I saw him at Coopers. This little old man had shrunk three sizes since I saw him last; that day we had sat, fingers entwined, and watched his wife breathe last. I had fallen in love with her too. I was a brand new nurse and my grandmother was two years dead already and this woman spoke just like her in practical and gentle ways. Each shift I would take my lunch in and eat with her, I just couldn’t stay away.
This day at the grocery store, he crumpled the moment he saw me. Curled into my arms and wept. We found a deli table and sat and he sipped coffee and ate crumbly cookie that stuck to his quivering lips as he tried to tell the whole story. Love story from beginning to end…
“She was the only woman I have ever loved. She was the best person to have ever walked earth”. His eyes were all full of truth and I knew he believed every word. I had only worked in palliative care for four months but I had seen full eyes before; eyes full of pain, full of regret, full of relief. Here though, was the first time I saw eyes full of love with no hint of any other emotion. He had loved her every day.
My twenty-two year old mind shifted that day. All the romantic ideals and fairy tales died on the deli table. The truth of what love is and how to live the best of stories was clearly evident in this mans eyes. All that Hollywood tells us about being true to yourself, about fleeing when things get tough, about ‘friends with benefits’ none of it could hold a candle to the romance in this mans eyes.
At age 21 their story could’ve ended with ‘they lived happily ever after’. That is what we would all like to believe, the truth though is that the story was just starting. The bravest and truest tales were yet to be penned, the showing up for each other on the hardest days, the honouring each other in all circumstances, the fortitude it takes to stand side by side when so many are giving up, the warfare on monogamy and the games it plays on hearts. Once we know the outcomes of each of these chapters, once we see if the ‘happily ever’ stands, then we know if this is an epic love story. The kind of love future generations can hang their hope on.
Today my friend, your love story is still being written. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve let the story write itself for too long. Maybe your heroine has not invested what she should. Maybe she got lazy and distracted by babies and work and home and one thousand excuses. Maybe, she needs to pick up the pen and start writing deliberately. The best part of the story, may very well be yet to come. The ending I want, is my husband big brown eyes wet with love, teaching a young nurse someday, what ‘happily ever after’ really means, how he loved me every day.