Her last words as his wife here on earth.
Her last “See you later.”
My grandfather passed away a week ago yesterday. His illness…acute leukemia…was so brief and shattering for our family. In one month, just one, he went from initial doctors’ appointments, tests, and the unknown to a diagnosis we’d never expected and the doorstep of Heaven. We were shattered. Especially heartbroken was my grandmother.
The love of his life for 65 years tomorrow, loved and depended upon him desperately. The days spent at the funeral home must have been grueling for her. How I wish I could have somehow rewound time for her, taking her back to her kitchen table where we’d play Rummy 500 for hours and my grandfather would sneak a little love tap in as he passed her on the way to the coffee pot. I can still hear her words…“Stop that!” He’d have a sly grin on his worn face and she’d roll her eyes and laugh.
They loved each other.
I happened to be standing at the casket the morning of his funeral service when my grandmother spoke her last words to his physical body. I wasn’t expecting it, because, according to the funeral director, we were expected to leave and offer her a chance to be alone with him one last time. Although, I doubt she could have stood on her own had we left her. My father held her. I watched her knees buckle slightly as she approached my grandfather’s side. I followed and stood at the foot of “his bed”, as we had called his casket when trying to explain what was happening to our oldest daughters.
I’ll never forget my grandmother’s last words to her beloved.
I love you.
You took good care of me.
You were my best friend.
You were the best husband, father, brother.
I’m going to miss you.
You’re not suffering anymore.
I love you.
I’ll see you later.
And she walked away from him. I was left motionless – struck by the monumental life moment that I had just taken in. Things like that hit you so hard in the heart.
Those simple words may seem just that, simple. But when you hear them trickle in a lonely whisper from the brokenhearted lips of one human who has lost her one and only…they become the deepest words this side of eternity. Tears welled up in my eyes in agony for her aching soul.
Watching my grandmother go through one of the hardest moments in her life and hearing her last good-bye brought so much clarity. I thought of my husband. We are approaching our 8th anniversary. Eight. We’re still newbies when our union is stacked up against theirs. There is still so much we have yet to learn. As the weight of this new urgency to love him well fell heavy on my heart, I remember saying to him something along the lines of,
We need to enjoy each other while we are still young. I don’t want to be in her shoes one day and look back on our lives full of regret.
When that day comes when one of us may have to say good-bye to the other…I want those same kind of words to be able to pass between us, completely free of regrets.
You loaded the dishwasher wrong…doesn’t matter. I love you.
You drove like a maniac…doesn’t matter. I love you.
You took a nap instead of helping around the house…doesn’t matter. I love you.
You left your dirty socks on the floor…doesn’t matter. I love you.
You woke up on the wrong side of the bed…doesn’t matter. I love you.
You forgot what I needed at the grocery store…doesn’t matter. I love you.
You burnt dinner…doesn’t matter. I love you.
You made plans without checking with me first…doesn’t matter. I love you.
You see, when that day comes, none of the trivial things will matter anymore. All that will remain will be the love shared. Was I your best friend? Did I selflessly care for you? Did I love you well?
That is what will matter.
If I have to recall her words every day for the next sixty years just to be the wife I need to be…to be the mother I need to be…to be the daughter and sister I need to be…to be the friend I need to be… I will.
Happy Anniversary, Gram and Pap. In marriage, companionship, friendship…thank you for always being an example for us to follow.