As I think about my father’s recent death, my mind rehearses the events that led up to that final day. The deep sadness, the helplessness we all felt as my father withered away in his bed at home, not eating, hardly drinking, sleeping more and more, in and out of consciousness. But, even as I recall the pain of that time, my heart turns to my mother, and my witnessing her grief.
My father was a brilliant, wonderful, well-loved man who helped so many people throughout his life, including his children, Michael, Helen and Barbara, and his grandchildren Glenn, Clay and Kate. He and my mother were so amazingly connected that most everyone who knew them still talk about the marvelous, rare interdependence and abiding love that they shared. My father was in the spotlight, charismatic, teaching and preaching, counseling and assisting people through the remarkable transitions this life has to offer. And, my mother was right there beside him, holding him up.
My mother stood lovingly by his side, sat amongst his parishioners, and supported my father, handling his correspondence, his schedule, and his life especially as they retired and aged. No, theirs wasn’t a perfect marriage but it was one of the few that I have ever known intimately, that worked so well.
Imagine this couple who knew each other for 78 years and married 69 of those many years. They lived through two wars with my father in danger as a Marine pilot. They had three babies and then my father got the call to seminary. My mother’s love was steadfast and sure, consistent and deep. My father blossomed vibrantly in her love and she glowed quietly and adoringly in his. As I grew older, became middle aged, I watched closely as my mother took care of my father so well. Imagine then, my mother’s losing this husband of hers.
When I think about my mother, I am filled with grief and she is the one still living, the one who outlived my father. At almost 90 years of age, she handles herself so beautifully on the outside, but she grieves raw, primitive emotions deep down, filling her with sadness, anger and loss. She remains realistic and understanding about my daddy’s dying days and how he could live no longer given his physical health. My father, she knows, is in a better place, and she is still here, very much alive and continuing to live as fully as possible.
This has been the hardest loss I have ever witnessed. For her. For the rest of us, surely we miss my father very much. We are so sad, but we also know he lived a long and wonderful life, and it was time for him to leave this earthly realm. But, no one can imagine how my mother feels. Not even me.