There are many things we can choose in this life. Most of us will choose where we will go to college, what degree we will pursue, whom we will marry, and when we start a family, but what most of us do not choose is when we will die. It chooses us. Of the milestones that change us, it is by far the most uncontrollable and permanent to life as we know it.
I watched as my 82 year old grandmother deteriorated from ALS and when she died I wept and I wept and I still weep. I think about her everyday. But on March 7 when my parent at 66 died suddenly, through shock and pain I came to know a new kind of grief. A grief that involved losing someone I loved and watching helpless as my mother endures the greatest grief of her life because she has lost the love of her life.
I am not mad. I do not ask why, because I know in this life there will be suffering and in this world people will suffer tragedies I cannot fathom. But I am very sad – sad in disbelief that he is not here, sad to know what a good man we had and now he is gone, sad that we will never again see that huge smile that would sweep across his face when he would laugh, sad to see my mom in such grief, sad to know that he worked all of his life so that my mom and his children and stepchildren could have nice full lives then right when he retired from work his life was over, and sad to know that life as we knew it and as our 8 year old daughter knew it is forever changed.
In 1992 a man came into our lives, he had the biggest, brightest blue eyes you can imagine and the way those bright blue eyes lit up my mom’s face, well that was a sight to behold. Through the years I watched her eyes light up as he would come home. I remember as a college student asking her about love and how did she know William was the one. She replied, “You just know.” I was clueless as to what she meant until I met my husband. In William, my mom did not just find a husband, she found a soulmate, a best friend. She found someone she would travel with, someone who would help her start her own business, someone who would build her the most beautiful chicken coop you’ve ever seen when she decided she wanted to be a chicken farmer, someone who would then go on to build her a barn so they could retire and be farmers together, someone who would share her same enthusiasm for a simple, peaceful life.
When they met they were no longer simply William or mom, but they became mom and William an entity in itself that lived and breathed for each other. They would speak on the phone throughout the day everyday, they never made a step without asking each other’s opinion, and their devotion to each other set the standard very high on how you should treat a spouse. When you have a couple that lives their life like that, you grieve the death of the individual and the death of the entity.
To love means we will suffer, to love greatly means we will suffer greatly. It is the sacrifice we make when we let someone, or a pet, into our heart. Suffering is part of the human experience, it means to hurt, ache, be in pain. Another definition means ‘to tolerate.’ Through the tears, the pain of my mom crying out, “This isn’t real, this isn’t real,” as she crawled into the hospital bed with her dying husband, the crushing sadness that blankets over you each morning when you realize once again it is all real, the flashes of memories that in an instant bring tears to your eyes, we are not only hurting, but also tolerating or enduring the existence of the grief. By enduring we are living through the suffering, we are carrying on.
A sweet act of admiration for our William came from my daughter, since birth she has carried around a lovey. When she began to talk she would cry out for “we-we”, the more we listened and the more her voice developed we realized she was calling her lovey “we-yum” which soon became “William”. I am so thankful for the blessing William was in our lives, for the way he made our lives so full, for the devoted man he was to his family and his church, but even more so I am so thankful for that brilliant smile he brought to my mother’s face. When most people hear the word prince they think of monarchy, but the word prince also means “a man regarded as outstanding in a particular sphere or group.” We were graced with a prince in our lives. We love you William and we miss you.