Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Unable are the loved to die.  For love is immortality.  ~Emily Dickinson

Eleven years ago I lost the man I thought I was destined to be with for the rest of my life. As it turned out, I was wrong. But, I was the woman he was destined to be with for the remainder of his life. I took very good care of him in both our marriage and throughout his sickness. It is difficult for me to acknowledge accomplishments, but in the case of my husband, Mark, when he left his earthly body, there were no unspoken words, guilt or regrets on my part. What remained was an intense sense of gratitude for experiencing that kind of love. I can’t honestly say the same thing for any of my other losses. A clear conscience of being the best I could be for him and with him. Yes, after his death there were certainly years of the kind of grief that twists your heart so tightly you fear you won’t be able to breathe (and, often hope you don’t), but those feelings arose from missing one so desperately, for all the right reasons. His love and belief in me were gifts I’d never had before, and therefore, didn’t have a clue as to the power that kind of love brings along with it. Our walk together taught me so much more than I can ever communicate in this post. After his death, cards and letters of comfort poured in and spoke of the palpability of our “soul-mate” connection, how our talents, humor and personalities complimented one another. Since his death, through years of reflection and experiences, I have come to know the term “soul-mate in a different light than “the one and only” destined to forever love.... That other half that melds into us to create the best “us” we can be. I don’t think that is a true definition of soulmate. But, that is really good fodder for future posts and not what I am thinking about today.

These recent thoughts of my husband are triggered by the pending death of my father-in-law. Over these last days, silently witnessing him struggle to simply breathe or move, my mind spins back to this younger version of him, eleven years ago, fighting for his life as well. The same face, more spotted with time, hair slicked back, painted with grey now, lanky frame practically too long for the hospital bed, evokes many emotions I thought were buried as deeply as my beloved. The difference, this time, is I can envision my husband, his spirit standing on the opposite side of the bed, stroking his dad’s hair in unison with his living brothers and sisters, comforting his father silently, but right along with them. Sending reassuring vibrations to them; letting them know, when Dad leaves his earthly body, he will embrace him tightly, gently take his hand, and walk with him towards the light. My precious middle grand-daughter, Sydney, said to her daddy last night as he was preparing them for grandpa’s eventual journey to heaven, “Daddy, Mark and he will be laughing together.” I can truly hear that. The boisterous, HA laugh of my husband as Tom says to him, “Hey, son... did you hear the one about the.....” What I am most struck by now, is the enormity of the love in the ICU unit of the hospital as a dedicated daughter, wipes her father’s sweaty forehead with a cool cloth. Observing in awe as my big, gruff teddy-bear like brother in law, so tenderly touches his dad. But, most of all, the unspeakable beauty of a wife of almost 60 years, sitting in her wheelchair, by his bedside, not fully recovered from her own recent surgery, stroking his hand as she gently tucks his rosary into its palm. Although he has been unable to converse much, I saw this gentle giant of a man, wink at his beloved sweetheart. My father-in-law has lived a very long fruitful life filled with happy times as well as unspeakable tragedies; yet always shared with friends and family, rejoicing, comforting, protecting. His loss as the Patriarch of this large Irish Catholic clan, is profound, but his love and our love for him remains forever an undeniable imprint on all of our hearts.

Just as I completed this blog, I received a call from my brother-in-law, John. Tom Mahoney has passed onto his new life of joy, reuniting with many of his family and friends. Somehow, I know he will always be a presence at those weddings, ordinations, christenings, graduations, and St. Patrick’s day celebrations. This man of colossal integrity, loved his family so. And, closely following that, he loved a great party!