that people come into your life for one of two reasons; They are there to either teach you something or they are there for you to teach them.  The age and experience makes no difference and often the lessons are not blatantly obvious.  The lessons may come from the spoken word.  It may come in the experience of actions.  It may only be a feeling.  But if you step out of yourself and focus on what is offered around you, you might be blessed with a life shifting lesson that this person came personally to you to deliver.  Their gift to you or they are patiently awaiting the gift you are intended to give them. 

And after the lessons are learned and the teaching is done, the two people may drift away.  Is this what happened to us?  Were all of our lessons learned?  Was there nothing else to teach?  Is this why you had to go?  I was not ready, but no one asked me.

So, I reflect on our 35 years and savor and honor the lessons you taught me.  I think I also had lessons to teach you.  I pray that I was as effective a teacher for you as you were for me. 

I think I taught you how to be vulnerable.  I made it safe for you to show your soul and not sacrifice your dignity.

I think I softened your edges.    Your military bearing had hard and fast boundaries.  It took a few years, but it made you more approachable so that other people were not fearful to come to you.  When they came to you, you became their teacher. Many young people spoke at your funeral about how you changed their lives.

I think I taught you how to be less shy.  I know that will come as a shock to those who knew you best, but you were very socially shy. In the beginning, you sat back and allowed me to take the lead in social situations.  You learned so well that as years went by, I think we changed places.

I think I taught you how to be lighthearted.  We danced, we played, we acted silly and it did not injure our public image.  I remember one night when we sat on the curb downtown and played a game we invented: Let’s judge people.  We would wait and watch and finally pick out one person.  Then we made up their story and told each other the story of that person’s life.  Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it was tragic.  We predicted their future than picked another person. 

I think I taught you that I would go to any extent to keep you alive.  I tried, my love and you knew, I believe.  I fought as hard as I possibly could with all of the odds against us.  But from the bottom of my soul, I did all that I knew to do, and, in the end, I failed you.  But you knew that I would never give up as long as there was a drop of hope.  I didn’t and I know that you knew my commitment to you. 

You, my love, were my teacher too.  I was not always an easy recipient.  Stubbornness and self-protection are hard shields to burrow through, but you loved me and would not quit on me in spite of my defiance.  Your lessons to me changed the very core of who I used to be and who I became because of you.   I think I disappointed you a thousand times.  I think that I avoided your lessons because some would require repentance and humility on my part.  You never judged and you never quit.  You taught and you waited patiently for me to learn.

You taught me what it is to truly live in integrity.  Doing the right thing when no one is watching is a view into a person’s soul.  It is the signature of who you are and what makes you a person of quality.  Sacrifice your integrity and you surrender yourself.  You taught me that this is an easy choice.

You taught me to honor being an American.  You taught me about history and military commitment and the significance of respecting those who made the choice to sacrifice their lives to ensure that we could live ours in peace.  You shared your intimate military experiences and on your death bed, asked God to forgive you if, during the war, you were responsible for the death of another person.  This was your final struggle in your faith and you told me one morning that you were “square with God”.  You must have found spiritual peace during that night because I saw God’s glow on your face.

You taught me the difference between an acquaintance and a friend.  You were an incredibly committed friend.  Your friendships went on for decades and once someone was your friend, it was a life commitment.  There was no request that was too difficult for you if asked by a friend.  You were by their side when they needed you and they did the same for you.  You set the standard.

The hardest lesson you taught me, my love, was how to be the recipient of unconditional love.   Emotionally naked, you called it.  You offered it to me and chiseled through my protective exterior to touch my soul.  Once you got there, you never let go.  You filled me for 35 years with a safe and fulfilling love that made me feel valuable and cherished.  I had to be something rare and priceless because you picked me. 

Now that the teaching is done and the learning is complete, you have gone away the hole is huge.  Selfishly, most of all, I miss feeling cherished.   I miss waking up next to you, looking at you and knowing that on this earth, I was the most special to you.

Thank you for picking me and being both my teacher and my student. Your lessons changed me forever.   I miss you more than any words can describe.

Your wife,

P

There was US

Dear Larry:

There were three parts to us.  There was you.  There was me and then there was US.  We were an entity.  We were a force.  Together we took on some formidable challenges that many people thought were impossible.  But as long as we were together, we were invincible. 

I remember the night that our telephone rang, and we were informed that our warehouse and offices were on fire. Our business.  We started the business with our only $200.00 we had.  We worked years to save and scrap together in order to afford to build this new plant…our dream come true.   As we turned onto the interstate highway that night after the call, we could already see the red glow in the sky from 8 miles away.  We held hands during the entire drive and did not speak a word.   With the brightness from the glow of the fire, we knew we were heading toward a major change in our lives. 

When we reached the street where our building was located, we saw rivers of water pouring down the street.  There were already eight fire trucks with hoses pouring water full blast on this raging fire.   The building was engulfed.  We knew immediately that this would be a total loss and that this was our moment of unanticipated life change.

I had closed the office that night and, for some odd reason, I looked at my watch as I locked the door.  It was 6:25 PM.   Here we were back at the building.  It is 7:15 and there is no possibility of saving the building.  Fire has begun the process of melting our building. Would it do the same to our business?  What about our lives?

Our concerns that night were so varied.  Of course, there were the obvious ones.  Would we be able to keep our employees working?  How would we rebuild?  How badly would the insurance company treat us?  Can we financially survive this?  How did this fire start and did someone set it?  Where do we start?

As usual, I cried.  As usual, you did not.   Actually, you talked with the people who gathered…supporters, friends, competitors and just plain gawkers…and you joked around.  Gallows humor you called it.  Lightened the mood in times of crisis, you said.  You learned that in the Army and here is was again except this time it was our lives and our business and our future going up in flames.  Quite literally.

The fire chief came over to speak with us.  What in the world did we have in that warehouse?  This was the hottest fire they had ever had to fight.  Did we think that it was sabotage?  Did we have any idea how it started?  Every fire truck available in the area was there to fight this fire and it was not close to under control.  The back walls had already melted.  This would be a total loss and fighting it would take all night.

In fact, it took all night and the next several days to extinguish all of the fire.  Structural steel had melted.  Our warehouse cat, Smokey, was dead.  Three fire fighters were injured, treated and released.  Thank you, God, for protecting these men.  We lost it all.  We lost everything we had worked 25 years to build.  In one evening, it was gone.  We stood on the driveway looking at the burned-out shell of our building, burned forklifts, charred inventory, melted equipment and held hands.  Oh my God.  How do we come back from this?  Where do we begin?  If we knew step 1 then we could figure out step 2 as we went along, but where do we find step 1?  We have insurance.  You took care in advance to protect us in case this unexpected occurred.   This was certainly unexpected.

The next morning our employees began to show up for work.  Most had not seen the news and had no idea that their livelihood had just burned down.  They asked if we were working that day.  Well, some of us have to, that is for sure, but we do not know how to begin.

You, of course, took charge.  We established a new ground zero on our office manager’s kitchen table.  We took orders on the hood of your car.  We had no idea how we would fill them, but we would worry about this tomorrow.  We called the insurance company.  We clung to each other.  We functioned as US. 

As I look out of my office door today, 14 years later, I look back in awe of US and that we were able to pull it off!  We found a new warehouse.  We ordered new equipment.  We bought forklifts and machines and pencils and printers.  We worked 16 hours a day and went back the next day for more.  We found out very quickly who was our friend and who was not.  You shifted into Larry mode and did your thing and we survived!  We did not miss one day delivering our products to our customers. 

In our very private moments after we were finished discussing the pragmatic issues, we took a moment to pour each a glass of wine and celebrate US.  We did it.  You and me.  Us.  We burned to the ground, picked ourselves us and rebuilt from the ashes.  We both knew that we could not had done it alone, but as a team called US, we were invincible!  I miss my business partner.  I miss my husband. 

Your wife,

P

Warnings

Dear Larry;

You came to me in a dream last night.  It was so vivid, and you were so alive.  I got to touch you and hold your hand and talk with you.  You have not come to me in quite some time and I was beginning to wonder if you had transitioned to the next step in your eternal reward….one that excluded the need to stay attached to anything mortal and release yourself from me. 

I read a thought written by a woman who had lost her husband 9 years ago.  She wrote that she felt that it was the obligation of the living to release our loved ones who have passed.  She felt that holding on to them created a place of Limbo for them and kept them tethered to the mortal world.  In some ways, she felt, it is selfish and cruel on our part to hold on so tight and that it is an act of love to release them.

Since reading this, it has haunted me.  Are they asking us to forget you?  I cannot take a knife and cut out 40 years of memories filled with you and me and what we created together.  Not only was it your life, it was my life too!  It was US.  It is why I am who I am, and I cannot just erase that.  I cannot bear the guilt I would feel if I did in fact forget about you and the significance you are to me.  Am I keeping you in Limbo?  Am I keeping you from passing into your rightful place in Heaven?  Am I being selfish and self-serving, keeping myself warm in the feelings that surround me when I think abut you?  Too many questions and no accurate answers in this life.  These are God questions and He does not seem interested in reveling the mysteries to us on earth.  All I know is that right now I am not even close to being ready to release you.  If this is keeping you tied to the mortal world, I am sorry that my selfishness and my need for you keeps you frozen.  Even if you came to me and begged for release, I am not sure that at this time I could do that.  That was just one woman’s thoughts that suggested this was the way.  It was certainly her way of squaring spiritually with herself when she felt the need to walk away.  It made me think, but I am not sure that her theory works for me.  At least not now.

When you came to me last night, you kept warning me of the same thing.  You kept telling me that they wanted to hurt me, and they wanted to kill me.  I knew you did not mean in the physical sense, but I knew what you meant and to whom you were referring.  You told me to stand strong and firm.  You told me several times to protect myself.  That seemed to be your message to me and your supernatural warning.  What I took away is a knowing that you are still with me.  You know all that is going on and you are the shadow of my protection.  In my soul, I feel you will keep me safe even through this unexpected journey that I must take alone.  The obstacles have been heart breaking.  The estrangements for no real reason have come as a shock.  The foundations that I thought our family had shattered so easily.  That no one has joined my army in attempts to fix what broken is shocking.  That all were willing to see our family splinter and not fight for what we had before shakes the core of my belief system.  Where is our family?  Why is any of this okay with all of them?  Have they no values attached to my portion of the family?  That they have all let a portion of our family drift away and no one mention of it makes me question what I believed we had all of our lives.  Was it all a lie?  A façade?  A show?  Without foundation? 

When you come to me in my dreams, you always have something to tell me.  I promise, my love, I will not ignore what you are coming to tell me. I think these trips to me are not without huge spiritual efforts on your part.  In death as in life, you prove over and over again that you are willing to move Heaven and Earth for me because you love me.  Everything has changed except one thing since you died.  I still love you with my entire heart and soul and miss you more than any words could every express.  Thank you for the visit.

Your wife,

P

Too Much Time To Think

Dear Larry:

When I write to you, I always want to focus on you and on us and on the rarity of relationship that we were blessed to share.  This letter, I think, will focus on me.  I need to tell you what I am thinking and what I am realizing now that I am forced to navigate this world without you.  Again, I will probably be accused of “wallowing in grief sorrow and self-pity” as a family member once so cruelly accused me of soon after your death.  I prefer to recognize it for what it is; grief.   I image from the outside, detached, judgmental people it may in fact look like wallowing.  For me, that just comes off as cold.  But what I have learned about grief is that it has a life of it’s own.  It surrounds you without warning and takes complete control of your being without permission.  It becomes your thoughts and your moods and your anticipation and your fear.  It takes shape as an invisible gossamer fabric wrapping around you.  You are trapped inside of it and it colors every moment of your new life.  Any thought or action you might take is now filtered through this veil of grief and sadness before it gets to the outside world.  Each joyful moment is tinged with the color of grief and the momentary experience of joy does not now nor will ever again feel the same.  Grief becomes the vehicle you are forced to ride in, and you do not get a choice.  It has power over you and you just have to ride until the ride is over. 

One thing that your absence affords me sadly, is time to think.  Too much time to think.   I notice the smallest nuances and attached irony and symbolism to every moment.  The rebirth of nature with the arrival of spring coincided with your spiritual rebirth in Heaven.  Your timely dreams come to me exactly when I need them.  The cardinals and the butterflies visit me often.  You touch my shoulder at night.  And then I think.

Lately, the loneliness of life without you has enveloped me.  Of course, I have been lonely for the last 13 months without you, but I think the difference now is the realization of the permanence of it.  I now have habits and rituals that have been formed without you.  I no longer wait for you to get into the passenger seat.  I now just leave without you.  I no longer pick up enough food at the grocery for two people.  Rather, now I look at the pre packaged meat and realize how many meals it will take for me to go through this much food.  I am no longer shocked that your car is not next to mine in the garage or depend on your feedback from some idea I need to pass by you at work.  I now automatically sign all of our gifts and cards to the children “Love, Nana and Boo Boo from Heaven” and they smile when they read it.  I cry when I write it.  I am now alone and now I am also very lonely.

It is difficult to make my way through this world as a single after being with you so many years. It is a most uncomfortable way for me to be in this world.  As uncomfortable and as unwanted as it is, I find myself alone and lonely even in a huge crowd of people.  It is either my inability to connect or, frankly, my lack of desire to connect that I am creating loneliness even in a situation where I could connect with people.  I am both fearing as well as creating the isolation and, sadly, I am well aware of it.  It is just such a strange place for me that I feel awkward walking through it.  It was so easy to do it with comfort and grace while you were next to me holding my hand.  Now. I just want to bolt because as painful as the isolation is, it is far less painful than knowing that I have to face the world alone and without you.

It is just recently that the reality of what my future may look like has hit me like a brick to my face.   I have been going through the motions powered by emotion for the past year.  The grief has programed my life without asking for input.  But now in the lonely hours, I get to think.  And I think…

On the night you died, and you took your last breath, indeed it all changed for you.  Your pain was gone. Your nightmare was over.  I believe you entered Heaven and began your dance of eternal freedom and happiness.  I know you did not want to leave me.  I do not blame you.  But as the time has gone by and I have had time to think, I have far too much time to examine my life as it is now.  My painful realization is that the moment that you took your last breath was the last moment in my life that I would experience the love that you had for me.  I will never again be cherished like you cherished me.  There will never be a moment ever again for me to soak up and savor the love that you offered me.  When you died, that went with you and, oh my love, I miss that.  My soul is broken.

So maybe in this letter I am wallowing in grief, sorrow and self-pity.   The grief train is still in full possession of me and I do not think that I am anywhere near getting off.  The loneliness of my life without you has become my reality.  There is no fix for this.  It is what it is, as you would so bluntly say.  It is what it is, my love, and I hate it.

Your wife;

P

Holy Saturday

Dear Larry:

Last year, when you died, I think that I had lost track of all space and time.  You had been so ill, and we had been away and detached from all things that had made our lives normal.  The Saturday after you died just made logical sense.  It gave out of towners time to travel to be here to honor you. I did not realize that it was Holy Saturday and that the next day would be Easter.  Because your services were on Holy Saturday, the meaning and emotions attached to Easter are forever changed for me.

That Holy Saturday was the picture-perfect Spring day.  It was in the 60’s and the sun was shining.  Skies were a breathtaking azure blue without a cloud to be seen.  I remember getting out of the car at the funeral home, hesitant to go in, and standing with the sun on my face.  I breathed in the crisp clean air and knew that this moment of beauty was about to dissolve for me forever.  Give me one more moment of this beauty.  Give me one more moment with you.

Ironies of the day were not lost on me.  The symbolisms of the cycle of life came to me as our identical twin great granddaughters arrived to honor you.  They had been born while you were in the hospital and neither of us had seen them.  We had also lost another close family member less than two weeks before and here were these two precious babies reminding me of life’s cycles; two died and two were born.  Why can’t we keep them all?

They talked about pain and passion.  They talked about suffering and sacrifice.  They talked about commitment to a higher purpose and power.  They were talking about you. 

And then a year went by.  No one mentioned the unanticipated reactions to losing you.  Who could have predicted the abandonments, betrayals and cruel treatment? Who does that to someone who has just lost their spouse?   Worse yet, who could have predicted that it would come from those I trusted most and depended on to support me through this uncharted chaos of emotions?  Maybe that was some of the pain they talked about.  All I know was that I was blindsided and felt like I was encompassed in grief for my beautiful dead husband and now grieving for four people who were still alive.  As I kiss you goodnight every night, I tell you that you would be ashamed of them.  I know that you are.

Holy Saturday this year was identical to your Holy Saturday.  It was another beautiful Spring day without a cloud in the sky following a week of vicious storms.  I stood in our back yard watching the cardinals you sent to visit and missing you with a pain in my heart.  How is it that a year has passed?  How have I even survived this year without you?    I watched those birds unable to control my tears.  They say is gets easier—It does not.

Easter services were filled with the symbolisms of Spring and Easter.  Regeneration.  Renewal.  Rebirth. I prayed for you and that you are celebrating your eternal reward.  You were a good and decent man.  God knows this and, I am certain, He greeted you at the gates of Heaven.  Sometimes I smile thinking that you are certainly finding your way to be God’s First Assistant because He will not allow you to run the place and do it your way.

Last night was Easter night and you came to me in a dream.  You were on your death bed and the doctor came in to formally and legally declare that you had died.  I relive this moment thousands of times.  The doctor left the room and we were together alone.  I kissed you on your forehead and talked to you.  A moment later, you sat up.  I said, “Baby, they said you were dead.”  You said, “I am not.”

I cherish the special Easter dream you sent to me with the poignant yet much needed reminder that in the spirit you are not dead. I feel you with me often.  I feel you guiding me and leading me.  But all of that does not mask my reality and that you are gone in the flesh and that I desperately miss you and need you here. 

Your wife,

P

You Have Things To Do

Dear Larry:

I miss you so badly that it feels like a physical ache at the core of my body.  This must be where our souls live because mine feels broken and empty.  There are times that I feel a need to talk to you, to share my day, to pass ideas by you and get your feedback.  Last night before I went to sleep, I prayed to you to come to me.  You did not disappoint.  You came to me in a dream.

I was away from our home and you found me.  As I woke up in my dream, you were laying beside me.  “I asked you to come and you did”, I said.  You smiled and encircled me with your arms.  I looked at you and you were as if you were a healthy man.  You were radiant and happy and content just to be there next to me.  “Where are your dialysis tubes?”, I asked.  “Gone”, you said.  “I am free”. “Then I have plans,” I said.  “I can come and spend the entire summer with you.  Now they cannot stop me from coming into your room and being with you”.

“You can’t”, you said.  “You have things to do.  You promised me and you cannot come with me now.  I am OK, but you have things to do for me”.  I knew without words what you were talking about.  We discussed this before you died and you made me promise to carry on our business but most of all take care of our family in your place.  Your sons.  Our granddaughters. Protect their families and their precious wives. Our dear friends. Oversee.  Love and protect them.  Do what you would have done.  Be present for them in place of you. 

As you look down on us from Heaven over the past year, I pray that you are proud of what you see.   There are some parts that shame us all, but we have no control over that, and you saw that part coming.  You warned me, but I will still blindsided.  The rest of it, I hope that you are happy with what you see.  We do it all in your honor and feel your guidance and your spirit.  On the evening of your birthday as we gathered to celebrate you and perform your cake ceremony, our youngest granddaughter said, “I wish Boo Boo was still here”.  We all wish you were still here as your absence from our family and our world leaves a gaping hole that can never be filled. 

Know, my love, that I will take your guidance from my dream very seriously, “You have things to do” and I promise you now as I did before you died, I will do them in your honor.

Your wife,

P

It’s Your Birthday

Dear Larry:

You were never too impressed with birthdays.  “It’s just another day” was your mantra.  But today is your birthday and it is my second one without you.  Although it is “just another day”, that takes on an entire new meaning when this day is here, and you are not.

We will gather tonight to honor you just as we did last year when the wound was fresh and the pain palpable.  The ones who love you and miss you have created ceremonies to honor you so that you are always significant in our gatherings.  We speak you name.  We pray with you.  We laugh about your funny quirks.  We cry because we miss you and the absence of your presence fills the room with sadness and emptiness.  You are physically gone, but you are not gone from the family we created together,

I hope that you are proud of us.  We have done what you asked us to do.  We have carried on as a family and continued to honor you.  It has been, I must admit, the challenge of our lives without our compass to guide us.   Your sons and friends have done what they promised you that they would do.  They have taken care of me.  I pray that you are watching over us and that you are happy with what you see. 

Days like today are supposed to be accented with celebrations.  Now that you are gone, the celebration looks very different than before.  It took us a long time to be able to laugh without the guilty feelings that a moment of happiness might bring.  You would hate that.  Now the celebration is about honoring your life and the things that you held of value.  Patriotism.  Integrity.  Loyalty, Friendship.  Family.  The celebration will find me standing with the ones who love you and seeing the same traits in them because they were modeled by you.  You demanded it by your actions and your expectations were high.  Some could not reach that bar of excellence and those people will not join us tonight.  Shame is expensive.

With a new definition of celebration, we will gather tonight to honor you on your birthday.  Of course, we will have cake and tears and maybe a few funny stories.  Your essence will be there because you always are there.  I pray that your spirit and your soul join us as we honor you and all say how deeply you are missed. I want to feel your presence with us tonight knowing that you never really left us.  We never left you either.

Your family loves you and misses you.  Happy birthday, my love.

Your wife

P

I Prayed for This

Dear Larry:

On that horrible Sunday morning, you agreed to go to the emergency room, so I knew we were in trouble.  Once you were situated in the car, I closed the kitchen door to set the alarm on our home.  As I closed the door, the reality of the situation hit me like a wave of fear, and I fell to my knees.  I clutched the door frame and prayed to God while sobbing in terror.  My repetitive prayer was, “God, please let me bring him home.  Please allow him to come through these doors again”.

One year ago, today, they went to the funeral home.  Pick up flowers.  Arrange for an invoice.  Check on follow up details from your funeral.   I chose not to go.  I could not face going into that building knowing that this was the last place that I saw you.   They knew that and offered to go for me.  After you left, they took on the job of being my protectors because they promised you that.

I did not expect it.  When they returned, they had you.  They walked into my office with the beautiful pewter and black urn that I know you would have chosen for yourself.  Their faces said it all.  They were not expecting you on that day either and the last thing they wanted to do was to hand you over to me.  I remember gasping as they walked in, wanting and not wanting you at the very same moment.  Please do not make it that real! 

My memory reeled back to the last moment I saw you.  The minister.  The funeral director.  The flag.  All of the people. The 21 guns.   It should have been just you and me.  That moment.  Just us and the rest of the fanfare was insignificant.   It was so intimate when they closed the lid that everyone else there was an intruder into our marriage.  I remember my body shaking uncontrollably and screaming in my head No No No.  Please God, NO.  I wanted to kiss you just one more time.  I see that moment every day of my life.

And now here you were in your now permanent home.  I felt my feet slipping from under me as they placed you respectfully on my desk.  It’s over.  Full circle.  Eternal reward.  Alone.  Without you.

I picked you up and put you I the car and tearfully drove to our home.  This was our private moment. Just for us.  As I entered our home, I flashed back to the day this final journey began.  I remember falling to my knees next to the door and praying to bring you home and the reality struck me that God had answered my prayers.  I prayed for the wrong thing.  What I meant, God, was please let me bring him home alive.  Let me take it back.  Let me ask again for what I really want. 

I am so sorry, my love.  I prayed for this.

Your wife,

P

Things I Never Knew About You

Dear Larry:

You had coined a phrase that we lived by.  “Emotionally Naked”.  This was your way of promising that between us we revealed all.   We held nothing back.  The good, the bad and the ugly, but if it were out there honestly, our commitment to each other would get us through anything.  And it did.  But after you died, I found out things about you that I never knew.  Was I surprised?  Not really.  What I found out was your nature, your instinct.  Was I surprised that you did not tell me?  Not really.  When you wanted to shift someone’s world, you did so very quietly and certainly with no personal fanfare.  That was you. 

You were a born leader but honed your skills both in the Army and in business.  You were blunt and no nonsense.  I often talked with you about how direct your message was and that by adding a little softness, you might avoid hurting a few feelings along the way.  You firmly declined.  You said that you wanted to be certain that there was no chance of misunderstanding so your message was often cold and hard, but never mean or vengeful. 

One of your innate gifts was that you were a consummate accessor of human beings.  When you encountered someone, you made an instant judgement of their character and integrity.  Seldom did you change your mind and there were many occasions where I challenged you to give the person some time before you adopted an evaluation of their soul.  You hung on to your instant judgement and, I must admit, you were seldom wrong.  I, however, by giving people opportunities before I listened to my guts, often made mistakes in my level of trust and many times got kicked in the teeth.   

After you died, they started coming to me with stories that I never knew.  You changed their lives!  You changed the entire direction they had chosen.  You gave them vision based on the talents that you saw in them that they did not recognize.  They trusted you.  They leaned on you.  They allowed you to lead. They became much more than they ever thought they could be because of your tutorship and encouragement.

There was the one very intelligent and talented young man who came to you and proudly announced that he was graduating #3 in his class.  He had been awarded a full scholarship to the local Vo Tech.  He was so happy that he could go to school and pursue his trade in mechanics.  After hearing his gleeful story about his plans for the Fall Semester, you looked at him and said, “You are not going to Vo Tech.”  The wind was out of his sail as he had just accomplished his dream and you were not impressed.  “You are going to the University,” you told him.  “Pop, no one in my family has ever gone to college and I don’t know anything about it.”  You leaned back in your chair and you said, “I do.”  Today this young man has a master’s degree and is working quite successfully in the medical field.  If not for you, he would have gone a much different path.

Then there was the young man that we fondly referred to as a “foster son” because he was always at our house.  After high school graduation, you invited him to lunch.  You picked a restaurant in the same strip mall as all of the military recruitment offices just in case.  You ate and visited and after lunch was over, you told him that it was grow up time and you saw three options: Junior College, the University or Military Service.   He thought he was just there with you for lunch, but it became apparent to him that you expected him to decide his future in that moment.  He told you that he was not prepared for any of those, could not make it through college and was not strong enough to be in the service.  By the end of that day, he had chosen a career, was enrolled in classes the next semester and was well on his way.  I am proud to say that he completed all three of the options you laid out for him, completed the University with honors and was a fearless medic in the Army.  You pushed him to dig into his soul for places he did not have the courage to go to alone.  More importantly you taught this young man how to be a husband and a father. 

I remember our beautiful young friend who always commented that she wanted a marriage like ours.  She had a history of picking the wrong men and a series of other disasters.  I remember the night she came to our house and with tears in her eyes begged you to tell her what she was doing wrong.  She was courageous to ask and knew you well enough to know that you would be brutally honest and not soften the information.  You even asked her to confirm that she really wanted to know as it would not be easy to hear. She agreed and you told her.  Weeks later as a demonstration of what you were trying to get her to understand, you dressed in your tuxedo and washed your Corvette and put the top down.  You went to her office and when she walked out of work you presented her with a dozen red roses, bowed and told her “This is how a gentleman treats his lady.”  Today this lady is married with a lovely young son and will tell everyone that you were the one who showed her what her own marriage needed to be like and how she should insist on being treated.

There were so many more stories and the week of your funeral, they came to me one by one to share how you had empowered each one of them and how their lives were changed because you bothered to push them.  I knew some of the stories.  Others, I had no idea.  With each tearful story, I became more proud of the man I was honored to call my husband.  You did it naturally.  You did it unselfishly.  You did it quietly. You did it because you wanted more for these young people than they had a vision for themselves.  And again, you were right.

It was my honor, for 35 years, to be your wife.  You pushed me also to accomplish more than I thought that I could, and I miss you terribly.

Your wife:

P

Today Makes It Real

Dear Larry:

Tonight, at moments to midnight one year ago, you died.  This moment changed our lives forever.  For you, it was the moment that your body was freed.  No more tubes and machines.  No more dialysis and needles.  No more promises not kept by strangers in scrubs.  No more false dreams about transplants and being home by June.  You were released from your body on this earth.  You were prepared for this part. You told me that you were at peace with God.

At that moment, I became a widow.  I never wanted to be a widow and really never thought about it.  Through it all, I clung to the fiber of hope that you could beat this, and we would be home by June.  I wasn’t stupid or uninformed. In fact, I made myself learn more about organ transplant and transplant facilities than I really ever wanted to know.  I became your aggressive advocate because I learned very quickly that the computer pushing white coats did not care about you like I cared about you.  I watched them like a hawk and called them on their shortfalls.  I chose to have these conversations with the arrogant medical staff as near to the nurse’s station as I could and one decibel below shouting.  When you were transferred out of Hotel Hell, they were sad too see you go and expressed concern.  Me, however, I am convinced they were happy to see me go.  Well, maybe not the nurses They quietly celebrated my calling down the doctors and in their doctor arrogance having to admit that they had missed the obvious.

At the moment you died, WE became our past tense.  We were what HAD happened, and our adventures were over.  Our plans were no longer a promise and our dreams became my nightmares.  Our future ceased to be and all I had was looking back to recapture the essence of a memory or glimpse of an experience.  We were over and you were off to claim your eternal reward which you certainly earned.  I know that your parents and grandparents greeted you in Heaven to congratulate you on a job well done on earth.   You did well.

There was certainly no way at that moment to predict what my life might look like on this day, one year later.  No, time does not heal.  No, it does not get better with time.  No, I am not over it.  No, I am not strong enough to do this alone.  No, I cannot grieve in private.  It is not my responsibility that “people get tired of hearing your story”.’ (Let’s be honest, it is not all people).  That I could not ferret out an ounce of compassion from “you are wallowing in grief, sorrow and self-pity” should not be surprising.  They lined up to be experts on how they expected me to grieve and how they expected it to look to make themselves more comfortable.   At that point, after losing my world, YOU, I could not concentrate enough to spell my name.  I could never have imagined that I would have to create such huge barriers around myself, but it became a matter of self -preservation.  I am not competent enough to fight all of these wars.  I should not have to.  Realizing that you are gone is enough to take my breath away and I have to plant my feet firmly on the ground just to steady myself.  All of other stuff, in a way, by participating I am volunteering for more heart ache.  For now, I am not a volunteer.  I am doing the best that I can do just living without you.

On tonight one year ago our lives changed forever.  You are in Heaven watching over the ones who love you.  Mine has changed in indescribable ways.  Some quite unnecessary and still beyond my ability to understand.  The ones who abandoned me refuse to tell me why and hold this information out like emotional blackmail.  Our family is destroyed, and I am not privy to why.  I quit.  Just how many times do you get kicked in the heart and go back for more?

The burning question remains for me.  You are gone.  Now what do I do?  I believe that my joy is hardwired to you.  I wonder if there is a point in my life if I experience joy, will I feel guilty as if I were betraying you?  You want me to feel joy again.  I know because you told me, but the wounds are still too open to even explore that place. 

 At a few minutes before midnight one year ago tonight I saw you take your last breath.  I whispered in your ear “I love you” one last time and kissed you goodbye.   One part has not changed in that year.  I still love you.

Your wife,

P

My Protector

Dear Larry:

Yesterday after I wrote our story about Paris, I began to think about the dance we did together over all of our so few years.  I guess all couples carve out their roles.  In some ways, you were the brain and I was the heart.  You were steadfast and methodical.  You were predictable and dependable.  You were the calm in our crisis and above all of these, you were my protector.  I always knew that you had my back.  In business, at home, or out in public, you took pride in a united front.  No one wedged between you and me.  You stood between me and them always aware of where I was and protecting me from physical and emotional assault. 

My son, years ago, had become a chronic liar.  We knew that we needed to handle it and do it quickly.  Your conversation with him began with, “You are not going to treat my wife, your mother in this way”.  Even when you were handling issues with the boys, you honored me.

So now you are gone, and I feel like I am floating out here alone.  I will admit it, you spoiled me.  You took care of being sure that I was okay.   When we took a trip, all you did was tell me when we were leaving and when we were returning.  I did nothing to prepare for any of the adventures you took me to experience.  You planned them all and we had breathtaking adventures all over the world.  Now that you are gone, I am ashamed to admit that even booking an airline flight is a huge stress.  I had not had to do it in so long that it had become unfamiliar.  I lost my travel buddy, my adventure companion, my playmate, my life love.

Weeks have gone by and you have not come to me in my dreams.  I know you have not left me because I sense your presence.  You are guiding me through my current business project, and I am confident that the decisions I am making for our company are solid.  You would be excited about the corner we are about to turn, and I feel you leading me with every choice I make.  But you have not been in my dreams and I miss you.

I comfort myself by saying that you are busy getting oriented to Heaven.  You have not left me you just have other commitments right now.  And every night after I kiss you goodnight, I climb into our bed alone and the last thing I do is pray to you.  I remind you that I love you and miss you.  Last night I prayed for you to please visit me in my dreams.  And you did.

You must have known that I feel exposed and vulnerable.  I miss my protector.  In my dream I was cold.  You arrived with a thick blanket in your arms.  You came to me, covered me, tucked in the blanket, gently touched me and then you were gone.  Even now, you are my protector.

I hope that you know how hard I tried to be your protector during your illness.  I scratched and screamed with the doctors and negotiated with God on your behalf.  Sadly, I was not nearly the protector for you that you always were for me.  But, know that I tried in all of the ways I knew how.  In the end, I failed, but know that I tried.  If I could change the end of our story, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Now I have to learn how to protect myself.  You taught me well and I need to learn to do it.  The problem is, I don’t want to.  I want my protector back.

Your wife

P

Let Me Show You Paris

Dear Larry:

One thing that I silently envied of you was that before we knew each other, you had travelled extensively.   You took advantage of the little bits of military leave that you had while stationed in Germany to see Europe.  When you spoke about it, I looked forward to the time in our lives that we could do this together.   But we had children to raise and a business to keep afloat and the obligations that young couples had.  It was not possible then for us.

More than any other place on the globe, I wanted to go to Paris.   The Seine River, The Eiffel Tower, The Champs- Elysees. The Cathedral Notre-Dame.   I wanted all of that and more, but most importantly, I wanted to do it with you.  It was bucket list item, but we both knew it was a long time away.

When my grandfather died, we found his military records and you were astounded at his history.  Being a French speaker, he found himself as an aide to General John “Blackjack” Pershing, the general of the European Army. My grandfather’s job was to be a runner and interpreter for the General in his communications with his French counterpart.  His life expectancy is the very dangerous job in World War I was 4 days.  He told me he survived by crawling o his belly and keeping his head down.  Although he was just a Private, his job was crucial to Pershing who grew to trust and depend on my grandfather and was very fond of this charismatic little Cajun man.  After my grandfather’s death, a hand-written letter was found written to my grandfather from General Pershing personally thanking him for his dedicated service.

 As a true Cajun man, my grandfather was a wonderful cook.  He told me that General Pershing would call him to his home to make coffee for him and that there was never a party or gathering where my grandfather’s coffee was missing from the festivities.

You, as a proud military man, were fascinated by this story.  When I showed you my grandfather’s military records, you saw that he had participated in 2 major battles in France; The Battle of Meuse-Argonne and the Battle of Chateau Thierry.  “We have to go”, you said.  “We will do a tour of the Battle Monuments beginning in France.  We will go to Normandy and to the battle sights where your grandfather fought.  And we will go to Paris”.  I so loved of my grandfather and you knew it.  Combining these two would be our perfect trip.  Paris!  Oh my gosh and Parish with you!

We landed in Germany and spent several wonderful days eating schnitzel and drinking German beer.  Bavaria was paradise on earth and I soon realized that Germany was your dream place and going to Paris was strictly for me.   Early one morning we began the very long drive from Germany to Paris.  You had booked a hotel next door to the Palace of Versailles and I knew we would arrive too late on that day to see the Palace, I could see it from our hotel window!  I was as excited as a preschooler on Christmas morning.

You loved to drive fast.  To be more accurate, you love to drive VERY fast and the German Autobahn was your Nirvana.    On many parts of the drive, there was no speed limit and you would push the pedal to the metal until I would beg you to slow down.  You planned to take full advantage as you had “A need for speed”.   The Autobahn was three lanes east and three lanes west divided by a huge cement wall.  The exits and entrances to the highway were very short—not at all like those in the USA—leaving you very little time to change you mind if you made a poor choice while entering into the traffic. 

You were driving.  You were driving very fast and as usual you were in the left lane next to the cement wall.  The Autobahn was very busy that day and in spite of how fast you were traveling, there were cars and even motorcycles passing us at even greater speeds.  You were giving me some historical facts about Germany and France and about the Battle Monuments we planned to see.  And then I saw it.

There was the car.  The driver had made the surely fatal mistake of attempting to enter the very short access to the Autobahn too quickly and had to make a sudden correction.  He had jerked his steering wheel to the right to avoid a vehicle in his blind spot.  When he did, his car hit the cement wall on his right and his car began to climb the wall.  The car flipped over and was now traveling on its roof perpendicular to and in front of three lanes of high-speed traffic.  He survived one lane and was in the middle lane when I saw him.

And time stood still.  We looked into the eyes of this Eastern European family of 4 vacationing in France now hanging upside down with seatbelts holding them.  They are sliding to their eminent deaths by either being hit at 120 MPH broadside by us or by smashing head on into the cement wall.  We saw their eyes.  We felt the pleading of the father.  We had no options.  The family in front of us, the cement wall to our left and an endless stream of cars to our right.  “We are going to kill them”, I said.  I looked at the driver to my right and he nodded for us to go in front of him as he slammed on his brakes.  I screamed, “Go right now!”.  How you managed to down shift, miss the car to our right and not touch the upside-down family still makes me wonder.  All of this took place in a split second, but we both experienced time stopping so that you could preserve the lives of this family.

We watched as the family got out of the car and only by the grace of God, escaped their deaths on the surface of the Autobahn.  You just smiled and attributed it your superior driving skills.  I was shaking.

The next morning, we went to the Palace of Versailles.  We were walking on the cobblestones on the path to the palace and, like every other tourist, taking pictures and breathing in the history.  You, of course, had been here before and you watched me living my fantasy with silent awe.  “You take pictures.  I will go get the tickets”, you said.  I watched you go toward the ticket booth and disappear.  I stood in front of this breathtaking landmark that I had see a thousand times in books and was overwhelmed that we were really there. 

By the time you returned with the tickets, I was crying.  Tears had already streaked down my blouse and I was shaking.  You seem startled when you hurried to my said and said, “Baby, are you ok?”   By that time, I was inconsolable.  Through my sobs I said, “Thank you for taking me to Paris and thank you for saving our lives.  You saved our lives and the lives of that family yesterday.  You act like it is no big deal, but it is a very big deal.  I am so grateful for you and I love you”.  

You just gave me a smile and soaked in the compliment.  You knew it was heroic and that had anyone else been behind the wheel, the story would have ended quite differently.  You gathered yourself and you said, “That’s just what I do”.   You extended your hand to me and I clutched yours if my next breath depended on it.  You kissed me and said, “Let me show you Paris”.

Your wife,

P

One Year

Dear Larry:

The day is quickly approaching marking the one-year anniversary of your death.  Your Heavenly birthday.  Your eternal reward.  People call it many things but what is most apparent to me is that this is the day you left me.  My first night without you.  The first days of the rest of my days without you.  Losing you changed every moment of the rest of my life.

I know that you did not want to go.  You looked forward to our next trip and you wanted to see our grandchildren grow up.  When you felt that your chances of surviving were slim, you begged me to take you home.  You said that you did not care if you only lived two days, but you wanted to go home to die.  You wanted to die surrounded by your grandchildren.   That did not happen, sadly.

So often I think about what you will miss.  Graduations.  Weddings.  Trips.  Growing old with me.  We will miss being at these life shifting events together.   During my pity parties, I suffer about doing these things alone and especially without you.  My elegant escort!  I was always so proud to be on your arm.

The emptiness and loneliness of the present and the future often clouds my vision.   I have to shake off the sadness and recapture the past.  When I think of the about your essence, I have to smile.  You were an extraordinary man in so many ways.  You were honest and loyal.  You had lifelong friendships that you never let lapse.  I remember one night that our telephone rang, and it was the wife of one of your dearest college friends.  He had become seriously ill and his wife found him unconscious in his lounge chair.  The paramedics were able to revive him long enough for him to tell his wife, “Call Larry”.  You were out the door in a matter of minutes to take the 6-hour trip to be at your friend’s bedside.  By the grace of God, he survived.  When he found out that you were ill, he reciprocated and was by your side. He speaks often of your loyalty to him and spoke of it at your memorial.  Now, we often sit and cry together because he misses you too.

You were stubborn.  You were steadfast.  You did not waver.  You were seldom wrong, but if someone were to prove you wrong, you had no problem owing it and apologizing.  You were reliable.  If you promised to be there by 4:00, you arrived at 3:55 because if you got there at 4:00, you were late.   You were a man of your word and your word meant everything to you.  Your integrity was your legacy and you would do nothing to tarnish it.  You were a man of honor.

I live in the sadness of living without you.  For one moment when I looked at your death from your eyes, I realized something.  I live in the sadness of the years we will not have together, but I saw that you gave every day of the rest of your life to me.  You loved me until your last breath on earth.  You honored me by allowing me to be your wife for 35 years.  You gave your life to me.  You dedicated your last days on earth to me. 

As the date approaches, it seems impossible that this much time has gone by.  The wound is fresh.  The ache does not go away. The room still echoes with the silence of your absence and my heart is still broken.  Know, my love, that you are dearly missed, but your friends, your family, the ones you mentored, but most of all by me.  Watch over us as we gather on that day as your loving family to do some of the things that you loved.  We will tell stories and laugh and cry.  Most of all, I want to feel your presence and know that you are with us on that day watching over each of us. 

We will offer toast to you, my love.  We all miss you.  I miss you.

I love you.

P

Marry Me

Dear Larry:

There was no candle lit gourmet dinner.  No crystal champagne flutes.  No sparkling diamond solitaire.  It was an ordinary day with one extraordinary moment.  You looked up from what you were doing and said, “Marry me”.  Three weeks later, I did. 

It took less than an hour to plan our wedding.  We were much more interested in the marriage than we were the wedding.  We invited 18 people.  Your father was your witness and my mother was mine.  It was simple and it was elegant.  It was perfect for us.

Our simple wedding was not without its moments of levity.  There was that guy, the parish wacko, who decided to wander into our purposefully intimate wedding ceremony decked out in his brightly colored Hawaiian shirt and dirty huarache sandals.   He proudly paraded up to the Communion rail, threw a rose onto the alter and commenced to stay there until our priest gently invited him to move.  We all looked at each other in horror.  Now it seems funny.  My brother pulled me to the side after the ceremony and asked, as is his style, if he wanted me to invite wacky dude to the reception.  Of course, we declined.

Then there was the tender moment when we exchanged our vows.  In the middle of that, your 4-year-old son broke free from your mother’s grip and ran up to the alter.  He pulled on your mourning coat and loudly requested, “Pop, tie my shoe”.  Simultaneously, we each firmly grasped an arm and through clinched teeth you demanded, “Go back and sit with your grandmother”.  Your elegant mother was mortified.  Our priest was laughing.  You and I just shrugged.  Par for the course. 

But choosing to marry me came with a huge sacrifice for you.  You moved 500 miles away from your sons and they were always your first priority.   They needed you as much as you needed them.  They needed to know that although you were physically in another place that you were not away from them.  And you set out to prove that by creating an all new normal for them.

For nearly 10 years, every other Friday you left our home and drove the 500 miles in order the be there to meet your sons after school.  You stayed with them all weekend and, always with tears in your eyes that they never saw, brought them to school on Monday morning and began the 500-mile trip home.  You never missed a weekend and often did this trip more frequently in order to be present for some commitment for one of the boys.  I sat in awe as I witnessed you make arrangements for your son’s flat tire to be repaired from 500 miles away.  They depended on you and that was the way you wanted it. 

One Friday, you were feeling poorly and had a high fever.  You were coughing and felt listless.  First thing in the morning, you went to your doctor.  He took X-rays and asked you which hospital you preferred as he intended to admit you.  You had pneumonia.  You turned you back and dropped your pants.  “Shoot me up with whatever you need to shoot me up with, but I am not going to the hospital.  I am going to see my sons.  Hurry up or I will be late”.  Needless to say, you arrived in time to get them after school.

You were committed to make this transition to the new normal as seamless as possible.  Your success with this and your dedication to these boys was evident when your older son delivered his eulogy to you.  In his comments, he said that he said that he always assumed that all fathers acted like this.  He was stunned in his adult years to realize that all fathers certainly did not go to these extents to be a father and understood the special commitment you made and fulfilled with them.  They never felt neglected or left behind.  You spoke with them several times each day and they knew they could depend on you to create whatever miracle they needed at that moment.

As you fought to live, you took advantage of the visits from your sons to talk privately with them.  They or you never shared with me the intimacy of these conversations.  That should stay sacred between you and them.  But, true to the selfless man you were, you made them each promise you one thing.  You made them promise to take care of me after you were gone.

I am here to tell you, my love, that they have kept their promise to you.  They have cared for me generously and tenderly. It does not for one moment feel like pity or obligation.   I know that they love me and would have done it anyway but being that they made the promise to you has upped the ante.  You would be so proud of them and their beautiful wives.  They have encircled me with love with no circumstances.  They learned that from you.

 Rest well, my love, knowing that as a father, it is a job well done.

At least one of us succeeded as a parent.

Your wife,

P

Let’s Take a Ride

Dear Larry:

It was the 70’s.  This was long before we met.  Nixon was president and international foreign policy was a mess.  Americans hated the war and could see no possibility of winning.  We fought fair.  They did not.  The national attitude was that we were wasting the lives of the young men we were sending over there.  The people we were fighting for were not particularly interested in capitalism and did not seem to be equipped to handle the concept of freedom.  The international turmoil left a bad taste in Americans’ mouths for the U.S. military.   You were a proud Army veteran, and this annoyed you.  Well, it more than annoyed you.  It made you furious. 

You told me about the day when you returned from Vietnam.  Your first experience was landing in Anchorage, Alaska.  All you had on were fatigues with no jacket.  For a Southern boy, this was far too little clothing and you were freezing.   You told me about thanking God for allowing you to come back to America and that you were blessed to live through the war experience.  In spite of your exposure to danger as an Infantry Officer, you were never wounded.  You were expressing gratitude of your safe journey as you departed the plane and put your feet on American soil for the first time in a very long time.  You were peaceful.

This was prior to the days of tight airport security and far before the terror of 9/11.  The passenger concourses were open to all with no screening for weapons or hand lotion.  As you left your gate, you could see crowds of people lining the concourse waiting for the soldiers to disembark.  You were proud to have served and these citizens lined up to welcome you and your fellow soldiers home.  Or so you thought.

You gathered your duffle bag in preparation of walking to your connecting flight and to be on your way home.  You were no longer in danger.  No longer had to watch for bullets or bombs or small children boobytrapped to kill.  You were safe.  You walked on to the concourse and to the awaiting citizens with a proud smile on your face and your back just a little bit straighter.  They were there safely because of the sacrifices made by you and your fellow soldiers.

And then it began.  “Baby killers”, “Monsters”, “Killer, killer, killer” and then they began to spit.  They spit on you and threw things toward you and your fellow returning soldiers.  You were humiliated and angry.  It was not your war and you did not ask for it, but it was your duty and you served.  How could it be that these people did not get it?   Blame the politicians, not the soldiers!  The soldiers were the heroes.  They kept American safe.  The politicians created this mess, and no one was spitting on them!

After we got married, when you spoke of your military experience, you focused on the lifelong friends you made and the places you visited.  You never addressed the political side of this very unpopular war.  You, and all of your soldier buddies, were well aware that this war was not a place where most Americans wanted us to be.  We did not win, and 58,000 young Americans lost their lives there.  For what?  Although you were proud of your service and considered it the best work you had done to that point in your life, the reaction from Americans to the entire subject of Vietnam infuriated you. 

I saw you pack that little black bag and take it out to the trunk of your car.  “Let’s take a ride,” you said.  I did not ask.  You had a look on your face that I had never seen before and I knew there was something on your mind of deep concern.  Riding is good.  We will talk.  You will tell me.  We will talk it through and at least you will get to voice your concern.  This is how we did it and it worked for us. 

We rode.  You were silent and I my heart was breaking for the pain that I saw on your face.  You told me everything.  We shared everything.  Not now, though.  Baby, what is it?  Tell me so I can hold you through this.  Allow me this one time to be the strong one.  Let me do this for you.

Then you stopped.  I have no idea where we were, but you found a field with a very high fence.  You got out of the car and opened the truck.  You pulled out that little bag and opened it up and I got a glimpse of what you had packed.  In the bag were all of your Army medals, ribbons and insignia.  You reached into the bag and without a word, one by one, hurled them over the fence.  You were angry and ready to be done with this chapter.  I remember begging you not to do this and realizing that I was wasting my breathe.  This was your purging and you had to do it.  I stood next to you with tears of empathy rolling down my cheeks both proud and ashamed at the same time.  Proud of you!  Ashamed of those who did not understand and how they treated our heroes. 

You threw them all one by one over the fence then you dropped the bag, leaned back onto the car and looked over at me.  “I had to, Baby”.  You wiped the tears from my face and embraced me.  We stood together like this on the side of the road and I felt the tension and anger leave your body.  You had purged the demons you intended to purge, and you were done. 

As the years went on, the pride and honor of our military was properly restored.  Americans now said, “Thank you for your service, sir” and “Airborne!”.  I would see small packages arrive on your desk as you assembled a new shadow box with your military insignia, medals and honors.  Pictures of you parachuting appeared on your wall.  Your plaques and honors were displayed with honor in your office.  Every day you wore a shirt with the logo of the 509th or Airborne insignia.  Once again, you were a proud soldier.

When you got sick, the theory was that you were suffering from Agent Orange exposure.  You had been exposed on may occasions and had told me stories of being blanketed with it while on missions.  In the end when you died, in part for your country, the VA sent me a check for $300.00 to transport you from Houston to come home for your funeral.  After all the fighting you did, they denied all of your claims of Agent Orange exposure and closed your case. 

Now I am the angry one. 

Your wife,

P

Dance With Me

Dear Larry:

I wrote this for you in September 1997.  It got published and you surprised me with a framed copy!  It was for you.  It was all for you.

Dance with Me

Wrap your arms around me.  Hold me so closely that I melt into your body.  Let me smell your skin and inhale your essence.  Give me this moment and allow me to offer my moment to you.  Embrace me with a soulful passion that only we can create.  Leave me breathless.  Feel the rhythm of the music.  Listen to the movements of my body.  Stop in time and decide what dance you want to do with me.

What would it be for me if I were to surrender myself to your lead in the slow and elegant predictability of the waltz?  You would hold me firmly in your arms and lead me with confidence.  If I were to surrender, would the cost be my dignity?  If I allow you to lead me, do I somewhere in the process lose a sense of myself?

Then what would it be if we were to reel with an upbeat jitterbug?  Would I fear more when you spin me out or when you bring me back in to you?  Am I weakened by knowing that at any time you might let me go?  Is there a danger that I might fall and not be falling into you?  What would it be if I fell and I were alone without you to pull me up?

Or do I simply prefer dancing in line?  Here I can dance alone without the concern of stepping on your toes.  I can be strong and independent while absent of the fear of being angered by your interactions in my life.  What am I saddened when I discover solitude?

What would it be if we challenged ourselves with the intricate syncopated steps of the tango?  If my steps mirrored yours, am I weakened? If I allow you to tilt my uncontrolled body close to the ground, how do I know that you will lift me up once more into your protective arms?  If I embrace the sensuality of this dance, will you know that this is a rare and frightening place for me?

So hold me gently and tenderly.  Make me certain that I am the one you choose.  Treat me like a cherished treasure.  Know that I am fragile.  Dance with me, my love.

Your wife,

P

Promise Me

Dear Larry:

Looking back now, I think you knew all along that you would not survive.  All of the doctors and tests and procedures were, in reality, just a waste of time.  You begged me on several occasions to just take you home.  You said that you did not care if you only lived for two days if you could be home and surrounded by our grandchildren.  There was no possibility of taking you home then.  You were far too fragile and hooked up to too many machines.  But, my love, I wanted to bring you home!   The other part was that I wanted you to get well.  We, it seems, could not have both.

You endured the endless tests.  You accepted the needed surgery.  You had tubes and wires.  The machines were noisy and beeped endlessly.  A full night of sleep was just a wish.  Some of the staff were wonderful.  A few were horrible and cruel, and I would not stand for anyone treating you badly.  Not on my watch!  You were an honorable veteran and a man of immense dignity.  This in itself was an undignified process.  I would not allow them to diminish you in any way. 

The tests went on.  The treatments went on.  They came and they went giving us updates on your situation.  Good news.  Bad news.  No news.  Let’s do this all again.  I know you were getting tired of the entire process as I could see it in your eyes.  Yet, you never complained, and we kept running toward our elusive goal of having you healed and home.  I was terrified and if you were too, you never told me.  I think that you had already resolved your fate and accepted it.  I could not.  I would not!

When there was a quiet moment, I always stood next to you.  You needed tender human touch and I just needed to touch you.  You grabbed my hand a looked at me with a look that I knew.  This was not going to be a lighthearted conversation and I believe it had been one you had in your head for weeks but dreaded having with me. 

You started out saying “Baby” and took a deep breathe.  You told me again how differently we saw the world.  Me in rainbow colors.  You in black and white.  That was true and it made us better together.  I saw hope and possibilities.  You saw reality.  I took the risks.  You played it safe and logically. 

You said that because I saw the world in colors that I also believed that you would kick this thing.  If there were a test or procedure offered that might bring you closer to going home healthy, then I was willing to take that risk.  You said that if there was a glimmer of hope offered that I would take the chance and hope that it helped to heal you.  You said that you had abided by my every wish and taken all of the chances that I had wanted.  You did it for me because you loved me and wanted me to not have any doubts or guilt that we missed any procure that may have saved you.  You did it all for me.  I had made all of the decisions for you up to this point and you appreciated it.  But then.

“Promise me,” you said.  “Promise me that I get to make the last decision.”  You said that if they told us that there was nothing more that they could do, then you got to make the last choice.    You wanted me to honor your choice and let you make it with no questions asked.  Your one and only choice was  when they told us they had reached the last of their option, that I would let you go.  “Promise me.  I have done all of this for you and you have to do this one thing for me.  Promise me, Baby.”  And I did.

Even as I made the promise, I did not think I would ever have to keep it.  I knew you would beat this.  You had to beat this.  We had to stay being US. 

On that Saturday morning, we were ecstatic!  That was the day you were being listed on the National transplant registry and were officially “on the list”.  All we had to so was wait for another family to be devastated by the tragic death of their loved one with your blood type and we were off to surgery.  One week to ten days.  Not much more and we were on the road to recovery and eventually going home!  We had worked so hard to get to this day.  You had endured so much, and we knew there was so much more coming.  But going home was our prize and I get to have you for many more years.  We get to have US.   Then they came into your room.

New problems had come up and, in light of these, your body would not survive the transplants and they were not willing to risk the surgery and have you die on the operating table.  They were kind and gentle but clearly uncomfortable.  The doctor delivering the news to me could not even look me in my eyes.  No, no, no…. this is not right.  We just got on the transplant list this morning!  We are waiting for an organ donor and we are going to surgery.  You have this all wrong!  Please, God tell me they have it wrong!

Our family arrived.  I told then what had happened that morning.  We all held each other and cried and then they told me.  One by one they told me how you had conversations with each one of them.  You made them each promise too.  You made them promise to take care of me in your absence and then you told them about your final request and the promise you had me make.  You told each one the “She will not be able to do this. Promise me that you will help her keep this promise.  Promise you will help her to let me go.” 

You were right   I would not have done it alone.  They promised and you would be proud to know that they kept that promise on that night.  Oh, my love, I did not want to keep this promise to you, but I understood. It was your life and finally you did get to choose. 

They moved you over in the bed so that I could be next to you.  It would be our last time together and I knew it.  I was with you in your last moments.  I wanted the last words that you heard on this earth to be, “I love you with all of my heart and soul and want you to know that it was the honor of my life to be your wife”. 

It was the hardest thing you ever asked me to do and it was torture.  But I had to honor your last wish and let you go.  In the end, you got to make the final choice, my love.

I miss you.

Your wife,

P

Godliness

When God came down from Heaven

And decided to make earth

He wanted to make all His creatures

With a Godly worth.

When He created rolling waves

And made the depths of the sea

He added wondrous creatures

For the possibilities.

And when the vastness of the skies

Was done as just a space

He put the eagles wings stretched out

To fill the empty place.

Finally, as days went on, He got around to me.

He added all the things He wanted godliness to be.

But when He looked and saw what was

This empty shell of mine

He knew that one thing lacked in me to help me be divine.

He brought forth one more miracle

And finally, He knew

That the Godliness that is in me

Was brought to life by you.

Larry, you are my love and soul mate.

I love you.

Your wife,

‘Cilla

I wrote this for you in the year 2000.  Now you are with God.  Be happy, my love.

Come Closer

Dear Larry:

You used to say that I see the world in living color, and you see the world in black and white.  That description fits us perfectly!  For you, it was yes or no, on or off, in or out, honest or a lie, done or not done, good or bad.  There were no prizes for getting close to the goal in your world.  It either was or it was not.  Honestly, that made it easy to live with you….well most of the time.  It was obvious what your choices would be.  You made your choice quickly and there was no fuzzy line.  No need to negotiate because once it was said the subject was closed.  Black and white.

For me, however, things got more complicated because of all of the “colors”.  I must have driven you wacky with all of the options I could throw out for one simple situation.  After all, in addition to thinking with your head, you can also think with your heart and emotions and instincts and history and possible outcomes and oh so much more!  Can’t you see that?   You never did.  Your brain was not wired that way.  It is a miracle that we lasted 35 years!  Maybe that was the part that kept it interesting.

I remember the day that I walked into your ICU room before visiting hours.  I snuck in when the receptionist went to the bathroom so she could not give me her harsh look and ask me to wait in the lobby.  When I opened the door, I saw tears streaming down your face.  I hated to leave you at night.  Each morning when I arrived, you told some harrowing tale of what happened during the night.  Most of these things would never happen under the prying eyes of family members during the day.  When I was not there, I could do nothing to protect you and watch over you to ensure that you were being treated as the dignified man you were.  When I saw your very unusual tears, I felt panicked.  What had they done to you?  What had happened during the dreadful night hours?

“Come closer.  I need to talk to you” you said.  My stomach flipped over, and random thoughts raced through my mind of all of the possible horrors this hospital may have made you endure last night in my absence.  I was not here to watch them and fight for you!  They made me leave and I let you down knowing that this was not the first or the last time.

You told me one morning how the young arrogant nurse bent over you and whispered in your ear: “You will show me respect and say please and thank you”.  That ended that same day when we reported her to the patient’s advocate.  That night, she apologized to you and was taken off of your case.  The hospital director called me groveling and probably praying that I would not call our attorney.  This type of nonsense happened over and over, but never when I was around to intervene.  This is why I was standing at the ICU door at 8:59 am every morning so that when the clock struck 9:00 I was by your bedside getting a report from the previous night.

On that morning I had to get very close to keep our conversation very private along with attempting to hear over the beeping machinery noise.   You were extraordinarily upset, and I felt the panic swelling inside of me.  Had the doctors told you something terrible?  Had you been mistreated again?  Was your pain intolerable?  Will this be in my power to fix or will I be faced with letting you down again?  God, please do not let me disappoint him again!

With tears of agony rolling down your face, you reached up and put your hand on the back of my neck and pulled me in close.  I put my cheek on yours and said, “Baby, what is wrong?”

“I don’t think that God is going to let me into Heaven” you said as you wept.

“Oh, Larry.  You are the best man I have ever known.  Of course, He will welcome you into Heaven.  What makes you think He will not?”

Your tears were now mixed with mine as we clung to each other and tried to manage this conversation about eternity that neither of us wanted to even admit could happen.  You whispered, “I don’t know how many people I killed in Vietnam.  There is no way for me to know how many deaths I was responsible for.  I had to call in air cover and artillery to protect my men but will never know how many other people died because of the decisions I made.  I might have been responsible for killing children and I will never know.”   

How could I respond to this?  You were right and you had too many hours of time to think about this over and over.  There was nothing for me to say and I could not fix this.  “Want me to call the Chaplin?”  You answered, “Would you, please?”

The Champlin came and we prayed for forgiveness and prayed for eternal salvation.  I continued to reassure you that you were a man of honor and integrity.  What more could God ask of you?  When I was forced to leave that evening, you clung to me and thanked me acknowledging that you knew this was incredibly painful for me.  It was, but not nearly as painful as is was for you.  As usual, your priority was me and not yourself.  That is what made you a good man. 

The next morning at 9:00 I walked into your hospital room.  I looked at your face and I saw it immediately.  You said, “Baby, come closer.”  I walked over and grabbed your hands and I bent over to kiss you good morning. You said, “I am at peace with God” and I SAW it.  I saw the glow around your head and a look of contentment that could only be peace on your face.  Whatever happened between you and God   in those overnight hours when I was gone prepared you for what was next for you.  Your struggle with God was over and your face radiated peace.

God did not prepare me.

I love you and know that God welcomed your immortal soul with Him in Heaven.  If He welcomes me please be there to meet me.

Your wife,

 P N��

Our New Home

Dear  Larry:

I depended on you.  Now that you are gone, the reality has set in just how much I relied on you.  Both business and personal ideas and thoughts were bounced off of you.  Often my guts told me one thing, but you thought just the opposite.  We would hash these out for hours on end listing the pros and the cons and at some point, come to a consensus or at least an agreement.  It never felt like a win or a loss.  It was just the way we did it.  It worked for us.

With both of us as Type A personalities, people on the outside found it hard to believe that we could actually get along.  Particularity in business, they expected us to knock heads, argue and never surrender.  We never played it that way.  There was a way that we did it that worked for us that I just cannot explain in words.  Maybe some of it was “pick your battles” or more likely “Is the this hill you choose to die on?”  I like to believe that our commitment to each other superseded all of the rest of the stuff and we found a way to work in harmony.  Whatever it was, it became the way we operated together and it worked for us. 

There were times when I thought that I depended on you much more than you ever depended on me and that it was completely lopsided.  Fix my tire, please.  Could you reach that on the top shelf, please.  Why did my blow dryer make this plug fritz out?  It says some minor assembly required, but they lied!  I depended on you to DO.  You depended on me to BE.  I think that the emotional strength in the fiber of who we were came from me.  You were loving and committed but depended on me to keep us emotionally afloat.  The depth of sentiment came from me and you were happy to ride the magic carpet with me holding on tight and savoring the ride.  We both knew that if the ride got too wild, it would be you, the pragmatist, who would pick us up, brush us off and carefully sit us back on the carpet for the next crazy ride that I designed.  You never refused to ride and took the spills with no complaints.  That was part of the deal you made with yourself to be with me.  Sometimes you took the ride and did not understand why, but you were always behind me holding on and giving us stability.

We knew that we needed to buy a house.  We had out grown the little town home and the boys were certainly not going to get any smaller.  You detested this process and would not even look at the real estate section of the paper.  I was excited about the possibilities of a new house and began to look.  Every Saturday and every Sunday I searched the town and surrounding areas for houses.  I am sure that I visited over 200 houses over months of searching.  None were appealing to me and I would return home frustrated and wondering if we would ever find an appropriate home. 

The house was in the middle of no place.  It was a new subdivision with only 6 homes.  Visually it was out of context because each home was surrounded by mature huge oak and pecan trees.  New homes.  Old trees.  Beautiful!  When I stepped into the foyer, I knew.  This was the one for us and  I had not even seen the house yet.  I felt AT HOME.   Our home. As I walked thorough the house, I did so quickly.  All I could think about was rushing out to call you to let you know that I had found it! 

I did call and told you that I was coming to pick you up because that I wanted you to see this house.  You rode in the passenger seat next to me and I told you about the house.  The area was beautiful and the trees!  You will not believe the trees!  Pecans as far as the eye can see!  Huge Pin Oaks!  No neighbors.  I think it is perfect.

We arrived at the house and you toured it.  In the master bedroom away from prying ears, I asked if you liked the house.  Your response was, “If you like it, it is perfect”.  And we made an offer that day.

We set a date for closing.  We made arrangements for our furniture and belongings to be packed into our company truck.  The plan was for us to go to the closing and return to our office.  The truck would be ready to accompany us to our new home along with the muscle to unload and get us set up for at least our first night in our new home.  All went as planned and we were the owners of this beautiful, new, perfect home…. our first home!

We closed.  We got the keys.  We left the attorney’s office hand in hand so proud of the fact that we had worked hard to successfully acquire a home for our family.  OUR family.  You and me and our sons.  We both knew that it had not been easy, and the odds were completely against us.  We put up our last and only $200.00 to start this business and here we were.  New home owners.  At least the mortgage company believed in us! 

We drove to our office and as we approached, we saw the truck parked outside.  It was filled with our furniture and fixtures and pictures and memories of our life together.  It took us a few moments to go inside and ground ourselves in the reality that we had a brand-new life in a brand-new home in a brand- new marriage with brand-new adventures ahead of us.  It was exhilarating and we were ready!

You told the guys to follow us!  They got in the truck and lined up behind us.  You got behind the wheel and I climbed into the passenger’s seat.   You looked over at me and smiled.  You clutched the steering wheel, but did not move.  You looked over at me again. 

Me: “You OK?”

You: “Yes.  I am so excited to have a new home with you.”

Me: “Me too.  Are you ready to go?”

You: “Yes.”

And you did not move.  You sighed and looked at me again.

Me: “Well then, let’s go.”

You: “I would but I have no idea where this house is.”

Me: “You mean to tell me that you just bought a house that you cannot find?”

You: “Yep.  In my defense, you always drove there, and I never paid attention.  So, yes.  We own a home and I have not got a clue where it is!”

Then we started to laugh!  It was then that I realized that you did depend on me!  I think we just divided the duties and somehow, for us, it worked. 

So, on that horrible Sunday morning when I took you to the emergency room, you left this house for the last time.  I looked in your eyes and I think that you knew that you would never return.  I clutched our door frame and melted into a pile praying to Almighty God to allow you to come back to our home that we created together and to give us a little more time together.  God had a different plan.

On the Monday after your memorial service, I did bring you home.  I chose the elegant silver and black one for you because it was dignified and just your style.  It gives me comfort to have you here because I can kiss you good morning and hug you goodnight and, when things get hard, pick you up, cry and just hold you.  You are home, my love.  You are home with me in the house that we made a home.

I miss you.

Your wife.

P

Your Final Gift To Me

Dear Larry:

I think that you would admit that you spoiled me!   You showered me with unexpected gifts at unexpected times for no reason at all.  You detested obligatory times when gifts were expected and abandoned these traditions many years ago.  That was fine with me too.  Looking back now, I did not spoil you with gifts nearly as much.  After all, it was impossible to buy you gifts.  If you saw it and wanted it, you bought it for yourself.  I remember the boys coming to you and begging you to stop buying “stuff” after September so that would be some item of interest remaining to purchase for you for Christmas.  Every year they asked what you wanted for Christmas and every year you said the same thing; black sweatpants.  That became our annual family joke when every year you opened your Christmas gift of new black sweatpants.  You did not care about the Christmas gift.  Your gift was the chaos created when our entire family gathered under our roof for a loud and messy celebration.  You watched our grandchildren open their gifts and come running to hug their Boo Boo as they delighted in the annual over indulgence we created.  You savored as we all gathered, held hands, prayed Grace before dinner and sat together for our feast.  Your job was to carve the turkey, open the wine and create memories.  This past Christmas looked very different because this was our first one without you.

Years ago, we were in a specialty shop.  They were featuring music boxes and I stood at the shelves winding the boxes and listening to the chimes.  The boxes were china, crystal or wood, each beautifully painted.  The music was hypnotic and peaceful.  You finally pried me away from the boxes and I mentioned how soothing the music was and how beautiful these boxes they were to look at.   I told you the story of the music box I had as a little girl.  It was a pink jewelry box with a little ceramic ballerina who would spin and dance for as long as the music played.   She danced to Stardust.  I remember as an adult hearing Nat King Cole on the radio singing Stardust and I started to cry.  It was a mystery to me why that song triggered that overwhelming emotion for me.  Years went by before I connected Stardust to my music box.  My memory now is myself as a child going to my room when I was sad and playing Stardust over and over while crying.  Even today, Stardust makes me cry.

Then the packages began to arrive on my desk.  Each package had a music box, some in sets and some individual.  Each played a different song.   They arrived weekly and I bought a new corner cabinet for our dining room so that I could display this new collection.  You filled that cabinet and I began to fill our bookshelf.  You sent me over 60 music boxes and topped it off, just for humor, with a wooden box that plays the LSU Fight Song. 

I had to be careful when I commented on what I liked.  If I would have said to you, “Baby, I really love the moon” you would have shoved the sun aside and pushed the stars out of the way to ensure that the moon would be sitting on my desk the next morning.   You went to extraordinary measures for me and I was certainly to envy of many of my female friends.  Their husbands never went to that kind of trouble for them.  I knew that I had been blessed with you.

The magazine arrived in our mailbox addressed to you.  While waiting at a stop light, I opened the pages and there it was!  Over the years, you had bought at least a dozen different wedding bands for us, but I had never had the traditional set.  This set took my breathe away.  When I gave you your mail, I left the magazine opened to this page.  I put it on your desk and tapped on the picture.  I said that it was so unique and thought it was stunning.  So was the price tag! 

Christmas Day arrived.  We agreed again that we would not exchange gifts.  You told a little fib!  I saw you digging underneath your chair to bring out the blue box.  You did not say a word, but just handed me the unwrapped hinged box.  I looked at you and rolled my eyes.  You just smiled and waited for me to open it.  I opened the box just a crack and peeked in and immediately snapped the box shut.  “You didn’t!”  You responded, “I did”.  You took the ring I was wearing from my finger and slipped this new wedding set on.  It fit perfectly.   And there it was.  The set that I had seen in the magazine that took I thought was stunning.  Again, it was the gift that you gave me just because I said I liked it.  The beautiful canary yellow diamond wedding set was your gift to me and all I could do was hug you and weep with gratitude for the husband that you were to me.

Then you got ill, we knew our future days would be a challenge.  We took advantage of the moments we had fearing that they were numbered.  I fought back tears every evening as I left the hospital ticking days off and realizing that I was one day closer to losing you.  God please, let me come back tomorrow and have one more day with him!  And one more after that, And one more after that.

They told me it was all but over.  They could do no more.  All I could do now was to tend to your immortal soul and prepare for God to welcome you.   I called for a Chaplin so that we could have Prayers for the Sick.  This was one gift I could give to you to ensure that you were ready in case God decided He wanted you tonight after they made me leave your room.  It was you, me and the Chaplin.  You closed your eyes as we prayed.  He anointed you and talked to God about you.  I looked at your face and saw peacefulness and calm.   You had resigned yourself to your fate. I had not.  God, no. Please do not take him!

When the Chaplin completed his prayers, you opened your eyes and thanked him.  You held your hand out for me to take and you said to the Chaplin, “This is my wife Priscilla.  She is the best wife it he world”.  You smiled at me, squeezed my hand and closed your eyes.  Those were the last words you ever spoke on this earth.  This was your final gift to me.

Thank you, my love, for this last gift you gave to me.  It was the gift that acknowledged our lives together.    Know that it was the honor of my life to be your wife.

I miss you.

Your wife,

P

Unwanted Milestones

Dear Larry, my love:

You spoke to me last night.  It was in that twilight of sleep state when I heard your voice.  You startled me awake, but I cannot remember what you said.  I want to believe that you said to me the last thing that I always say to you before I go to sleep.  “I love you and I miss you.”  I do not know that you really said that, but that is the story I made up and it comforts me.  I did hear your voice.  That part I did not make up.

We have had several unwanted milestones that we have reached this week:

It is the one-year anniversary of our last date.

It is the one-year anniversary of our last day together in our house.

It is the one-year anniversary of your admission into the hospital.

It is the 10-month milestone of your death.

All of those have happened so fast and I can barely breathe because you are gone.  The memories are so sweet while tearing my heart out.  I smile and cry at the same time.  I miss you.

You were insistent that we have Friday night dates after the kids grew up and left the house.  We decided years ago to close on 3PM on Fridays and made a new habit of having dinner early and maybe attending a movie.  It was our reward for a week of hard work completed and to get US time.  Despite living in food mecca, we had the same conversation each Friday as we left our office parking lot.  “Where do you want to have dinner”.  “I don’t know.  You choose.”  “What are you in the mood for?”  “Whatever you want to eat”.  And finally, we decided.  It really did not matter.  It was never about the food.  It was about the time we had together, the conversations we had, the problems we discussed and a nice glass of wine.  Toast.  To US.

On our last date together, you picked the restaurant.  This new restaurant featured char broiled oysters loaded with butter and garlic.  For our entire married life, you gagged when I ate oysters and had fondly referred to them as “snot balls”.  I invited you over and over to try them, but you had some memory of some oyster trauma from your childhood and could not get around that incident.  The night this restaurant opened, we were there.  You asked if I wanted to order oysters and I said yes.  To my shock, you said that because they were not raw that you would try one.

The waiter brought the steaming tray of char broiled oysters posed on the half shell swimming in butter sauce.  He placed it on the table, and I sat quietly with my hands folded in my lap.  I watched the expression on your face because this was the moment you would do what you committed to do.  It would have been fine with me if you backed out, but that was not who you were.  You said you would eat one and “By God” you were going to eat one.  You were anticipating, but I think you wondered just what I appreciated about these little snot balls.  Want a cracker?  Some hot sauce?  “No.  Going to do it straight up.  Here goes nothing.”  And then you were hooked.  You ate the majority of the dozen we ordered on that first night.  We frequented this restaurant often and I teased you about after all of these years hating oysters that you now needed an oyster 12 step program.  You laughed and confessed that as early as Monday morning you were already salivating and waiting for Friday night so you could eat oysters. 

So, for the evening of our last date, you got to pick.  We had the dinner that you loved, enjoyed the oysters and the conversation and most of all, we enjoyed being US.  Neither of us realized that it would be our last lovely dinner out together.  We could not have predicted what the next few days had in store for us.

I am so glad that you got to pick the movie that night.  Clearly our choices differed.  Give me a good love story with a mushy plot where I got to cry a little and I was a happy girl.  You, on the other hand, endured these movies for me.  There were a few that you admitted enjoying.  Your taste however was very different.

You loved sci-fi.  You could watch it for hours.  Every Star Wars movie that came out required us to attend the first showing even if it meant leaving work early to be there.  I hated sci-fi mostly because I did not understand the point.  We would leave the movie and you extolled the special effects along with the clever plot twists, the excellent actors and outstanding graphics.  And I would say, “huhhh?”  I don’t get it.  I have no idea what the entire movie was about.  Where did that alien manifest from?  What was the purpose of that green globby thing?  How can they justify coming back to life?  What do you mean it was all a dream?  What the heck is a prequel anyway?  You would just laugh at me, tell me I was too pragmatic, and you could not analyze sci-fi that way and thanked me for enduring this for you.  I did not care what we saw and what I understood.  I was with you and that was all that mattered.

So that night we saw the latest Star Wars movie.  To be honest, I have no idea what it was about, and I remember very little about the movie.  What I do remember, though, is that you began to feel very ill and I wanted to leave and take you to the emergency room.  You refused and said that you wanted to wait.  Two of our grandkids were coming the next day and night and you wanted to have time with them.  So, we stayed in the movie and as we left, I could see the weakness and pain in your face.  I walked you to the lobby and had you sit so I could get the car as close to the door as possible.  That was our last movie together.  This was your last movie forever.  I am so grateful that the last movie you saw was Star Wars.  If you had written the plot of your life, this would have been how you would have ended it.  You, me and Star Wars.

The next day would be the last day we would ever spend together in our home.  We bought this house several months after we got married and the foundation of this home is built on our memories and love for our family.  This day was filled with our two grandkids, baking a cake, preparing dinner.  Nothing special.  Everything special.  Just US and them and our life together swirling to completion before our eyes but without our knowledge.   I wanted to take you to the emergency room that night, but you begged me for one more night and you would go in the morning. I should not have let you win this one, but I also wanted one more night.  One last night.

When you climbed into bed, you said that you were freezing.  I piled extra blankets on you, but nothing helped.  You asked me to just get into bed next to you.  I wrapped myself around you to give you as much body heat as I could.  I felt you stop shaking and you whispered in my ear, “Thank you.  You are the only way that I could get warm” and this is how we stayed the entire night.  Neither of us slept because we heard the footsteps getting closer and closer and we both knew that we were running out of places to hide. 

This is how we spent our last day and night together.  We were surrounded by our grandchildren and comforted by US.  We were content. We were terrified.

The next morning, I knew we could wait no longer and when I asked to take you to the hospital, this time you said yes.  We called to have the children picked up and I explained to them that you needed to get medical attention.  They got very quiet and looked scared.  We got someone to help bring you to the car.  You were brought into the garage and I stayed behind to lock the house.  You turned to look at me as I was standing in the doorway.  I will never forget the look in your eyes and in your silence I read your thoughts.  Your eyes said it all to me.  You knew you would never walk back into our house.  I knew what you were thinking and my heart broke.  I closed the door so you would not see me collapse as I placed my hands on the door frame and pleaded with Almighty God to heal you and let me bring you back home.  I did not pray for the right thing.  I neglected to ask to bring you home alive.  I did bring you home, but not the way I wanted to.  I still see your face that day in my dreams and I relive the sense that I got from you as you got into the car.  You were peaceful.  You knew what the future held, and you were in acceptance.  It was far from the same for me.  Through your calm radiated my panic and my commitment to stop the earthquake that threatened our future and sabotage our plans to grow old together.  We have a Bucket List.  We have places to travel to where we have never visited.  There are places on our map where we need to place pins.  No, dear God, don’t take him!  Please let me bring him home.

That day your medical nightmare began.  What you endured was unspeakable.  I tried to be strong for you and not let you see the terror that I felt.  Do these people know what they are doing?  They wheel these computers around and spend an inordinate amount of time typing God only knows what into your file, but no one seems to know anything about your case.  How is it that the morning doctor tells us you can go home tomorrow and the evening one says you will be dead in two weeks.  How has no one noticed that you have been unable to keep down any nutrition or water in 8 days?  This is supposed to be a world class facility.  Why are the floors so sticky?  Why are we here and why can we not escape this nightmare?  This is not US.  This is not our plan.

Today is another milestone we never wanted.  You are gone 10 months today and my heart is as broken as it was on March 24th.  No, it does not get better with time.  No, you do not get accustomed to it.  No, it does not become a new normal.  It is all nonsense to make them feel better by saying it.  The fact remains that you are gone, and I am yet to unmake your side of our bed.  It must stay nice and fresh in case you decide to come back.  It will be just like you expect it to be and I will be next to you.  Because this is US.

I miss you.

Your wife,

P

A Soldier to the End

Dear Larry:

You were stunned when I told you that when I was 18 and planned to go to college that I had no idea what I was going to study.  You looked at me as if I were speaking Chinese to you.  You told me that you always assumed people knew what they were intended to do at a very early age and planned their lives around those decisions.  I laughed and informed you that you were oh so wrong.  Most people do not have a clue what they want to do and, after all, wasn’t that what college was for?  Explore possibilities?  Try different areas of study?   Play?  Do things that would make your parents cringe if the knew?  Your response was a serious and firm, “NO”.

The young 8-year-old Larry defined his purpose and planned his life from that point.  You wanted to be a career military officer.  In high school, you fearlessly put yourself in leadership roles where your experience in managing and empowering people began.  The standards you put on yourself were always higher than the ones you expected of others, but your dedication always raised the bar. 

In college you found that you had quite a gift and stood out on a national level for performance on precision military drill teams.  All of your life, you sported on your hands the scars from the bayonets that cut you when you did not catch the rifle correctly.  That just showed that there was a need for “Practice, practice, practice” and less than perfection was not going to cut it.

The story that you told about one leadership position involved ROTC at your college.  I will not go into all of the details because it bordered on larceny at the worst and bad taste at the least.  You said that ROTC needed money and your end justified your means.   Needless to say, the money goal was accomplished, and the ROTC got the needed equipment.  Your college ROTC buddies know this story and are laughing as they read this!  I must admit it was a clever scam and applauded the effort.

You were proud to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army on the same day that you received your undergraduate degree.  This was the day you waited for since you were 8 years old!   Your proudest time was not your time in Vietnam.  It was your time spent in Germany with the 509th.  You were propelled into a leadership role into an area where you had no expertise.  Your job was to be sure that every mechanized machine in Germany was in proper working condition so that it could be sent into the war zone.  Oh, you could change your oil and repair a tire, but this was far beyond those skills.  Also, you were painfully aware that the lives of soldiers would depend on how well you did your job.  This was a very serious obligation and you embraced the significance of the role.  You also knew that a job well done would propel your career in the Army.

Years later, you took me to Washington DC where we visited several times with your commanding officer who was a retired Three Star General.  He was your mentor and you admired him so much that you named your first son Stephen honoring him.  It was during these visits that the General shared his memories of Germany and the time that you served with him.  As he spoke, I realized that as much as you respected the General, he also respected you.  He shared that of all of the years he served it the Army and of all of his commands, that you and your fellow officers were the ones he most admired.  He spoke of your sacrifice by working days at a time with no sleep and no contact with your family.  You accomplished the impossible and he knew he demanded it from all of you.  There was no task, no matter how unreasonable, you could not complete.  We laughed as you told him stories of getting assignments accomplished and how you did them.  You were both out of the Army and, I guess, you thought the statutes of limitations were over!  There was a story about preparing for an inspection and none of your vehicles were functioning.  The budget was very limited as were spare parts.  You told the General how you recruited one of your less reputable privates to go to another company and “acquire” the parts needed.  All you asked of the private was to put the parts on your desk and no one would speak of it again.  Beer or cigarettes may have been incentive.    The General laughed and applauded your initiative.    His instinct was that something nefarious had occurred but thought it was better simply to look the other way.  I realized that he admired you as much as you admired him.

We took our granddaughter to Washington DC for her 8th grade trip and you arranged another visit with the General and his wife.  Before we left, you bought two silver charms to be added to the bracelet we had begun for her.  When we arrived at their home, you asked the General to present the charms to our granddaughter.  We sat at their dining room table and the General told her the story of the 509th, the 101st and the significance of the Airborne wings.   The General’s wife showed our granddaughter her charm bracelet filled with 40 years of charms reflecting her husband’s successful military career.  It is sweet to remember that day ad how important it was to you to share this part of your life with our granddaughter.  I was so proud to be your wife!

After you returned safely from Vietnam, you had the option to sign a new contract and stay in the Army or complete your commitment and resign your commission to return to the United States.  Your choice was to resign and begin a new career. 

In some ways, it did not matter.  For you, being a soldier was not a job.  It was your way to be in the world.  It was a standard of life which could not be compromised.  Being a soldier was living in integrity, honor, keeping your promises, caring for your family, setting higher standards, mentoring and teaching your young sons to become honorable men.  You changed from a uniform to a suit and you wore it well!  Your military posture was the perfect form for a beautiful suit.  You had more shoes that I did, and each was shined with a cedar shoe tree inserted.  Each shoe was wrapped in its own felt bag and neatly lined up in our closet.    You looked impeccable and so distinguished with your beautiful head of prematurely gray hair.   You were very aware of the impression you intended to make.

After you died, I sat in our closet holding your clothes and searching for something that smelled like your cologne.   I looked at your beautiful suits and shoes and tortured myself with the obligation of finding the perfect set of clothes for what was to come and knowing that it was my duty as your wife to be sure that you looked as I thought you would want to look.  Suit?  Tux? Blazer? No.  None of these were right.

My choice for you for that day, my love, was your black shirt with the Airborne logo and your black jacket with the 509th patch.  I thought it would have been exactly what you would have chosen.  We tucked in Challenge Coins so you could take them with you.  Every man who had served in the military passed by you on that day, stood at attention and saluted you one last time.  It was their way to offer you, Captain Voss, a final honor.  Twenty-one guns.  Taps.  A flag.  This cannot be happening.  Please do not leave me! 

I found a duplicate set of the silver charms in your desk drawer.  I wish I knew who you intended to give these to because I did not know that you even bought them.  They have been tucked away in the drawer for at least 7 years.  For now, I wear your 101st charm and Airborne wings on a chain around my neck every day.    If you had bought them for me, you would have given them to me long ago.  Know that when I pass them along to our granddaughters that I will share the story and how important this part of your life was to you.

We talked about how significant your Army career was to you and how it was the satisfaction of your life goal.  You loved it and you were good at it.  There was no doubt that you loved the work we did together by building our business from nothing to now in our 38th year.  We worked hard and were a great team.  But I always sensed that the military was your passion.  I remember one night asking you if you ever regretted leaving the Army.  Your reply was, “No, because if I would have stayed in the Army, I would never have met you”.

You, my love, were a soldier to the end.  From my soul I say to you, Thank You for your service to our country and Thank you for allowing me the privilege to be your wife.

I love you and I miss you,

P


The Kind of Man You Were

My love:

I hated that hospital from the moment we arrived.  Be careful what you wish for because you just might get your wish.  We wished and prayed to be admitted to this “World Class” transplant facility and our wishes were answered.  We soon became sorry for both the wish and the prayer.

In the month that you were in “Hotel Hell”, not once did they change your hospital gown.  Not once did they offer to bathe you.  Eight days went by when you were unable to hold down any food or liquid and none of these world class doctors noticed.  We saw housekeeping once and the only time your sheets were changed was when they brought you to physical therapy and I broke into the housekeeping closet to find fresh sheets.   We had zero confidence that there would be any effort or commitment on their part to even put you on the transplant list, much less go to the trouble of finding you a donor with your very rare blood type and risking their high success percentage in transplants by attempting a transplant on you.  You would be a percentage spoiler.

We discussed it a million times.  We had to get out of there or they were going to kill you.  You know how many facilities we contacted to see if we could get you admitted.  I think now that the doctors at Hotel Hell were never truly candid with us nor were they eager to reveal to us just how fragile your situation had become.  They would maintain you but make no effort to heal you.  Then we found ourselves trapped in a chaos of foreign doctors who all looked like a 12-year-old Doogie Howser with language barriers.  We knew that this was not the place that would do what needed to be done to send you home healthy and cured.

Then your kidneys failed.  In the beginning it was dialysis for three hours three times weekly.  That did not sound too bad under the circumstances because we were just going through the battery of tests needed for what now would be a double organ transplant.   Typical of your luck, that sounded much easier than it would be for you.  You were then and always have been the “Special Case”.  This time, we certainly did not want that for you.  We wanted you to be easy and ordinary, but then that never happened for you.

When they broke the news to us that your kidneys had failed and they you would begin dialysis and on that day, your personal agony began.  They committed to the dialysis session at 1:00 PM.  As we were soon to find out, Hotel Hell ran on “Jamaica time”.  When they said 1:00 PM, they did not really mean 1:00 PM.  It was more likely to be when they got around to it because after all, we had no place to go and they always knew where they could find us.  They did not have the manners to mention the delay to us, however.  For you and me, Type A’s who were both sticklers for promptness, it became a recurring incident that drove us both crazy.  As you used to say, “If you are on time, you are already late”. 

At midnight, all the lights in your room went on.  A huge machine was wheeled in along with tanks and hoses.  They brought dialysis to you and it was MIDNIGHT.  This nonsense would go on until 3AM on the night your dialysis began. During the first treatment your blood pressure began to tank.

Every dialysis session was a horror.  We learned very quickly that the monitors would take your blood pressure and give a revised reading every 15 minutes.  We sat with our eyes glued to this display praying to God that when the numbers changed that they would reflect normal blood pressure results.  That seldom happened and we began our next 15-minute wait praying for the next set of normal numbers.  There were sessions when your blood pressure was so low that, despite the medications intended to reverse this condition, the dialysis machine had to be turned down so low that the 3 hours of treatment did nothing for you and the entire process was just a huge waste of time.   You found yourself in a Catch 22 where you had to have dialysis, but your blood pressure was fighting the process.  More doctors.  More tests.  More conversations in languages we struggled to understand.  We had to get out of there!

Three hours three days per week became every other day.  The Nephrologists came to visit us more and more.  The head of the dialysis clinic same to speak with me and I immediately disliked her.  She spoke in those low tones with her head bowed in practiced compassion.  She told me what was going to happen as if she sat at the hand of God designing life and death along with Him.  You would, she promised, be admitted into the kidney ICU, be put on 24/7 dialysis and die in that room.  Just like that!  That’s it.  Fait accompli.  End of the story.   Over my dead body!

Our dislike for this woman multiplied exponentially!  I never told you what she predicted and threatened for you because I did not want to add any more to your burden.  Should I have told you?  Was it wrong of me to withhold this from you?  Regardless I was not going to wait with my hands folded in my lap waiting patiently while they put you on a shelf like groceries and waited for you to die.  She had no right to take you away from me.  She had no right to destroy US. 

My distain for her message morphed into more distain for her personally.  I am ashamed to say that I came up with a pejorative name for her which, albeit mean, was descriptive.  I will not repeat it because it was not my proudest moment, but it became our private shortcut nickname for this woman.   We were seeing far too much of her and you were not getting any better. 

You continued to have to endure dialysis.  The anticipation of every pending session was torment for both of us.  We both experienced the anxiety and heard the appointment with the dialysis machines approaching us like horses hooves in our ears.   Your blood pressure issues could not be resolved despite the medications they added to the process.  The hours and hours that you spent flat on your back having your blood cycled repeatedly through those noisy machines were sometimes just a waste of time.  They turned on the machines and your blood pressure dropped.  They turned down the dialysis to safeguard your blood pressure and it was like marching in place and your blood was not being cleaned as it needed to be.  We were again caught in a loop of what was supposed to happen and what was happening to you.   Anxiety was quickly becoming fear.  We needed a transplant and we needed it quickly.  We both knew that it would never happen at Hotel Hell and we needed to find a way to get out of there.

I must admit, I was exhausted.  We had never had to experience this level of fear and anxiety for this length of time.  We saw no out or option and were emotionally frayed.  Everyday I worried about you, talked to doctors, contacted other transplant facilities, talked with you and discussed possibilities.  You, of course were concerned about one thing only and that was me.  You reminded me to eat and try to sleep.  You told me to go buy new jeans because these were falling off of me because I was shedding so much weight. For me, none of these were possible nor necessary because they would take me away from you. 

Your dear friend who had been your college roommate and life long friend came to visit.  When he arrived, he handed me the key to his hotel room and invited me to relax and get some sleep.  You had dialysis that afternoon and he would gladly accompany you so that I could get some rest.  I thanked him but protested and began to explain the tightrope you walked while in dialysis and that I needed to be there.  You, of course, wanted me to get some rest and the deal we made was that every 15 minutes I would be sent your blood pressure numbers.  Reluctantly I agreed to go to the hotel room only so that you could visit with your friend.   I knew I would never sleep and that I would spend the three hours watching for my next text message every 15 minutes. 

The first hour seemed to be non-productive.  They fought your blood pressure and it was nonconstant.  The whole thing just seemed off.  You were nauseated and threw up from the medications.  It was just all wrong.  Every 15 minutes I received your blood pressure numbers.

Then my telephone rang.  Our friend told me to come down to the dialysis lab and come quickly.  I literally ran from the hotel to you and when I entered the treatment room your area was surrounded by 7 emergency room doctors.  I looked at the Nephrologist and she was pale.  Then I saw you and saw, for the first time in my life, fear in your eyes.  Your body temperature had fallen dangerously low and they covered you with heated blankets to warm you.  You were shaking so hard I could see your body moving off of the bed and your heart rate was 172.  I pushed the doctors out of my way to get to your side.  Your eyes were open wide and you were praying.  I touched you so that you knew I was there but allowed you the moment to pray.  Then I heard your prayer.  You were talking to God, but you were not asking for healing for you.  You were praying for me!  You were asking God to take care of me because you believed at that moment that you were going to die.  You thought that you were experiencing your last moments on earth, and you were praying and asking God to take care of me!  This is the kind of man you were.    Your thoughts during what you thought were your last moments on earth were to plead to God for me! 

By the grace of God, you did not die that day.  If you had, we would own Hotel Hell.

The next day, our Nephrology buddy came to your room and came as close as any doctor has ever come to apologizing and taking responsibility for almost killing a patient.  It was her fault, she said, because she ordered the temperature of the blood too low.  She was, in essence, sending cold blood into your body and decreased your body temperature dangerously low.  Lucky for her and for Hotel Hell that you did not have a heart attack due to the increased heart rate. 

We had to get out of there.

I was so blessed to be your wife.  It was my honor.

I love you.

P

Our Bracelets

Dear Larry:

You stopped buying me Christmas and birthday gifts many years ago.  You thought Valentine’s Day was stupid.  When asked by friends what you got me for Mother’s Day your response was always, “Nothing. She is not my mother”.  Then I would walk into my office and there would be a huge bouquet of flowers or a beautiful piece of jewelry on my desk that you sent just because it was Wednesday and because you loved me.  To a stranger, it might sound like you were not sentimental.  You were not about the most pedestrian of things in your opinion.  A birthday was just another day.  Valentine’s Day was a day invented by card and chocolate manufacturers to guilt husbands into buying stuff that no one needed.  You were not playing that game. Instead of buying things, you created for us experiences.  You planned lavish vacations for our special holidays.  You were most fond of being sure that we were always away together for our anniversary.   As you were quick to point out, you got two for one because my birthday and our anniversary are two days apart.  Your favorite place to take me was Jamaica.  How many of our anniversaries did we spend in Jamaica on the warm and beautiful beaches surrounded by the friends that we had made from all over the world?   What sweet memories.

One of our very first trips together brought us to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  As we walked through the town, I could not help but notice that you kept gravitating toward the jewelry stores.  Well far be it from me to stop you!  You finally found what you were looking for.  You found our bracelets.

The bracelets are called Love Bracelets.  They are held on with gold screws inserted with a gold screw driver.  Love bracelets symbolize everlasting love and they are intended to never some off.  We each wore one for 34 of our 35 years together and the only times they came off were during surgeries or a medical procedure.  They were off for the shortest amount of time and were generally put back on while still in the recovery room.  When it concerned these bracelets, you were very sentimental.  You would take off your wedding ring to do work or to sleep.  The bracelet, however, never came off!  I remember several firm arguments that you had with doctors prior to a surgery when you insisted that the bracelet be left on.  They could just tape over it and not remove it.  You generally won this argument.

You called me over to your bed in ICU.  We both knew that the next day you would undergo a cardiac MRI.  We shared how we were both concerned about the procedure and the various things that could happen.  You seemed much less concerned than I was and attempted to comfort me with your mantra; “It will be what it will be”.    You were, however, very concerned and upset because you knew that prior to the MRI, you would be forced to remove your bracelet.  Since our gold screwdriver was in your jewelry case at home, you asked to me find a hardware store, locate one that would fit the screw without damaging the bracelet and bring that with me the next morning.  I did that.  The next morning as I arrived in your room in the ICU, I dreaded what we had to do.  It was so emotional for both of us.  Just the idea of removing your bracelet was heart breaking.  I think you knew at that moment that the next person to wear your bracelet would be me.  I, however, would not even allow that thought to enter my mind or my heart.  I told you that I was going to put it in a pouch in my purse, carry it with me and put it back on you as soon as you got out of ICU.  You looked at me, nodded you head and said, “OK, baby”.  But, you knew.  I unscrewed your bracelet.  We both cried.  I reinserted the screw and tucked it away.   You never got to wear it again.

The sentiment of the bracelet is that love endures through eternity.  When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse wears both bracelets. On the night that you died, I screwed your bracelet on next to mine.  They never come off and it gives me comfort to always have something you wore for 34 years on my arm.  In my mind, when I look at them, we are still together.  I carry you with me.

I remember when we attended a gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.  We were seated at the table with executives from a major corporation.  The man to my right was warm and inviting and we had a wonderful conversation during the meal.  I had on a long-sleeved jacket and he reached over and pulled my sleeve up to revel my bracelet.  As I looked over at him, he gently raised his coat sleeve reveling two love bracelets.  Neither of us said a word as tears fell from both of our eyes.  I knew without a word being said that he had lost his wife.  By wearing our bracelet, he knew that I would understand without explanation.   It was such a poignant moment in time and my heart ached for this lovely man and for his life loss.  Now I wear our two bracelets.  The significance is ours.  We shared this together and for my very unsentimental husband, you were very attached to these bracelets and to the meaning behind them.  You believed that we were eternal.  I still believe that we are. 

I love you.

P

About

My husband, Larry, died.  We were married for 35 years.  We were business partners, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, travelers, companions, confidants, lovers and soul mates.   Now what do I do?

I wanted a forum to both share our story as well as support others who have lost a loved one.  This is a profoundly personal journey.  Each person reacts in a unique way and travels their own singular path through grief.

One of the things I miss most are our conversations.  Who else can I share my most intimate thoughts with without judgement?  Who else supports me without question?  Who protects me now?  I decided that I would not give up on our conversations and that I still need to share my thoughts, so now I write him letters.

Read our story and tell me yours.  We can support each other to attempt to discover:

You are gone.  Now what do I do?

67 Comments

  1. I think it’s very important for you to know that you are never alone. That you should never feel uninvited to be a part of my family. That no matter what time day or night, that I am only a phone call away.

  2. AH Priscilla, tho we only met the one time I am ever so thankful we did. Having Voss as a roomie in college was an interesting two years. I regret having lost track of him for so long. Tho I did not realize that weekend would be the last time I’d see him, it will be forever remembered.
    I lost my wife, my heart and soul mate two and a half years ago. Every day has been a struggle. She long said she wanted to go first since she could not imagine being without me. I know well the heartbreak she wished to avoid and am grateful she was spared this pain.
    This past December would have been our 40th anniversary. Next month would be her 70th birthday. Death is the state where one only exists in the memory of others. I hope when my time comes my existence is as sweet as her memories have been to all who knew her.
    This writing is difficult as I’ve never been one to show emotions. That is a Lowe trait but since Barbaras death the emotional dam has burst and there is no end to the flood.
    As you stated there is no expiration date on grief. Time doesn’t lessen the pain, one learns to manage it and cope.

  3. I love you too Priscilla! You are welcome to come, be with me, and do what you do and be where you are, at anytime! No judgment! Please don’t think that I know what you are going through, I make no attempts to portray that, but I can listen!
    Love that you are sharing yourself with me!
    Hugs,
    Pat

  4. Cilla, all my life, I couldn’t imagine how painful it would be to lose dad. I know he is no longer with us (He was far too good for this earth and for sure is with God). But I invoke his memory in much that I do daily. I hear his voice, see his expressions and confidence. He is unchanged. That is how he remains with me at all times and any time I need for the rest of my life. Strange comparison but It certainly is no different for you and Larry. That’s the nature of you two and the rare one-ness you shared and will continue to share. I love you. Keep the faith.

  5. This is beautiful, Priscilla. I remember writing my Greg volumes of “letters” in journals for a very long time after he died. That was before blogging was a thing. It helped so much during the time when the only person I wanted to talk to was the only one not there. It made me feel close to him in the best way I could find. I look forward to reading your entries. Much love to you on your journey.

  6. As you already know, you are loved by many people! Us included! I’ll never forget the times I spent with Larry, truly a fine man and a gentleman!! I know it’s painful but faith and friends get you through!! Hope to see you before to long, either there or here, you’re always welcome!
    Love ya!
    E.L. & Karen

  7. You & Larry shared a love, a life & a marriage that few people know about much less experience. Such a rare gift.

    You two built & shared so many memories with your travels & other life events. The void LARRY left in your life is because he is so loved by you & because he loves you too… even protecting you now.

  8. He IS that kind of man even in death. Larry is so kind-hearted, unselfish & always looking for ways to build up/encourage others to be all what God created them to be! Not looking out for himself; you were his world P!!!!

    At his passing, there was not 1 dry eye at the funeral. Everyone who spoke at the podium or just amongst a few that attended that day said Larry was so admired, had such a special friendship like ONLY Larry could cultivate with people from so many walks of life!! He would not take credit for changing the trajectory of so many lives, but that’s exactly what he did with what seemed like (to me) with such ease & grace & of course for the betterment of their lives. He blew my mind doing this….

    Larry has left many voids in several lives, but that IS proof that he continues to lives on in our hearts & lives. Biggest void is in our heart P!

    Even though it’s painful with his absence, He encouraged me like a dad at times, like a friend at other times & like a boss when needed. I take some comfort in the HONOR to have known him & the amazing impact he still makes in my life.

    It was an honor to have known him & experience who Larry Voss really IS!!!!!
    Love you always L. D.

    1. He loved and admired you. I appreciate your support during his illness and since his death. I could not have survived this without it. P

  9. Priscilla, Lyn and I are always here for you… ALWAYS. The thing I loved most about Larry was the good natured banter back and forth about the Army and the Air Force. I remember, on one of our trips to Breezes (née Grand Lido) Negril, Larry gave me a challenge coin. I will forever cherish that gift.

    1. I think that his military years were the most fulfilling in his mind. He was good at it! He also admired those who spent their careers serving. One of my future letters to him addresses this specifically. Thank you for your kind words of support. Love you you both. P

  10. I was fortunate to have served with Larry and the General, you spoke of, in the 1st Battalion 509th Infantry ABN/MECH, in the early 70s. We were the only Airborne and Mechanized Infantry in the Army.
    I visited the General at the Pentagon, in the mid 80s, and like you said in your post; the General said that some of his fondest memories and Military friends came during the time we spent in the 509th. It is a special bond.
    I was lucky to know both Larry and the General. and to have kept our bond through all these years. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything!

    1. The General passed away the week before Larry died and he was tormented by not being able to say goodbye and thank The General for being his life shifting mentor.

      Thank you for your unwavering support.
      P

      1. So many beautiful expressions of love and empathy are being shared with you. You are not alone-just not with your chosen best friend. Can you imagine passing through life without ever having a soulmate? Those who do that must be the lonliest on earth. Love you😘

  11. Mr. Larry was a very interesting, unique individual. He called things out exactly as he saw it. He challenged us to think outside the box. Also, to study the enemy so we know what to expect. Oh, how I miss him popping into the office and giving us a brief history lesson. He was a walking encyclopedia with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I often say, Mr. Larry missed his calling. He would have made a great counselor and indeed he counselled many. He touched so many lives throughout his life from the lifelong friendships to his bond with his beautiful wife. He was full of love and always pushing for others to succeed. I am so happy that he called me to be part of his team. It was definitely divine intervention. Thank you, Mrs. Priscilla for sharing your beautiful memories of Mr. Larry. I know it doesn’t heal the pain but it helps that his memory is forever infused in our hearts. Love ya.

    1. He did council. He just did it quietly and with no fanfare, but all I have to do is look around at my life and I see the results of his wise advice and mentoring. He left a huge mark on those who opened their hearts to it. The ones who did not missed a huge opportunity. Love you, Vic. P

  12. Keep writing your letters. They provide a place to help you heal. We are all on this journey of Grief that we didn’t choose to be on. Walking this path has made me stronger. At first I didn’t believe that I would ever be strong again. After walking forward for a time then walking backward I wasn’t sure I would ever get through this process of healing. I believe I am closer now than I have ever been. It doesn’t mean I am over the pain and loss. However it is my new normal. Be kind to yourself, pray for strength, and hope. God will fill those empty places with His love and strength. Many He richly Bless your Journey. May He bring you through the darkness into the Light.

  13. I was with my soulmate for 10 years. He passed away on 27th may 2018 he was estranged from his family so I was his family my daughter and I . everyone knew we were joined at the hip! I miss everything about him our long talks, our laughs, cuddling watching TV. I miss everything I keep getting from people oh you are only 44 you can start again. I don’t want to start again! One because I just don’t want to and even if I did I’d just compare them to Stephen. I don’t know how I cope but each day I seem to. I just became a grandma on 20th December so that is keeping me going. I miss him so much!!

  14. I have found a platform that works well for me. I need to talk about my hubby and to him. I need to hear and see his name. I need to get the feeling that he sees, reads and knows what i am going through. I also need to go back in time whenever i wish to see what i have written eg 1 year ago..or 2 days ago. Therefore i have been posting my real feelings on my FB wall where i can read it over and over again. In the clouds..sent to the clouds. If i wake up at 2am i can post my total confusion and frustration with this grieving process. I can be mad as hell or just pathetic and sad. However i post it to be vissible to ONLY ME. For my own record and sanity. I journal on my own wall… It feels like the whole world can see my love for him and i don’t pretend to be okay.. Sometimes i get anxious that i will forget him or this heartache after losing him to death! There I say exactly how and what i feel without any fear to be criticised or judged. This way i somehow get peace of mind because no one cares to still read about my sadness after 28 months. Maybe one day after i leave this world the kids will read my FB page and know how alone and lost i am. No one really has a clue. To them i seem to be coping fine. Sad but true. Blessings to all of you.

  15. My husband of 27 years died by suicide 10/7/18. No warning signs at all. Snapped after his 3rd layoff at his company. I so understand your grief. I am lost. Good of you to write about it. Thank you.

  16. My husband, my love, was taken by cancer. He beat it twice but the third time it won the war..staying with him every minute was tough but I’d do it all again..forever! Married 47 yrs. he was my knight..my love, my everything..I’m trying but it’s so very hard. Thank you for your “larryandme”.

  17. Your writing is profoundly beautiful even in the depths of your sadness and utter misery. I can hear you, and him, in your writings. I think this is a fabulous work you are doing. I am wondering how many others are helped by your ‘diary’? Loving you from far away, L

    1. Thank you, my dear friend. I want to share much more because he was that important to me and to so many others. You and C know what a unique person he was. I knw you both loved him. I need to come and visit you very soon because I miss you both!

  18. I read most of these post. It’s nice to hear that my feelings are shared. Sometimes a perso forgets there are others in a very similar situation. My wife and I were brought together 37 yrs ago this past February, on a blind date. A friend of mine and his girlfriend at the time, who happened to be a friend of my wife’s from high school, decided to match make. The evening of our date was spent with our two friends. Although her and I, had never met the evening for us was mostly a social thing. We had dinner, cards, games and VHS movies. The four of us didn’t have the money to go out on the town. As we kept playing games, watching movies, & keeping small talk, her and I got cozier & cozier and by the end of the evening we were shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, & we knew after that first kiss, we were meant to be. As weeks, & months went by we faced adversity & opposal from other friends & both our families. We were told we’d never make it and we were too young. She was 16, & I was 19. But later as the months turned to years, everyone could see they were wrong in their assumptions. We planned to spend whole lives together, but instead, I was blessed she spent the rest of her life with me.😥 I miss her every minute of every day, but one day we’ll be together for Eternity. God bless you all, and thanks for opening this group.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. It is an unwanted journey that none of us wanted to walk. All we can do is support one another because the ones who have been blessed enough not to be in our situation have no idea what we go through just to put our feet on the ground after climbing out of our empty bed. Keep reading and sharing as we take this very lonely path.

  19. I lost my husband on 2/13/2019 and this is a question I ask myself what fo i do now I feel so tired from being strong but I have so many more years ahead of me I keep taking it day by day and I recognize my limits he was 44 and I am 41 we were together 24 years over half my life, I continue to ask myself what do I do now and I will ask myself that for a long time to come

    1. It is difficult to create a new life when you were so happy with your old one. We are walking the path together. Thanks for taking the time to allow me to share our lives with you.

    2. If you’ve not yet done so, check out your local Hospice for resources and expert help. No matter if hospice was not used before. Check out their monthly meetings to start, and check into their 8 or 9 weekly meeting support groups. I’d be rolled into a ball and under a bed were it not for hospice. They even gave me recommendations for local private counseling, which I also use. If no hospice nearby, check at local hospitals and funeral homes for bereavement services in your area. Don’t go through this alone and without expert assistance. Check here for info, press Grief to get started. Good luck.
      https://hospicefoundation.org/

  20. It’s sad but also lovely to read other people’s stories and the journey thetvwe are all on. I’m 44 I lost my partner on 27th of may 2018. I miss him so much .I am so glad for the 10 years I spent with my soulmate .I keep getting people saying to me oh you’re young enough to start again! I don’t want to start again! I could never have the same as I had with my babe. Maybe I will feel differently in time but I cscan see it. Even the thought of going dating and getting to know someone etc I just couldn’t do it and I know I would just compare them so it’s not fair .Thanks for sharing it’s good to know we’re not alone xx

  21. Lost my Husband of 42 years after a 3 year battle with cancer on Feb 22, 2019. I found myself praying, “Please God if it is you will take him tonight” as he suffered greatly in the end. Now I am on my own. He was a pack rat, I have really cleaned up and trashed a lot of stuff. Have one file cabinet full of things to go through later. Still have rocks in the yard to get rid of. I am moving and my load will be so much lighter. Had a dream that he came back, I was panicked because of the way I have more of less shut his life down. He has no SS income, he is off all the banking accounts and such. I remember telling him in the dream no you can’t come back – your dead – your life is over and done – go away. My daughter that understands dream meaning told me it is my mixed feelings of moving on and not wanting to let go. I miss him but I like the changes I have made. The house looks clean for a change. Very mixed in my feelings. She is so right. Looking forward to my new start with my kids in my new location, he is going with, but in his Urn and in my heart.

  22. Practically same words I uttered after she was pronounced. She fought a tireless battle for three weeks in the hospital after a doctor’s appointment. I was just so sure that I was gonna bring my wife home. Although I saw many sitting at home waiting for that final call saying that she’s passed away, I was determined. Ain’t nobody dying on my watch. I was praying so hard & had people from both sides of the family (WHO “KNOW” HOW TO PRAY) praying hard as well & I was just so sure that God wouldn’t say no to his most dedicated children. Even when they pulled her off the I.V. medications & disconnected the breathing machine, I thought she was gonna carry on on her own. Then when they pronounced her only minutes later, I arose from my knees, holding her hand, & said to myself, “She’s gone. Now, what do I do? I’m a widower.” I shall never forget; but I can admit that God made the right choice. She was suffering too much & even HE was tired of watching. I DID bring her back home…..but in ashes. God Bless us all.

  23. Hi you are so brave to reach out and share with us. I at 34 finally met a actual man. He was slightly older but very wise and loving, he showed me how a man really treats a woman they love. I lost him unexpectedly February 9th and i still think he will walk back in the door after work or make me my favorite foods he actually taught me a lot about myself that helped me in many ways. I kick myself in the butt now for the petty arguments or complaints about him stealing all the blanket and snoring but now i barely sleep because hes not there to do those things. I only had 2 years with this man but im so grateful i had the 2. Dont get me wrong i have days qhen i am so hurt confused and angry at god for taking him so soon. I just have to think what would dennis want me to do? And being angry isnt one of them, my heart still hurts i still cry when im alone i call any guy friends his name constantly. Im tearing up now so im going to leave it with this dennis I.L.Y.T.D

    1. There is no way to explain to others how the grief encompasses our every thought. It is the price we now pay for being blessed with an intense love and a tender love story. I want to thank you for taking the time to share in our love story and for adding yours. God Bless. P

  24. Hi my name is Cathy, I lost my husband (George) to congestive heart failure at the age of 39 on May18,2016. We were married for just about 20yrs. It’s been a little over 3yrs however it still feels like it just happened. See he was more than a husband, he was my best friend, soulmate, lover and well I could go on an on. I’ve been so lost without him here. He has made me become a much better person just for being in my life. The only reason I’m able to get up everyday, simple I would NOT do anything to disappoint him. I even returned to college to finish my undergrad in Cybersecurity & Networking I’m doing it for him to show I will make it or at least try.
    Thanks for listening.
    I’m so sorry you lost your dear husband as well. I wouldn’t wish this kind of pain on anyone. I’m here if you wish to talk.

    1. This is such a heart wrenching process that none of us asked for. It is a moment to moment thing and you never know what to expect. All we can do is share compassion and walk through this together. Thank you for sharing our lives. God bless.

    1. Love ya’ll too. You knew Larry well and what a special gift he was but especially how he empowered the women who had the privilege to be around him.

  25. Such a coincidence… the love of my life was a larry! He went to heaven on April 2, 2015 and I can’t begin to explain how painful his loss is … even after 5 years. He was a beautiful person .. tall, dark and handsome but also with the most beautiful heart and soul! He renewed my faith in mankind and taught me how to trust and truly love. Everyone lucky enough to know him …loved him! He always put appreciation and fun into every day and taught me to do the same. That is what has gotten me through the past 5 years… knowing he wanted me and everyone to appreciate this life we’ve been blessed with.

  26. Oh I understand your pain I lost the best thing to ever happen to me December 18, 2018, the day the love of my life took his last breath. My heart broke into a million unfixable pieces that day and almost 3 years later I’m still in the same place and I know I’ll never be better never in my life have I ever been so loved. I’m lost broken but like you people think I’m ok cause I fall apart in private. Hugs to everyone that walks this horrible path.

    1. Wish I could say that I fall apart in private, but I can’t. 3 yr 5 months and I can’t even talk about him or us without tears. God bless us on our difficult journey that none of us asked for.

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Our Story

Dear Larry:

We never talked about this part.  Oh, of course we joked about it.  “If I die before you, you will soon starve to death” or “If you die before me, who will open the jars?”  But we never really TALKED about it and how it would be when one of us died.  There was a part of me that hoped that we died together in a fiery crash on the Autobahn in Germany.  How romantic would that be?  Never mind the mess it would create for our sons, but at least we could have been together.  We were always together. We worked to build something from nothing for 38 years and we pulled it off.  We traveled the world and had breathtaking adventures together.  We spent 24 hours of every day together and looking back, it was not enough, and I still want more.  You were the exhale to my inhale.  The completion of my sentence.  My Crème Brulee after a romantic dinner.  My first thought in the morning and the last in the evening.  My other half.  My completion.  And now when I reach across to touch you in our bed, you are gone and each time my heart breaks again.  I miss our conversations and sharing our most intimate and private thoughts.  Where do I go with those now?  I only trusted those with you.

“They” say that it will get better with time.  Isn’t it odd that “they” are all the people who still have their spouses next to them in bed and that they do not have a clue what it is like to lose their life partner.  I realize that people do not know what to say and that their intention is to try to say something to make me feel better.  At least I used to think that, but as I live every day of my life listening to the platitudes, albeit well intentioned, I have come the see that they often are just saying something to make themselves feel less awkward and find a rapid way to close the conversation and extradite themselves from the moment.  I get it and I do not take offense.  Death is something we all avoid even thinking about and it generates such a veil of discomfort covering any time we must face it that people want to keep the veil on it, cover it up, ignore it, change the subject and make it go away.  When you and I faced the death of your parents and my father, we did what we do best….we DO. We get into the “do” mode.  We identified what needed to get done, we made a plan and we DID.  We took control of the situation and problem solved.  It was our silent gift to the other survivors so that they could grieve.  We took that burden from them because it is what we DID.  Then we grieved together and in private.  It was personal for us and not for anyone else to invade.  We talked and laughed and cried and shared stories both new ones and ones we had told a thousand times before.  That did not matter.  We were together sharing something so intimate—the death of someone we loved.

Now I am on the other side of that situation, but I am standing alone.  I do not know how to do alone.  With you, I was never alone.  You did not stand next to me, you surrounded me.  When you were there, I never felt scared or in danger because YOU were there.  This, I think, is part of the reason that, during your illness, it never occurred that you might die.  After all, it was YOU.  You jumped out of airplanes, killed enemy combatants and never broke a fingernail.  You got your foot crushed by a forklift, lost toes and did not take pain killer for 4 hours.  You were invincible and indestructible.  We got on the transplant list!   All you needed were a couple of organs to be donated, a dozen hours in surgery, a few months to recuperate and we were on our way home.  You could do this with one hand tied behind your back!  No challenge too big.  Since, as you always said, I saw the sunshine and you saw the clouds, I could not allow even a hint of the clouds into my thoughts about you surviving this.  I had to know in my bones that you would get to the other side of this and that I would walk the entire trip with you holding your hand and whispering, “I love you, Baby” in your ear a thousand times a day.  But you knew from the beginning that you would never get home alive.  I believe that because you loved me, you never mentioned it to me.  You told the others, but you never told me.  Even in the end, you surrounded me.

Two days ago marked 9 months that you died.  I should have written to you before this, but the majority of the time has been a blur.  People react to death and grief in unique ways and each will travel their personal path.  I had no point of reference and was unprepared for the tsunami of emotions that would hit me from different directions like shrapnel from a bomb.   I was equally unprepared to discover that I had to do this alone.  Oh, dear Lord, please do not make me do this alone!  I don’t know how to do alone.  I am not afraid of being alone, I just do not want to be without YOU.  I do not want to do ALONE.  In the end, I do not get a choice.

It has taken me 9 months to be clear headed enough to begin to write to you.  Most of all, I need to tell you that I miss you so badly it hurts physically and that my love for you is stronger than ever.  Maybe I am in denial, but I still caress your ashes and say the same thing to you over and over…I cannot believe you are gone and that you are never coming back.  I hold you and rock you and kiss you and cry on you.  It is the only way that I now have to touch you and I savor the moments.   I miss you, my love.

I am beginning to think that I make some of the people around me uncomfortable and they have no idea how to deal with me.  I do grief like I do everything else in my life….full of passion and full force out for all to see.  I cannot do it any other way because this is me.  You were OK with looking over at me during the playing of the LSU Alma Mater and see me tears streaming down my face.  You completely understood why when standing on the cobblestones at the Palace of Versailles I wept.  You never asked me to say the blessing for Christmas dinner because you knew I could never make it through without crying.  You understood that is just what I do and that is how I do it and you embraced me through it.  They do not.  So now that 9 months have gone by, according to them, I should be over this and not so “hysterical”.  Apparently, there is a grief expiration date and I am well past that date.  According to them, they are willing to try to make me “better” but I am obviously not willing.  News flash to family:  I will NEVER stop grieving but I will stop trying to have you see my world my way.  Do what you want, say what you want, assume what you want.  I am to the point where all I have the energy to do is put my feet on the floor in the morning and realize that Larry is gone, and this is another day without him.  There is no expectation on my part for you to have any appreciation for this.  All I ask is that you allow me to be where I am in MY process and keep your judgements to yourself.  I am doing this alone and all I ask is that you do not sabotage me in the name of “love”.

Tonight, I am emotionally exhausted.  I have so much that I need to write to you and will continue soon.  For now, know that every moment of every day I miss you and the last words that I say at night are “I love you, Baby”. 

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