Letters from home 1

Dear Kim,

I can’t find the words to tell you how much I miss you. The sound of your voice, the touch of your hand – the simple knowledge of your presence as we pursued our various tasks throughout the day.

I remember your “squirrel maneuver” – the way you’d clear the water from your eyes when swimming or showering. I remember the softness of your kiss, and the sparkle in your eye when you were being playful. The beauty of your face with your head on the pillow. The way you could find things to laugh at when things weren’t as pleasant as they should be. Through 31 years of marriage, those things changed so little.

I’ve been taking care of your plants in your craft room for you. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it – the peace lilies appear to be thriving, and it looks like that little rose plant I gave you that you had such a hard time keeping alive may be coming back. I put your heater on them for a few hours each morning, since that room is so cold all the time, and water them every other day. I took all the dead stuff off of the plants as well. You should see them – I think you’d be proud of me.

When I walk into your craft room, my gaze still settles on the chair where, in life, I’d invariably find you. I dwell on that view, imagining you swiveling around to greet me with a smile. Pieces of the last quilt you were working on – the one I had to help you with so much as the neuropathy took the feeling from your fingers – are still there, though they’ve been moved from where you left them. The girls have been using your craft room for various projects – Jessica, to dry the flowers from your funeral and encase them in resin; Jeanette, to work on embellishments for the clothes worn by members of her pageant team; and Jillian, to paint pictures for her art class at school.

A little while ago, Vanessa commented that I should have a blanket in the car for her drive to school in the morning. I’ve taken the RealTree-patterned fleece and the hunter orange fleece – the ones you were making pillows for the hunters in the family with – and I’ll brave your sewing machines to make them into a reversible blanket. I figured I would sew them together on three sides, and most of the way on the fourth, then pull it inside out and finish the fourth side by hand. I know you’d approve of my “plan” and I think you’ll be proud of the blanket when it’s done.

My thoughts often go back to when we were dating. I knew you were the one when I couldn’t get you off of my mind – a condition that descended on me just a few months after we started dating. Through our marriage, though, in the words of Willie Nelson, you were always on my mind: that ever-presence changed to more of a knowledge that you were there, accessible, a part of who I am. Now, I’m back to the dating scenario, where I can’t get you off of my mind but, unlike those days, I can’t call you, except in my prayers; I can’t come over to where you are until my days are through.

I don’t have any desire to leave here early – God’s gift of life is not one to be squandered – but I know that, when that time does come, we’ll be reunited, so it leaves me hopeful. As hopeful as that young man that couldn’t get you off of his mind; who had his heart set on marrying you.

I love you, Kitten. And I know somewhere, you’re saying “Ditto.”

Je’ t’aime.

Early morning ruminations

I awoke earlier than my alarm, and didn’t want to get up – but didn’t feel like going back to sleep, either. So I just lay in bed with early morning thoughts.

Unlike most couples, though I had the expectation that Kim would outlive me (she always believed she’d go first), we put similar whole-life life insurance policies on each of us such that the house, our most-major monthly payment, would be paid off on the expectation that the survivor’s income would be half of what was coming in. The only manner in which we structured things in case we followed statistical norms is that we had MUCH higher levels of term life insurance on me than on her. (No worries: since Kim left the workforce several years ago, I experienced that halving of our income long ago. We had some tight months due to the single income, but we still lived comfortably enough, so I have few concerns there.)

With all that said, what we couldn’t prepare for is the emotional impact losing your spouse has on the survivor. Knowing Kim’s emotional structure, and as harsh as this sounds: I’m actually glad she went first. If losing me impacted her anywhere near how losing her has impacted me, I think losing me would have destroyed her, exacerbating the issues that triggered her alcoholism in the first place.

As hard as it is sometimes to accept and acknowledge, it is clear that God does have a plan, and that what He allows to occur in our lives is never more than we can handle. I think His plan here, though I do not claim to know His mind, was to strengthen Kim’s and my marriage, and to strengthen the bond between each within our family, and, perhaps, provide final relief for Kim from not just her cancer pain, but from all of the other pains she suffered, including alcoholism. And every situation He inserts us into affords us the opportunity to grow and learn – both in faith and in life.