Saturday, January 13, 2024

The Second Wife

She told him as he lay in his hospice bed: "I had many talks with your wife and prayed with her and for her as I stayed with her. You can look forward to seeing her in heaven and being with her."
She was his second wife. Married for five years although he had been asking her for close to fifteen. She held off at first because of the memory of his first wife, and because he did not share her Christian faith. Later she relented because she was providing so much care and companionship, it only seemed natural to marry and combine households.
Together they came to our house and gave us the news of their marriage. It was a surprise but also not a surprise. He didn't plan to go to church with her but to share a life, finally truly together.
And then he needed more care and treatments and church was streamed online anyway.
She called yesterday and we talked for a long time, catching up since we live so far apart now. With laughter over the funny parts of life and quieter tones for the harder parts of life, she related what I had missed since we had last spoken. 
One of the stories she told was of how they watched her church service together online and of a recent baptism service where a teenage girl gave her testimony of faith as part of her baptism. This was followed by the pastor explaining the meaning of baptism where the message of the gospel was laid out "in a way you couldn't miss" she said. Not wanting to badger him, she let a couple of days go by before she spoke of that sermon. "Have you decided if you believe?" she asked him. "Yes, I do." was the reply.

Several weeks later, the abrupt diagnosis by doctors of multiple masses throughout his body made the decision to cease all further treatments, one they all agreed on. The pastor was asked to come for a visit and share in the aftermath of this decision. Her very reserved husband joined in the conversation and the hilarity of her coffee-making mishaps attempting to show hospitality. Two days later, a bed at the hospice was made available. Within forty-eight hours, she was again by his bedside as the evening light faded and his breathing grew more difficult. 
She told me she put her hand on his arm and told him, "It's okay, you can go." He took one more breath and that was all. "He was used to being in the military and told what to do, I figured he just needed to be told it was okay to go home to heaven. I have heard of other people doing the same."
She's planning his funeral at her or now, their church with their pastor, the same who had married them only a brief time before. The order of service and hymn choices are what she has planned for her own funeral she told me.

He was her only husband, marrying for the first time in her mid-70's. She became our neighbor, friend and childcare giver when we bought our first house in the same housing complex. The house we bought when our oldest was only three, was the same house she walked down the path to from her house to stay with his sick wife while he worked on renovation projects at her house. Standing on the front porch of one house, you could easily see to the front porch of the other house as the houses were built in an enclosed U-shape. After his wife passed, he sold to a single dad who traveled often and didn't stay there long. 

By the time we bought the house, their relationship was two senior citizen companions spending time together in cross-border shopping trips and errand-running. But his early-rising routines, off-putting meal schedule, dissimilar financial routines and lack of church attendance ways made sure she kept her own house and her marital status distinct from his. But a few years later, she announced she was selling her house and moving a few miles away to where he lived in a 55+ community. Her house was almost finished being built and with the renovations he had done over the years, she could fetch a good price for her older home. They now could walk back and forth to each other's houses again and share coffee times and feed the chipmunks and squirrels from both of their backyards. But still they did not marry until he became so sick and she had no reason to not shower him with her fulltime care and love.

With so much to absorb, I could only manage to tell her how sorry we were, but how glad we were that she could spend this time with him bringing love and comfort in his final days. I told her how kindhearted she is and how much care she has shown to so many around her and that we would be praying for her as they have his memorial service and finally that we loved her.

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