Just before retirement, they built their dream home for two. Tucked at the end of the lane and next to a small lake, this became a peaceful refuge.
She’ll be the first to tell you that age 62 was the launching pad for twenty of the most wonderful years of her life. They traveled to places most only wish to see, Hong Kong, Australia, Hawaii, Switzerland, Germany and Alaska to name a few. And oh, the trinkets and treasures they’d find along the way!
Four years ago the magic abruptly ended. He got sick and within 3 weeks departed for heaven. She didn’t expect it. It was too sudden. For 63 years they shared everything! She had always assumed she would go first because after all, she was the one with the ailments. He was the rock.
She vacillated between grasping love-laced thoughts of the past to clutching her heart with sadness and let’s be honest, irritation that he could drop from her life. What was he thinking? Leaving her here alone! That wasn’t the plan!
Two years ago in her living room, I sipped on tea from a delicate cup she picked up in England. She told me of their travels. Her eyes lit up when she mentioned how he would randomly bring her fresh flowers from the yard. He was her prince charming.
And her closet was evidence that she was his princess. Ruffled gowns, intricate lace, decorative boots with hats to match were gifts he brought to adorn his bride. They were partners, and not just as husband and wife but on the dance floor too. In their matching outfits they would glide from country to country.
But now it was time to get real about her circumstances. Her crippled body couldn’t negotiate the stairs, or the lawn, or the maintenance. Yet the thought of moving from their cottage was unbearable. Every ledge held a token, every corner a trinket. How could she part with anything? No one understood how they hand-picked each treasure!
With no children and no close family, she asked for my help.
For many, many months each Wednesday afternoon we had our routine. I picked her up at the assisted living home and escorted her to her cottage. The trek into the house and up the stairs was intense. We began in their bedroom. I helped her get comfortable in a chair then I started on the left and each week moved slowing around the room.
One by one, I picked up every item in her home and held it in my hands and asked, “Tell me the story about this one.” Her face glowed remembering the exact moment this treasure became part of their home. After the story I asked, “Do you want this to come to your new place, or go to a new home?”
At first she wanted it all. How could I ask such a question?! But being able to share the stories associated with each item somehow made it more tolerable to let it go. It was as if she was honoring it one more time.
Most Wednesdays we spent several hours getting through 3 or 4 feet. It was an emotional workout yet a cleansing one.
After making our way through each room, the only one that remained was the storage room. Carefully labeled produce boxes, neatly stacked on shelves, held pictures, candles and tax records. Then I pulled one from the very top shelf and put it on her lap. It didn’t have a label. She pulled the lid back and in disbelief, sunk into her chair. A tear streamed down her cheek, then more followed. She lifted a blue ceramic bootie planter from the box, along with other baby items. Her wet eyes met mine as she whispered, "Dale." He was their only child who died at 5 months.
That afternoon I simply held her. On our way home we made a familiar stop at Sonic for an old-fashioned root beer float.
The lessons learned from these priceless Wednesday afternoons are too numerous to count, but here are 3 I hope I never forget:
Embrace each moment with those I love.
Accumulate treasures in my heart, not in my home.
Share my journey and my trinkets with others.
May God pour through you today.
Verses I’m pondering today:
“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” 1 Timothy 5:3 NIV"
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19 NIV
He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Luke 10:27 NIV