They were high school sweethearts and were deeply devoted to one another. To hear her tell their love story is to meander down beautiful roads of memories filled with spectacular views. I felt privileged to be invited to peek inside her heart to meet the love of her life.
She was younger and he older when they met. They went to the same, small high school and vowed to stay together even when he left for college. He was so loving, he urged her to attend dances with other young men in his absence. He didn’t want her to miss out on anything. Right when she graduated high school, however, he popped the question stating, “I’m not turning you loose on campus!” And so they were a married couple attending their state university together.
She got through a few years of studies before he took a professional job elsewhere. He was an engineer and she a homemaker. They went on to relocate for his employment and raise their family which included two sons and a daughter. She shared joyous memories of her young family and recounts his habit of coming home from work and immediately playing with his children in the yard, “Baseball, basketball, any kind of ball, he would play with the children first,” she sweetly said.
“He and I worked together. We were partners. He respected me and was good to me. We laughed a whole lot and were happy. He was the love of my life,” she reminisced. I could hear her voice trail off down a private path. Her wistful voice let me know she was in another place with her first love.
Things dramatically changed for her when he became ill. It took them out to MD Anderson to get the proper diagnosis. Cancer. He only had weeks left. Her world was shattered. She did not know how she could manage three young children, finances, and build a life without his presence. “That was a very hard time for me. I had to raise three children alone, go back to work and relocate my family,” her voice trailed off. She mentioned that his biggest concern was her raising the family by herself. Her young husband passed away at only 38 years old. Part of her heart got buried with him- a part no one would ever have again.
Being a devout Christian is what sustained her through relocating states away, joining the workforce, and watching over adolescents as a single parent. Her oldest son even waited a year to go off to college to help out at home, she proudly added.
It took her 10 years to even think of dating again. By then, her children were older and she felt more comfortable at the thought. Friends set her up and she ended up eventually marrying a wonderful man. They traveled and enjoyed life together until he fell ill years later and she became his caretaker until he passed away. She said he was a very good man and that they had a happy marriage. They were married many years.
Time passed and once again, she was asked on a date. She went and ended up eventually marrying this fun-loving man and had years of fun and travel with him as well. She told me she thoroughly enjoyed their travel clubs and they made fond memories. Theirs was a harmonious marriage for years until he became ill. She was also his caretaker until he passed away.
When I first met my new friend, she jokingly called herself “the Black Widow,” because she had three husbands that all passed away. I knew she was good through and through and that she was only making fun of her predicament. (For naysayers, she let me know she had signed prenuptial agreements with the final two husbands.) She said after three successful marriages, she was done in that department. I was dumbfounded she had experienced THREE successful marriages period! One seems to be too hard for many. It just goes to show how good of a person she is.
She was single, in her eighties, and relocating to a retirement community when we met. She was making a huge life transition like me. I was a motherless mother entering the empty nest phase. Our friendship grew into a group of friends that prayed, laughed and ate together biweekly. I’d call to check in on her and she’d end up chatting about her family or a favorite memory. That was how she conveyed her life story to me- over many conversations. Her reflections became mirrors for me. I began seeing my life in a bigger picture too. She taught me that it is family that is most important yet still, can be quite difficult at times. She also lovingly reminded me that my children are still growing up. I appreciate her more than she will ever know and feel by knowing her story, she has helped me write mine.