It was so nice to see Julia. I hadn’t seen her since Glory and I joined the Fullertons in St. Augustine, Florida, last summer. At that time, Bill was still quite healthy, though Alzheimer’s was slowly stealing away his vigor. He was still able to live at home with Julia, Mary Ann and Scott. This spring, he had become feeble enough that the tough decision had to made. Julia had the final decision on which nursing home would care for Bill. He only lived there a short time.
Bill and Julia had shared in earlier discussions as most couples eventually do … talking about those end-of-life details that one ponders when life slows or drastically changes …. when we finally realize that nobody is immortal. Julia told me that each of them just wanted to be “put into the ground.”
But, truly, the service held at death
is for the living, not the dead.
Arrangements were made for a memorial service as Bill was known far and wide. They spent many years in Cary, North Carolina and Crystal River, Florida. His career was spent laboring for good in our nation’s capital through several different health care related offices. He and Julia have several children and many grandchildren. There were many living that needed to celebrate his life.
So, Mary Ann got to work gathering photographs for a slide show.
She had a few photos enlarged for viewing.
Oh, that I had been there.
Oh, that I had been there.
Surely, I would have cried.
That some *snap* of my camera
was used to soothe souls in mourning
It would have been too much for me.
I know it for sure.
This past Wednesday noon until Sunday morn, I again traveled to Florida and got to spend some treasured time with Mary Ann. Why God chose to bless me with such a sweet, generous and wise friend, I’ll never understand.
But, I barely saw Julia. Her holed up in her room – a Mother-in-law suite – in Mary Ann and Scott’s spacious, open home. Sunday before catching my flight out of town, I got to sit down and chat with Julia on the couch for a bit. She is grieving. Wednesday was the worst, she said. She teared up while we spoke. She admitted she cries … even at the mention of his name. She didn’t tell me … but I could see it; she sobs …. she wails … howls with emptiness …. a quiet outpouring that only she can truly hear. And why not? They spent two-thirds of their lives as one.
As we sat in that den, my bare feet chilled by the cool tile of their Florida home,
she shared with me a tenderness.
She shared a deeper story of
the photo of she and Bill walking down the beach
… their last vacation together.
She shared that it reminds her
… even at the end …
they were a help to each other
.. a support.
He was her underpinning.
She was his compass.
In the last year or so,
Bill got lost easily.
He couldn’t follow conversations well.
He didn’t speak much.
But, he was still physically robust.
Julia has scoliosis. It has begun to ravage her body
muscles pulling, weakening, twisting
to the uncooperative new structure of her serpentine back.
This fresh crumple of her frame
has thrown off her balance.
She finds that she cannot just
freely walk without regard to her footing.
She must find a stabilizer.
She must have grounding.
She has to have support.
She sees the photograph
of the two of them walking ….
a photo she didn’t even know existed until after Bill’s death –
that even in the end
her best friend,
her husband of over 50 years …
her lover, her comfort, and her confidant
was her support
when she was weak
and she his compass
when he had lost his way.
They almost always walked holding hands
that she might have his support
and he might have her direction.
She led him back home when he was unable to find his way
and he kept her from losing her balance, tripping and falling.
And I am reminded again
that it is in giving
that we most richly, fully and overwhelmingly receive.