Friday, June 17, 2011
When I accepted Dave’s proposal to marry, and later said “I do,” I accepted the calculated risk that I would outlive him because of our age difference (women tend to outlive men anyway). Regardless, I had a deep sense soon after we met that I would know, love and “feed him pudding” in our old age together. Since then, pudding has been an ongoing reference for us. We’re not yet “both old” but pudding is one of the few foods he still likes right now!
I surmised at the time that marriage itself is risky, divorce rates are high, and if we had five great years that might be more that some couples. Who knows what any future holds? An auto accident could take either of us away. There are no guarantees in life.
It was just about five years after we married that the Hodgkin’s Disease was diagnosed. A year of chemo. Threats to his life. Meningitis, kidney cancer, pneumonia, spinal stoke, and on. So, I’ve lived most of our 27 years of marriage thinking from time to time about “if Dave dies.” (This certainly makes a difference to how we have lived, too. Never sweat the small stuff!)
During these threats it is not money, loneliness, ability to carry on that worries me; it has been the vision of going to a funeral service and having hordes of people tell me how wonderful Dave was, what a difference he made in their lives, to see how much he is loved, and hear the stories about him. I could never stand the vision that he really wouldn’t know the impact of his life, of him being himself, on others. I’m sure it’s why I don’t want a memorial service, not for my sake, at least. I know what I know about Dave and hold that sacred to our relationship.
Now I finally can feel assured that I have ridded myself of this demon vision! The legacy building – while Dave is alive to see it pass before him – of scholarship and stories is far more soothing that I anticipated. It provides me personal security. The memories are safe. His life has meaning and purpose beyond us. But most importantly, the one-by-one stories told are accumulating to create a theme of his life. To tell – no, show – him and the world through real life anecdotes that he is loved and his life matters. The stories speak.
“Read me some more,” he said on Friday. He was talking about the Guestbook on the David L. Hitchens website established for this purpose of preserving legacy and future development of the scholarship fund in his name. I think this is one of the first direct requests he has asked of me since the diagnosis.
It’s not ego, it is story: the powerful, personal, human activity for sharing and carrying on the morals and lessons of life. No riches can buy this, no poverty can prevent it. This may seem trite, but even with all the stories I’ve helped tell through my business endeavors, to feel the results myself on this level is indescribable. Dave is learning how his little drop of water ripples out far beyond. I am validated in my belief in him. Story is the vehicle. The words are captured and permanent. They will remain when all the world gets “back to normal” down the road.
The opportunity of having time to confront Dave’s inevitable death, and more importantly the tales and impact of his life, is a family and even a community luxury which cannot be underestimated. The opportunity comes through hospice, where we have expert support, care and advice about the means of death, but also through the conscious choices of his loved ones to make this journey together. We are fortunate, indeed.