They were married for about 66 years. My father first met her at a rollerskating rink on route 30 (Lincoln Highway) in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The same route 30 runs near our house in Oswego, Illinois. It seems ironic that they should start and end their life together near the same road.
She was a woman that loved colors, textures and flavors. She would work long hours in the yard planting flowers, picking weeds and keeping everything perfectly trimmed. Her house was always clean, neat and in order. Her favorite places to go were the Chicago Art Institute and the annual flower show downtown at Navy Pier. Eating was always an adventure at our house. She loved to entertain and try out new recipes. Since she had done a great deal of traveling, we were exposed to the cuisines of the world and she taught each of her boys to enjoy cooking too.
She died in her own bed next to her partner. It was mid morning that I noticed she had stopped breathing. I had to wake my dad up to tell him the sad news. He just crawled over and held her for a while. We had said our goodbyes a few nights before. We knew it was coming but it was still a shock to see her go. Near the end, she had forgotten how to swallow. Instead of going into her stomach, food and water would find it's way into her lungs. Thank God for our local hospice program. The VNA (Visiting Nurses Association) sent a nurse to our home that helped me to navigate the last few months of her life. I honestly do not know what I would have done without them. They made her last days as comfortable as possible.
It has been seven months since she left us. Our lives are emptier without her here. My dad and I have looked up several times in expectation to see her sitting in her chair. Sometimes, I hear voices at night. I amble down the hallway to my dad's room to hear him speaking to her in the darkness. The bed next to him is empty as his arm reaches out to touch where she has been. "You are the love of my life" he gently whispers. "You were a better person than I was. I love you and miss you. I can't wait to see you again."
I wish I could say that it was not a burden to take care of my parents. It was. I'm sure it was also a burden to raise three boys. She changed a lot of diapers and endured a lot of anxious moments as she struggled through life. There is nothing wrong with picking up a burden. It was my choice and I will have no regrets. Jesus picked up a burden one day. He could have avoided it and walked away. If you read his story, he had many chances to do so. He picked up a cross and endured the utmost pain. All he had to do was say the word and angels would have delivered him. But he chose to die for you and me so that we might know life and we might know the depth of the love of God. Knowing this has given me the strength to endure.
At the end of the day, it is not about you and it is not about me. It is all about God and his love. He is not here because we invented Him. We are here because he created us.
I'm glad you are home, mom. I'm glad you are whole again and are in the presence of the one who loves you most. See you soon.