Ahhhhhhhhh, Sundays. No alarm clocks, leisurely coffee talks, brunch out, no structure. Exactly what we all needed after an insane week. On this particular Sunday, it was Zachary's (my son) turn to choose our brunch spot, and he chose a restaurant in Temple that we all love- for the food and for the atmosphere. As we got settled in, I sipped my drink and scanned the room. Adjacent to our booth, I noticed an elderly couple who held hands across the table as they chatted, focused only on each other.
Hardly anyone holds hands like that anymore, and it mesmerized me momentarily. My daughter Channing noticed.
"Don't do it, Mom!" she said.
This meant, "Do not go over and talk to them." She knows me well. My whole family and close friends know me well. I want to know the story in the interactions I observe. I want to be a part of it. Not in an intrusive way, but in a learning, growing way. As I watched, several couples and families walked by their table and they broke their concentration on each other to greet people walking by. They were approachable and I really wanted to hear how two people in their late years maintained that kind of connection, affection, for and with each other.
"Let me out. I'm going to the bathroom!" I announced.
A look of annoyance but also acceptance wafted across Channing's face. She knew I wasn't going to the bathroom at all, but was instead going to talk to that sweet couple. I walked over to their table, and asked, "I'm sorry for interrupting you, but how long have you two been married?" The answer caught me off guard.
"We're not married," the woman said.
Then, I got the story. The beautiful story of selflessness.
As they talked over the top of each other, finished thoughts and sentences for each other, I learned that the woman had lost her husband a number of years ago to cancer. More recently, the man's deceased wife had battled cancer as well. His wife and the woman seated at the table had been best friends. When the man's wife had learned that she had terminal cancer and only a short time to live, she had asked her best friend to take care of her husband.
"You know how he is. He won't leave the house or ever go anywhere or do anything, once I'm gone!"
They shared this with me, laughing that this was in fact true about the man, and simultaneously tearful about losing a woman that they both clearly cherished.
"So," the woman said. "We are now here for each other."
In their 80s with a lifetime of memories, long-term relationships with other people.....and moving on. Forward. Living. Connecting. Loving.
And that is exactly the way it is supposed to be, isn't it? We shouldn't be alone. But who has that degree of selflessness- to ask your very best friend to step in like that? She clearly loved her husband beyond description and wanted him to be happy after she was gone. I was blown away, overwhelmed with emotion, and absolutely humbled. I thought about my own husband of 19 years, and what I would do if and when faced with these circumstances. I, too, adore him and want him to be happy, and I hope and pray that I would be that selfless. For the man's deceased wife, as she was dying, it wasn't about her and endings. It was about love and the continuation of life. As long as a person is here, life is about living and loving. God bless her for embracing that and God bless us all for aspiring to that as well.