I may have mentioned this before, but I have a very tall, very strong husband. Steady on his feet, steady in his heart, with large steady hands to help more people than I even know. For example, one day Beve got an actual letter in our mail (along with the usual credit card offers and medical bills) from some unknown people from some place I'd never heard of in Louisiana. It turned out he'd helped a couple who'd had car trouble, gave them a ride across town, made arrangements for them to get the best possible mechanic, took them to a motel, even stopped at a grocery store to help them buy a few things. They were overwhelmed by the kindness of this man. And he hadn't even mentioned it to me. He was just out mowing lawns and had the time, so, of course, he'd help. Who wouldn't? That's how Beve lives.
However, his rock-steady temperament (which he inherited from his dad!), means that he doesn't get too emotional very often. Yes, he feels, but he isn't what you'd call a cry-er. Not even close. Very seldom in the course of our long years of knowing each other (45+) and being married (almost 29) have I even seen Beve cry. Teary? Yes. A little choked up? Also yes. But blurry-eyed and overcome by grief? Very, very rarely. But two days ago, when we had dinner with Grampie and Thyrza and Thyrza's visiting daughter and son-in-law, Grampie was completely himself, loving being with us, eating the Olive Garden's Chicken and Gnocci soup with great delight and trying to get everyone at the table to "just try a bite." Sure, he didn't track with every conversation and nodded off pretty easily, but he was still witty and himself. And you should have seen his face when Beve got E on the speaker phone. His grin about split his face in half. Just hearing her voice lit him up.
But yesterday, with that pre-dawn stroke, that man disappeared. He can still speak, thankfully, and sometimes he even makes sense. But he can no longer feed himself, no longer has any control over his own body. So Beve spent the night at their apartment last night, spent the day with a Hospice nurse, talking through the next step, and being his dad's personal nurse's aid.
And tomorrow, Grampie will leave his apartment for the last time.
So tonight, when Beve had to tell Thyrza that these arrangements are in place, which also means that the days of them living together are coming to an end, there was silence for ten minutes in our little universe, while Thyrza shook her fist at whoever (Steve? the Hospice nurse?) had decided that Grampie can't take care of himself any more, because he absolutely can.
And then, when reality set in, she cried. And then...
then my tall, strong, steady Beve who has been carrying all these burdens on his wide shoulders fell apart. All the others-- Grampie's falls, his illnesses, my illnesses, J's ongoing struggles, school stuff--distilled into a single pain: that he's losing his dad. And his own children are losing their Grampie. That tears him apart almost as much as losing Grampie for himself (and gets to me as I write it! He's just the BEST Grampie!).
It was a hard, good evening with the elders and S and J (Thyrza's daughter & husband). How grateful we are that they came to visit at precisely this time, and that the snow fell exactly now so that they had to delay their trip home. As S said, "God made it pretty clear that we were to stay." I fed Grampie his dinner while everyone else ate theirs, and we talked through the whole thing again until Thyrza felt comfortable. She thanked Beve for what he's done for Grampie.
"I'd do anything for him," Beve said, his eyes welling up again.
As hard as today was, there are harder days ahead. The day when Thyrza has to say goodbye to Grampie and leave with her daughter--that will be an excruciatingly hard one. For all of us. None of us look forward to it, no matter what we believe to be best. And the day we say goodbye to him ourselves. That'll be another. But, without wanting to sound trite, the only way to get through these days is to go through them. I look at Beve, feel the stress and exhaustion and grief coming off him in waves, and know he just has to go through it. I'll be with him, but he still has to go through it.
And so we press on.
John 14: 6
"I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life..."