My friend called me this morning. Usually we talk every afternoon, but when the phone rang before 10am, I wondered why. She let me know that when she woke up this morning, she found that her husband had passed during the wee hours of the morning. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes as her grief and mine entwined.
Interestingly, we have known each other for over 40 years as she was my teacher when I was in grade school. When I began teaching in that same school years later, we reconnected on an adult basis and became very close over the years to the point that in the last ten years, we have talked everyday (or almost everyday). Ours is a friendship that defies time, age and situation. We are very close and there for each other always. Whatever the other person needed, that was who we were, whether it be a sister, a friend, a mom, we took that role whenever needed. When the ex left, she listened for years, holding my hand and heart and helping me to heal. She walked with me every step of the way. When her husband got sick, I did the same for her, everyday, allowing her to talk through the health difficulties they were encountering, venting when she was frustrated with the situation, consoling her when things got difficult and reminding her that she was never alone as they worked together in hopes to heal him.
He went peacefully, his heart stopping with no signs of a struggle. Interestingly, she had awakened in the middle of the night and they had talked for a bit. But she saw no signs that he wouldn’t be here this morning when she awoke. In a way, it is a blessing to pass in your sleep, the heart just stopping its ticking and allowing the soul to be released.
He fought bravely through many different chronic life-threatening illnesses and it was most definitely his will and hers which gave him as much time as he had here on Earth. There is zero doubt in my mind that her Herculean efforts kept him alive for as long as he was. And he often attributed his being here to her dedication to him which was completely true.
Theirs was a long-lasting love which often inspired me. It wasn’t always easy, but their commitment, through thick and thin, until death do us part was an honor to behold. While she is my friend, he and I had a special friendship as well. He was fun to be around and we often joked and laughed. When I needed some Dad advice, he was always willing to step in, especially when it had to do with home handyman questions. The three of us edited a few of his now published books together and spent hours laughing and joking. I visited them years ago and spent a lovely week with them. Such a loving easy couple to be around and I never felt like a third wheel.
He was a strong man, a man’s man if you will. Strong, tall and handsome, he had a rakishness about him which reminded me of Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind. Sensitive and kind, it was always known how much he loved his wife (my friend). A good father to his children, but one that didn’t allow difficulties to stand in his way. He was determined and strong-willed. He was well liked by all the guys and loved to joke around. He had an amazing sense of humor and loved to push the envelope by saying outrageous things that were meant to be funny. He was confident and knew who he was without question. But not braggadocious. He was easy to talk with and had many friends. Once he became housebound, they came to visit him and he welcomed each one with a smile even when he wasn’t feeling well.
He was a good man, down to Earth good, salt of the Earth, but not perfect, as none of us are. When he loved you, though, he loved you. That’s how I felt as their friend. And I know that the absolute love of his life, his wife, was his number one love for decades. Their bond was strong and secure and they fit like a perfect puzzle with each one’s strength connecting with a weakness so that they both could rise to a higher level.
While his family and friends (and me) will grieve the loss of him on this planet, I know that his legacy will continue on through our memories. And as my friend begins this next chapter of her life, I will be there for her as we have been through the ups and downs over these past years. To know that we are never alone is a bond of friendship that we all deserve and cherish.