On December 22 of last year I lost my partner of 58 years to cancer. It was Stage Four non-small cell Lung Cancer and she was gone within a month of her diagnosis which gave us little time to come to grips with what was about to happen to our nearly 60 year relationship.
After a courtship of 10 months with almost daily personal contact, Joan and I were married and within 3 years had our two children. We shared everything concerning the boys and my employment allowed me to spend as much time with the family as needed.
During the last 25 years of my 40 year position at McGraw-Hill Inc, I worked from home and Joan and I were constant companions. We had an Antique Shop for 5 years and were with each other seeking and selling antiques. After we closed the shop, we continued our love of collecting and spent nearly every week-end at flea markets, yard sales and antique shops.
I retired 18 years ago and we have been at each others side nearly every day during those 18 years. This is all being said so that you will know, it was not jut a wife of 58 years that suddenly passed on, it was a real part of my life that was taken away last December 22nd.
Even now, I still find myself looking at her favorite chair, asking her opinion of something on TV, and I still occasionally awaken from a nap and swear she is sitting there next to me.
Joan chose to donate her body to science and we had no funeral so be it helpful or hurtful, we bypassed that week of mourning. We had a beautiful memorial service at St Stephen with a church full of our family and friends and a reception after the service that gave us all a chance to cry a little. If anything, Joan’s death has strengthened my belief that there is a life after, and I truly do believe that she is still with me in some way.
It is my good fortune to have two sons who I can call day or night and they are married to wonderful women who I love dearly and who care for me like their father.
One thing I had to learn from this tragedy, people are not mind readers, if you need help and you have someone to ask…ask them. I have a dozen nieces and nephews who are just a phone call away. I also have Joan’s youngest sister who lives just a building away and is like the sister I never had. She calls every day to see if the “Old Man and his Scooter” are still upright.
I still struggle with the disposition of personal items that belonged to Joan. She had always said that her clothes were to be given to Goodwill and most of them quickly were donated. The longer I waited, the harder it was to do it. There are still a few items in the closet and I cannot get myself to pack them yet. Her personal jewelry and wedding rings are in a box in my closet and I have no idea what I am going to do with them.
I say all of this in the event that any of you are in this same situation. Maybe it’s just normal, I really don’t know but like in most things, time, I am sure will give me an answer.
Christmas can never be the same, and I would never attempt to make it so. It was her favorite time of the year and she started early and decorated the house from stem to stern. I am sure she will be with us when we gather on Christmas Eve to exchange presents at our apartment. She always insisted that the families should have their own private times on Christmas morning.
I am sure the first year of all the firsts without Joan will be the hardest. Joan was a happy person and through all of her 81 years, 58 of which she was my bride , she celebrated every occasion that called for a celebration. No one’s birthday was ever forgotten and no one’s passing was every ignored. It is not just her family that was touched by her passing but the world is a lesser place because Joan is not a part of it.
With all that being said, there is still much reason to rejoice. I am happy for the nearly 60 years that I got to share life with a person that I not only loved dearly but who was my friend.
I am happy that we shared in giving life to our two sons who have grown into men to be proud of and their families who loved her. Her two daughters-in-law that she loved like her own children were also her pride and joy and she boasted to anyone who would listen of our two grandson’s accomplishments.
So here we are, December 22nd 2011 – there is sorrow because Joan is not here to celebrate the season with us but there is joy in our hearts because she will be here in spirit and her memory will never die.
We wish, for all of you who may be grieving and dealing with a loss this holiday season, that you will find happiness and joy in the memory of your loved one. Should you need assistance in dealing with your loss, please contact a grief counseling hotline such as this one 1-800-445-4808.
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