Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Long Love and Last Goodbye

Jack and Wanda Smith
50th Anniversary

They met by chance, just a few girls joined by a couple of boys, all riding bikes on the same path to a carnival. She stood out among her friends and he was immediately interested. The teenagers parked their bikes and as a group, headed for the ferris wheel. He bought several rides worth of tickets and asked her to join him. She did, and after several whirls, began a love affair to last a lifetime.

They married in 1951 and eventually had a son and a daughter. They bought a house, raised their family and wove themselves into their community. They were a generous couple, sharing their resources with others and teaching their children to do likewise. They had the gift of hospitality, hosting parties and gatherings for family, friends and church. They traveled the world, married off their children and welcomed grandchildren into their lives.

They planned to visit China, but something sinister was rearing its ugly head. Her health slowly began to fail and the once active couple had to slow their pace. Her shapely curves gave way to thinness and the vivid blue eyes clouded with forgetfulness. Her strength slowly seeped out of her body, but every step of weakness was met by an increasing level of care on his part as he guided her with gentle reminders and encouragement. They shared meals, took walks and enjoyed the view from their tropical lanai.

The sickness gradually conquered her will and she lay in bed, unable to eat in her final stage. He poured a cup of water and brought it to her bedside. He lifted the glass to her lips and held her as she struggled to sip. "Sweetheart," he said softly, "it is okay to go." He knew she was suffering and he grasped for the right words. "I'm not far behind and it won't be much longer before I see you again. Don't wait for me."

Her senses were dim, but hearing the sound of his voice was the last thing to go. She blinked, a sure sign of affirmation to her partner, and her mouth opened as if she wanted to reply. After sixty-one years together, they were saying goodbye for the last time. He choked back his tears, his hand still supporting her, as she quietly slipped away. "I love you," he said. And with his permission, she was finally able to let go of her tight grip on life and embrace eternity. Her spirit edged into heaven, but the love that had spanned a lifetime and the memories of a life well lived were the legacy she left behind.

~Tribute to Wanda Smith, 1930-2011.

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