Driving past a modest house near our home the other night a single light behind a window caught my attention.
You see, as happens surprisingly often, both the husband and wife who lived in the house passed within a few months of each other.
Their neat home sits quietly now – gone are the grandkids running across the lawn during the holidays. Gone is the wife standing outside surveying the lawn in spring as flowers break the ground. Gone is the husband who each morning rested just outside the garage on a lawn chair reading his newspaper.
Life is full of mystery. No matter how much science and medicine would have us believe otherwise, something else factors into these equations. Some point to statistical indicators on charts to rationalize life expectancy trends. But others point to a broken heart. But the truth probably lays somewhere in the middle.
I think everyone knows one of these couples – the ones so close you can’t imagine one without the other. And then one day, nature takes one home.
My aunt and uncle shared one of the most beautiful romances I ever witnessed. He adored her and she him. Both independent and not afraid to hold their ground, they shared over fifty years together.
One night after a date – them driving to a favorite local restaurant – my aunt came home, and after getting her home ready for the night, she sat down and quietly passed away while relaxing in a favorite chair.
My uncle was a strong man. Raised in the old school, he found himself in the rather unusual role of being the survivor.
In a lesson learned from the sidelines, I watched as he prepared to rejoin the love of his life. Quietly and methodically he began to ‘put his life’ in order by selling his home and possessions and finding a smaller place to live. Next I heard he began volunteering at a local hospital lending a hand wherever needed. He was committed to make a difference while he waited.
Shortly afterwards I found myself with him, somewhat ironically, at a funeral when he pulled out his cell phone.
“Look at this,” he said.
As the photo came up I instantly recognized the face of my aunt, his love.
“Wow,” I said, “She’s beautiful.”
What struck me was what happened next. As life continued to swirl around us, his eyes never came off the screen. It was as if time became frozen for a moment as he drank one extra sip from a glass holding a lifetime of memories.
I swear time paused for both of us while we stood together looking down at the image of a young woman with decades of life ahead of her.
My uncle obviously ached each and every day for the love of his life.
I remember going back for his funeral. I was sad for our collective loss, but inside I knew there was a much bigger picture going on.
The light I noticed the other night served to remind me that there are those who truly give themselves to each other, living a life so intertwined not even death can separate them.
And regardless of what medicine and statistics say, I truly believe you can die from a broken heart.
– 30 –