I get all googly-eyed over love stories—deep, passionate, and sacrificial love stories. Like the kind where an elderly couple dies hours or days apart because they cannot bear being separated from one another. I often tell my husband I want our kids and grandchildren to want to share our love story long after we are gone.
I recently heard a captivating story of real-life romance while attending a holiday event with my family. An elderly woman who was about to head home stopped and began to chat.
Our conversation started with the usual small talk: the weather, the Christmas season, where I was from. I’m not sure how it even began, but she started spilling out the story of her daughter-in-law who had recently died after a difficult, long-term battle with cancer.
The suffering and sadness over losing this beloved family member was profound, but it wasn’t the main part of the elderly woman’s story. She told us about her son and his love for his wife. He acted more like it was a privilege than a burden to be his wife’s faithful caretaker, never once complaining.
The morning everyone knew would be her last, her husband slipped into bed with his wife and held her close the entire day until she died. The elderly woman said her daughter-in-law wasn’t always entirely lucid at that point in her illness. But she knew it was her husband, the woman told us, because she rested her head on his shoulder.
My eyes were wet with tears by the end of the story. Their marriage fulfilled their promise to each other on their wedding day: ’til death do us part. Even though she is no longer living, she is still with us. The love of her marriage lives on and is remembered—even by people she never met.
Since hearing this woman’s story, I’ve often thought of the grieving husband, wondering how he’s holding up. I can’t imagine the void he’s feeling, nor the relief from knowing his beloved is no longer in pain. Silently I thank him for loving so well, so fully. If someday I’m faced with the same heartache of watching my beloved die, I hope I’ll be as loving and brave as he was.
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