Friday, November 30, 2012


(Image from here)

As more holidays pass, like Thanksgiving last week, I find that it’s easier to look beyond my awareness of whose hand I’m not holding while I muscle through myriad family events.  Last week’s holiday marked my fourth national day of thanks that I quietly pondered things I’m really not very thankful for.  All too easily I can reflect back on our last Thanksgiving together: She was fresh off a tough chemo treatment toting around two automated pumps delivering both a slow drip of extended chemo drugs and meds to dull the pain of her worsening condition.  It seems like a different lifetime ago.

Thanksgiving Day I was privilege to share a poignant and unforgettable moment watching my grandmother lovingly spoon-feed my ailing grandfather who, by all accounts, was aware of little other than the gentle pressing of each portion of food into his mouth.  I empathized all too easily with the deep yet staid emotions my grandmother poorly camouflaged with a look of determination.  In her face I saw the reflection of my own memories.  Her humble service to my grandfather was nothing less than a glimpse of a wonderful love story that has played out for generations but is now crawling dolefully through its final chapter.  In those moments witnessing a most lovingly assisted dignity, I felt sadness and anger yet I couldn’t have been more proud of both my grandfather and my grandmother for they truly embodied what Maggie and I aspired to become.  It was heartbreaking and beautiful.

With our wedding vows Maggie and I declared proudly to the world our shared long-term dreams that ended with hearing aids and rocking chairs.  Instead, fate gave us final directives and morphine.  Our moment in time together hand-in-hand certainly didn’t last nearly as long as we planned.  I’d like to believe that if it weren’t for the damn cancer, that one day long, long in the future we would have ended up just like my grandmother and grandfather sharing poignant, loving moments until our last days.

Actually, now that I think about it, I suppose we did exactly that.  Just like my grandmother and grandfather, Maggie and me, we were good together to the end.  I guess that’s a love story, too.

I suppose I have more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving than I thought.


  1. My dream for the future was the same as yours and I too feel cheated at times. Yet, I hope that people like us (who withstand sufferings that were very different than what we expected) can find a special sense of accomplishment in navigating through the worst of the unexpected.

    When I married a military officer, I thought (based on how he spoke of his career plans) that he would leave the military after a few years. I was very surprised when he made a career of it and stayed in for the long haul. When he readied for retirement, I steeled myself to be the best wife ever during this challenge, I expected upheaval and challenge, but what I got was VERY FAR from what I expected. I didnt expect him to melt down and leave our family...he told me I was a terrible wife & he regretted ever marrying me. He was a mess for a few years. I mourned the fact that I didnt have a chance to be a supportive military wife like I had imagined I would but later I realized that I was even better, I was a steady wife when the situation was 10 times worse than I ever expected. (He later returned to reconcile our marriage and family).

    I so wish that Maggie had lived to feed you pureed peas. I wish that my husband didnt die so suddenly (missing out on the 50s 60s, 70s and 80s that his dad and grandfather before him got to live) . I hurt deeply when I see old couples together - even in their suffering - they likely have no idea how many young people envy them.

    You and I have been called to a different sort of not chosen. One not expected or forseeable...and yet by doing as well as we have / are in it, I think we can bring great dignity to it and in that perhaps show love for the ones we love just as surely as if we were feeding them the pureed peas.

  2. Chris - love this part "Maggie and me, we were good together to the end. I guess that’s a love story, too."

    My husband and I planned to be together until the very end. Not long after he died a good friend said "do you realise the two of you did it - you were in love the whole time and you lived out your vows until death do you part. You loved each other until the end. Some people will never have that".

    I had never looked at it like that. The vows, the love each other until one of us died that people sometimes envision on their marriage day. I wanted to get old together . . . but . . . in a way we did.
    It was a love story.
    Thanks for sharing your thanks Chris.

  3. We, too, expected to be rocking away in old age together. When the holidays roll around, I try not to focus on the last ones together, but it always seems to come to the fore front for me, no matter how hard I try to just be in the present. Like you, we were together "til death do us part", little did we know death was lurking just around the corner.
    It is so very difficult to be thankful for something that has been taken away, but in truth, without that shared love and life, I would have nothing on my plate.

    Your Grandparents are some of the luck ones, my parents were , too. I have been dealt very different cards, and I'm trying to make a play with my hand. Some days I just want to throw them in, others I'm holding out. Thanks, Chris, for sharing your Thanksgiving with us. Although it hurts to see and hear of those elderly loving couples, it gives me strength to know that love prevails.

    1. Cathy,
      When I read your expression "being dealt very different cards and trying to make a play with my hand" it reminded me of something my husband spoke to my heart a few months after he died; it was an expression he frequently used, but I had never thought about it in terms of my pain or grief. In love and with all tenderness he said, "Mary, you gotta play the cards you've been dealt. I know it's hard and i know there's no 'draw' pile for you; but you can do this; you will figure out how to play the cards for a win." I'm not sure he's write, because it seems that I don't have a clue most of the time. I'm just holding onto the cards and rearranging them and taking a guess and playing a discard. No real strategy, but trying. This is so hard.
      We too were a "till death do us part" couple; I too realized after having so many lunches and dinners now with girlfriends that what my Marty and I had in life was so very different than the majority. I felt we had a lot of living to do yet and still think we did, but am realizing that we did a lot of that living in our years together, so in love and so much more than most. Not sure that is comforting though, because it seems to make the pain deeper.
      It has been said, to the height of your joy is the depth of your pain, but I wouldn't trade a minute of my life with him.