Every one is talking about how inspiring he
is was. His staff from the administration suite at the VA said they still cry in the office daily. No one sits in his chair. The acting director works from a different office. His sisters speak of how funny he was, that he knew how to make people’s hearts lighter. He’s still with us, they say. I talk about how faithful he was to her, how he stood by her always.
But let’s not forget her.
Her. She stood by him for 39 years. She stayed with him joyfully for richer for poorer. She supported him as he taught high school, then made a sudden switch and went active duty Army. She has encouraged him as he retired and started working with the VA to “serve those with whom he served.” Two and a half years ago, when his heart needed help, she held him up. She held us all up. She spoke words of strength, that he would be ok. She infused courage into us all. And she was right. God gave us a little more time with him.
Then he got sick. And sicker. And then she called us that quiet October evening. And when I talked to her, I could hear the fear in her voice. I could nearly touch the worry. And I flew home.
I never saw her waver.
She stayed by him for 53 days. For 53 days, she never lost hope. When we siblings would whisper dark worries on the phone or in consult or waiting rooms, she refused to hear it. Every night for 53 nights, she slept next to his bed. A few nights, she slept with her head on his hand, never letting go. She fought his fights, demanding the very best care for him. When we weren’t sure one course of treatment was the right path, she would ask the hard questions.
He fought so hard for his family. For over 35 years, he provided and sustained, he fought and he prayed. And when he couldn’t, she took over his fight. She comforted and sustained her children despite their fears. She fought for his best care, his comfort, his best outcome. She prayed so hard, begged so hard. She never lost hope.
She refused to lose hope that he would come home and everything would be ok. Until that Friday. And the phone rang again. I got that call I’ve dreaded my whole life.
It’s time to come home, Adrienne.
She was so selfless. She knew. She made a call I’m not sure I could have ever made and she made it bravely and rightly. I am in awe at the strength and selflessness it took to make a decision no wife should have to make. I went as fast as I could to her side to support her, but it was she who supported us. She was our rock during those hellish hours on December 8th.
In the moments that Dad could not give us strength and faith, Mom did. She was brave and steadfast. She exuded faithfulness to our father and bravery in the right path. She cried in vulnerability and held our hands in love. In those last moments, their strong love stood the ultimate test. She let him go because that was the best thing for him. Even if it was the hardest thing for her.
Oh that I could love like her.
And now I worry about her. I pray hard for her. I know our father, her husband, sits at the feet of Christ praying for us all. But most especially he intercedes for his strong, faithful, loving bride.
Mom, if you see this, know that you are loved. I am inspired by the strength and faithfulness that you have shown to my father and our family in the last three months. You are strong and selfless, you are unwavering and faithful. Thank you for loving my dad the way you did–the way that you still do.
Mom, he is not gone. Just gone from our sight. He doesn’t love you as much as he did in life–he loves you even more. His already incredible love for you is perfected by eternal life. And you still love him, still honor him. You still cherish him. And you still are so faithful to him.
Mom, you have inspired me to a higher level of love and faithfulness. I hope that I could be as strong and selfless as you. Thank you for giving me an example of selfless spousal love. Thank you for always putting Dad first, even to the last. Thank you for never losing hope, even when the vision of that hope changed.
Mom, I love you now more than I ever did. And you are never alone. In your openness to life, you surrounded yourself with six people who love you beyond comprehension. And we will never let you be alone. We have stepped into Dad’s stead and will sustain you and hold you always. And, bigger than us, God loves you beyond any of our understandings.
Mom, thank you for loving Dad the way you did. The way you do. I am so darn proud of you. Know that.