Number Your Days And Love your Spouse Like There is No Tomorrow

Life was pretty great after thirty years of marriage. We had married young and raised each other. Pete was 49 years old and I was 48. It had been a blessed, loving, happy marriage, raising three children and having two grandchildren already. It took work and compromise, and being in the company of each other came so naturally. There was no strain, no feeling the need to entertain, just living and loving, sometimes struggling with finances or problems, but always coming together with support for each other.

The last two of our three children had gotten married that summer. They had their spouses and their lives now. Pete had said, “Well, we’ve gone full circle, Baby. It’s back to you and me, right where we started. We’re not gonna’ work so hard. We’re gonna’ travel. We’ll ride Amtrak out to Los Angeles to the Gene Autry Museum and do a little sightseeing on the way. Yep, We’ve gone full circle, back to you and me”.

That was the beginning of October. By February 13, we had gone full circle back to only me, myself. Pete was dead, gone, deceased from this earth.  I had loved him as a part of my own soul. He was a loving, hard-working husband who treated me and the kids with love and respect. He was always doing “random acts of kindness”. He was my friend, my love, my confidante, my spiritual bosom buddy. How could I live without him? How could the sun even rise without him here? How could the world go on when the center of the whole universe was gone? My heart was racing. It was hard to breathe. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. I sobbed until all the muscles in my body ached. I lay down across the bed and went to sleep.

The next morning I woke in a panic. I recalled the dream I had just awakened from. It seemed so real. I wondered where Pete was. He hardly ever got up before me. Maybe he was in the kitchen making coffee or outside piddling around.  Then it hit me that he was gone. It wasn’t a dream. He was dead, gone, his soul departed, passed on – all of the euphemistic ways there is to say it, but none hurt any less. I couldn’t get air in my lungs. I gasped for oxygen.

I jumped up from the bed, threw back the covers and ran to Pete’s closet. There were his clothes, hanging there neatly. Khaki pants, jeans, dress pants, plaid shirts, white shirts, his coveralls – after all plumbers need coveralls when they have to work outside and in unfinished houses and cold buildings. He had worked hard all his life. He had to drop out of school because of poverty; he had hauled pulpwood for a while, then luckily got a job as a helper with the only plumber in his little small hometown in South Alabama.

Then I remembered that he lay alone in a casket, buried under the cold dead ground at the cemetery. He didn’t need coveralls there. I wanted to be with him. I wanted to die instead of him. I implored God how He could have taken Pete and left me to cope without him. It wasn’t right. I screamed. I yelled. I beat the walls. I took a chair and threw it into his closet, knocking half his clothes off the racks. Ashamed of myself, I went over and moved the chair. I gently, tenderly picked up the fallen strewn clothes and hung them back up. As I placed the hangers on the rods, my eyes caught a glimmer of red cellophane paper. What was that, I wondered?

I reached up on the shelf above the hangers and pulled down a heart-shaped box covered with red cellophane. I knew what it was and my heart burst with grief and sorrow. It was Pete’s box of candy for me and I remembered that this was past Valentine’s Day, February 17. He had bought this for me and was giving it to me from the grave. There was a card attached that said “To My Honey”, with a pictures of some bees inside. In his crude handwriting, which was never beautiful to anyone except me, he had written, “To my dear wife, I love you Baby. Love, Pete”.

It was at that moment that I went down on my knees with my face to the floor and sobbed until I was weak. But as I sobbed, it was like a fog in my mind had moved out and I could think clearly for the first time since I saw him take his last breath. I knew there was hope that I would see him again. I knew I had to live a life so that I would be with him where he was. The heart-shaped box reminded me that there was someone else who loved me even more than Pete did and he had sacrificed Himself for me so that I could see Pete again. He had given me hope and victory over death.

It’s been hard to live without Pete, because I had been married to him two-thirds of my life.  He left this earth twelve years ago on February 11, but he still lives in the face of our children. His generosity lives in the mission of my son who recently went into the ministry. He lives in the loving arms of my grandchildren who cling to me and make me feel so needed. He lives in the face of the students I teach, because children naturally bonded to him and he loved them dearly. He lives in every sun that rises and every moon that sets, and one day when God is ready for me, when my work on earth is done, I’ll be with Pete again, and with my Father in Heaven.

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