|One of Jim's nurses gave him this|
as a gag birthday gift, her way of
saying he was so rich he should
have no worries. We all laughed.
"I see how much money goes out of our savings every month to pay the nurses who take care of me," he said. "The last thing I want is to leave you with nothing to live on when I'm gone. So I've been asking the Lord to take me soon."
I cried. I stroked his dear face. I hugged him close. How like Jim to put me first. It was so typical of how he'd always been. The fact that he'd rather be dead than leave me penniless was exactly something he would think and say. I told him I'd rather have him with me and end up so poor I'd have to move in with one of our kids when he was gone. He smiled--as much as a Parkinson's face can smile. He hugged me tighter but said nothing more. As far as he was concerned, the subject was closed. He never brought it up again.
I was sixteen and a junior in high school. And while I'd noticed the boy across the street, I'd not paid him much attention because I knew he was much older than me. I found out later, after we were married, that Jim used to sit in the big recliner in front of their livingroom window and watch me when I was outside. One day his dad questioned if Jim had noticed that cute girl across the street. The oldest one. Jim had agreed that I was cute, but still in high school and too young for him to date. I will always love his dad for saying, "Your mom was fifteen when I took her on our first date. Go ahead, ask her out."
He did. To Disneyland, no less. My mom said no. Dad said Jim came from a good family and it would be alright. I never knew how dad convinced mom to let me date a boy five years older than me, but I was allowed to head off to Disneyland the next Saturday.
|I figured if Jim had seen|
me in Saturday chore
clothes, hair in pin-
curls and a bandanna
around my head--and
still insisted I was "so pretty"
I ought to keep him forever.
After that, Jim was at our house every chance he got. He'd walk across the street on weekends to see what I was up to and inquire if I might like to see a movie that night. He popped in to ask if I wanted to go to the carnival that had come to town or maybe I'd just like to take a ride. On school nights, he called every evening, knowing full well I had a fifteen minute talk allowance. He'd seen me at my best on date nights and at my worst doing weekend chores: no makeup, in my grubbies, hair in pin curls and he still insisted he loved me. Somewhere along the way, I'd decided I loved him too and finally told him so.
We got engaged. My folks liked Jim but even so, I still had a year of high school left and there would be no wedding until after graduation. I wasn't thrilled. Once I had decided I loved Jim, I wanted to get married so we could be together. Speaking to mom was like beating my head against a wall. Dad was little better. About three months into our engagement, I suggested to Jim that we elope. He thought it was a bad idea and tried to talk me out of it. He said that while his parents wouldn't care, mine were sure to be hurt and angry and he could understand why.
I'd honestly given the subject a great deal of thought. I didn't want to have my mother's wedding. Being the oldest, and mom being the social butterfly she was, I knew what it would entail. I simply didn't want the stress of my desires against hers. Better to face the disappointment my parents would have if I eloped. It was a good decision on my part. My dad was alright with our being married. Mom was more than upset, mostly because she said everyone would think I'd had to get married. And even though Jim and I both assured her that she had no worries, she walked off toward the kitchen, handkerchief at her eyes, mumbling that that wasn't what all her friends would think.
|By the time this photo|
was taken, Jim and I
had two kids.
In writing this story, it has occurred to me that in order for the reader to even partially understand my grief at losing Jim and the agonizing anger that built up in me for months after his funeral, it is important that you know a bit about the man I loved for what amounted to most of my life. And while I would never say to another widow that my pain has been greater than hers, what I can say is that we who have lost the love of our lives completely understands what each of us is going or has gone through--regardless of the circumstances of our loved one's death.
As for me, I have buried both of Jim's parents and both of mine. Jim and I buried our first child, who died shortly after birth due to a lung defect which, in those days, could not be repaired. The pain of losing my folks was difficult to bear; the horror of having my first child die and never being allowed to see her, hold her, say goodbye, or be released from the hospital in order to attend her funeral, is still a raw nerve in my soul. As devastating as all of those losses were, I came through them because I had Jim to hold onto. He was the rock in my sea of loss, for he had always given me understanding and honor as directed in 1 Peter 3:7 and I was grateful for it.
Did I feel guilty and ashamed over having anger infuse my heart? Yes, but the emotion was so powerful, it built and built over several months until I felt like a volcano about to erupt. It began with my being left behind, alone, feeling like half of my heart had been ripped out and too rent to heal. I was also angry over having had to watch Jim die so unexpectedly right before my eyes and the debilitating video loop of that scene that liked to play in my head at every time of day.
That's where it began. But it wasn't where it finished. And while I continued to ask the Lord to lead me through this dark valley where I could see no light, and while I continued to ask forgiveness for my anger, it didn't go away. At least not for very long. I didn't know that what I was feeling was normal and that God understood. I also didn't realize that God was teaching me something about Himself that I could learn no other way.
In all the years I'd been a Christian, I'd experienced the peace that passes understanding in tangible ways. In my mind, that peace was something the Lord gave in selected incidents--such as the time I went into emergency surgery with little hope of coming out alive yet had utter peace within my soul and spirit that whatever happened, I would be alright. Was it possible to live in that peace all of the time? I thought not. But God wanted to teach me how wrong I was.