Months To Years Spring 2018 Months To Years Spring 2018 - Page 57

“What a wonderful anniversary gift,” she said, the light in What she had asked of me spoke volumes about the her bright hazel eyes a reward beyond measure. unselfish person she had been for all of her too-short life of Three years later, we were thrilled to retire on January 31, 2003. On March 14, Judi was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Twelve months later, she was in a hospital’s palliative care section. (By good fortune not yet in a hospice.) “Please promise me,” she said one day from her hospital bed. “That after I’m gone you’ll keep living a healthy life- style, like we’ve been doing. Okay?” 56 years. By now, the end was approaching. She would visit for a few minutes with our children and grandchildren and close friends, and then drift off to sleep. One day while she slept I was tidying her room. My back was turned. “I love you, honey,” I heard her say. The sound of her faint voice startled and thrilled me. I “Sure, honey,” I replied. “I promise.” turned. “I need you to promise me something else,” Judi said. “I really need you to make that promise for me,” she said, “Of course, what is it?” I asked. “Don’t say no,” she cautioned, her voice weak but deter- mined. “Yes, of course,” I replied. “I don’t want to leave you knowing that you’ll be alone. So promise me you’ll find someone else to spend the rest of your life with.” I remember choking back my emotions, turning away so her failing energy barely able to make her now-raspy voice audible. “Please, honey,” she said, her eyes pleading. “Please... do it for me.” My resistance crumbled. Although unable to force my mind to consider a life without Judi, I replied: “Okay, I promise.” “Thank you,” she said. “I love you.” Judi couldn’t see my glistening eyes. I didn’t know it then, Judi died three days later, minutes after squeezing my but these were the best gifts she could give me: permission hand weakly and telling me for the last time: “I love you.” to move on, to be happy, to live well. In that moment, I didn’t realize how much I would need those. “Did you hear me?” Judi said to my back. “Yes, honey, I did. Can we talk about this later?” I man- aged, turning, barely able to speak. A friend of Judi’s led her service. Eva sought to help our young grandchildren understand by sharing this story:  Once upon a time, a happy group of tiny bugs were playing “No,” she said weakly but firmly. “I need you to promise on the bottom of a lily pond. One me. I can’t leave you thinking you’ll be alone.” by one, the bugs climbed up a lily “I’m sorry, but I can’t,” I replied, certain I’d be unable to keep that promise. Judi looked up, her eyes sad and weary, and then she drifted off to sleep. I sat, struggling unsuccessfully to hold back tears, looking at the woman I loved more than life itself. stem and disappeared. Those left behind wondered what had hap- pened to their friends. Then they agreed the next bug to venture beyond the surface of the pond would return and tell the others what they’d experienced.    57