Wednesday, April 7, 2010

the box

his ashes were scattered under the old oak tree he loved so much. he had died first. ironically, she had always been the fragile one, the one with all the health problems. but his struggle against alzheimer’s had taken him before her.

they met during oktoberfest. they married and he went off to the war. they had shared 56 years together. and together they faced the korean war, lived in ten houses, worked through her 30+ surgical procedures, had three children, gained and then lost a small fortune, celebrated six grandchildren and five great grandchildren. they faced his illness with their usual resolve – they would see this through together. and they did. no matter what life brought them, or took away from them, it was the two of them, and their family, that they treasured the most. fidelity, loyalty, and commitment were the foundations of their marriage.

when the small but solemn family gathering ended, she wanted to keep the container that had held the cylinder with his ashes. one last keepsake of a life that had meant everything to her.

in the two years after his death, her health had deteriorated rapidly. no longer needing to be strong for him, she relinquished the fight, and allowed her bones to fail at last. she had been bedridden for most of that time, and in constant pain. she remained ever cheerful, and grateful for the life they had lived together. surrounded by her children and her grandchildren, she relished the warmth of the family that had started as they used to say “with just the two of us”.

on our last visit to the nursing home, she talked about the pain, and its constant torment. she was done. and she was tired. the three of us held hands and we prayed “Lord, if she’s ready, please have mercy and let her go”. she nodded her head in silent agreement, and as always kissed us goodbye with a smile. again she repeated, how thankful she was for their family. there were so many in the nursing home who had no one, yet the two of them had been so rich. they had a loving and caring family, and that meant so much.

just a few days later, we got the call that she had followed him into eternity. it had been quick. one minute she had asked the nurse for something, and the next she was gone. just like that.

we made our way to the nursing home and had our moment. later that day, as we began to gather her things, we found it – the box. she had taped pictures on it: a picture of him, another of the two of them with all of their grandchildren.

sensing that this was something sacred, the container was opened very tenderly. in it she had kept her most prized possessions: cards she had received when he had died, pictures of the family . . . and his letters. years of love letters he had written to her. she had kept them all. “to my sweet valentine”. “to my loving wife” “to my only girl in the world”. each letter recounting his love for her, his devotion, and his continued commitment to weather every storm at her side. she had kept those sweet memories as her last link to him.

next week we will scatter her ashes, just as she had hoped, under that same oak tree. and the family that they began almost 60 years ago will be gathered together to pay tribute, to support each other, to bring comfort to each other with our stories and our memories.

theirs was a legacy and a lifetime of constancy, forged through years of “ups and downs, tears and laughter, smiles and frowns”, as he had described their life together, for better or worse, for richer or poorer. thanks mom and dad, for honoring your vows and for the family you built out of your love for each other. you have left us an inheritance much more precious than money.

there’s a bench that sits under that oak tree. the perfect place to remember, and to be thankful.


MOMMY-MOMO said...

I love this Vickey! I dont even know what to say? Reading this truely hit home that she's gone :(

zaiahbird said...

I'm reading your blog at work with tears streaming down my face. I'm so sorry for your loss but love their story.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a warm and loving accounting of your In-Laws, Gunny's Parents! I love you two and I share your pain!

Jessica Connolly said...

What a beautiful account of their life together! Their love and commitment very inspiring! Im so sorry for your loss.

Sue said...

Dear Vickey and Gunther, Wow what a writing..... touched my heart. Thanks for your words. Sue