As I grow older, life that used to seem so joyous becomes more and more difficult to bear. As a child, the losses in life seem few and far between. But in this stage of my life, while my joys are still mountain peaks, the losses have become steady. Life certainly changes and rearranges. The old, steady features in our lives pass on to heaven and the little nuggets of children we have brought into the world are growing into real, actual people. This cycle is sad, it’s rewarding, it’s amazing, it’s so many things that can’t be described in text. There are moments I sit back and just marvel at the complexity of this life.
This week I sat and watched grief wash over my husbands grandfather, Curt, as he yearned for his wife. We lost grandma Betty last week after a long and painful decline in her health. After the funeral, we all went back to work, to school, to activities, to life…because we have to. But watching this strong man, still lost in that moment of grief, it struck me in a way that will be a part of me forever.
Curt shared with me that he enlisted in the air force as a young man, unsure at the time where that choice would take him. Rather than being thrown into battle, he was asked to sit at a desk and learn to type. He had never typed a day in his life. He had been put in a class of 12 men and as he sat at his typewriter, the fingers of those men around him flew while he struggled to find the next key. He may have felt in over his head but he did not give up. He persevered. He learned. And he was sent on his life journey to places he didn’t expect. He won the coveted position, along with three of his cohorts. They were sent one direction while the eight others were sent another direction . Curt had great success in the air force and climbed rank in his time there. He was on a four year commitment, when three and a half years in, a lifetime ailment of asthma flared. He was able to leave the Air Force at that time and came back home to Perry County.
In Curt’s telling of the story, there was doubt in this moment. He wondered if things would have been different if he had been able to continue his Air Force career. He wondered where he would have ended up. He wondered who he would have been surrounded by on this day had his path been different.
But those doubts vanished when he began to talk about Betty. He said he knew it was meant to be because when he came home, he met Betty. I look at my husband and know Curt’s path was destiny. My own life would be very different had Curt made a different choice all those years ago. Curt had gone out with a friend to a dance in a neighboring county (Curt and Betty’s favorite pastime was dancing throughout their marriage). My favorite line of his story was “I saw her ‘south end’ moving north and that was that.” I admire his honesty and sense of humor.
Curt and Betty were married for 58 years. They had four children together. I know many years were not easy for them. For those of us who have chosen to devote our lives to another person in marriage, we know the road can be difficult at times. But watching Curt today, knowing he is now half of the person he was a week ago when Betty was still by his side, my passion and advocacy for the unity of marriage is alive and well. Curt and Betty were a team. They enjoyed life together, built a legacy together. They were still jumping in the vehicle for adventures long past the time that their children approved. They visited local stores and restaurants up until Betty’s very end, brightening the day of all who encountered them. They made the most of their time together. But most of all, they loved each other. On the good days and the bad. In the hard times and the easier times. Curt is still loving Betty today, and I believe wholeheartedly that she is still loving him as well. There are some bonds that not even death can sever.
My life has changed. I see the older generations passing on into heaven, becoming glorious characters whose stories are retold at each Christmas or birthday gathering to our children. These stories of their character, of their eccentricities that made them so lovable, help them to live on in our hearts and minds. New children are born and we see grandma’s chin or grandpa’s jawline and we remember those that we’ve lost along the way. And me and my husband? Yes, even us, we’re getting older. I see many ways we’ve changed and some ways we’ve stayed the same. All of this helps to remind me of how special our bond is, how much I treasure my partner in this life, how thankful I am that Curt met Betty and had a daughter named Roberta, who met Tim and had a son named Philip, who met me and has meant everything to me in this life. God works in mysterious ways. It is in finding the blessings that we can make it through all of life’s losses. It is how we manage to move forward. I look at the man standing next to me and know without a doubt, I am blessed.