“I think our love can do anything we want it to.”*
We are back on the East Coast for a double funeral. My in-laws had a way of living large (they had seven kids in eight years plus one more for good measure), so it shouldn't shock the sentimental that in death, as in life, they did it their way. Both died with dignity, in their oldest daughter's home, surrounded by loved ones. Their oldest daughter happens to be an RN, which made it easier on everyone else and harder on her. In the end, their divine, parallel journey was straight out of *The Notebook.*
As one, then and now.
My mother-in-law died first, a few weeks after a fall. She was picking Black-eyed Susans and lost her balance. (They were in season! She ended all her sentences with exclamation points!) For years, she had been waging a silent battle with early-onset dementia, partaking in a long-term research study, leaving herself post-its everywhere and providing the USPS with the windfall that was extra postage -- she was known to send a few thank you notes for the same gift (each beautifully written).
My father-in-law took his tumble, breaking his hip, just five days after she passed. He'd been beside her -- holding her hand and singing to her -- for a couple weeks while her morphine was administered. His hospital bed had already been moved to my sister-in-law's house so he could be side-by-side with his bride 24/7. Six days after his fall, he drew his last breath, just eleven days after she drew hers. Our thinking is that he simply was not up for living without her. 63 years of marriage will do that to a person.
63 years was the length of my parents' marriage before they passed away in rote succession, my mom first even though she, like my mother-in-law, was five years younger than her mate. My mother and mother-in-law shared the same birthday, the same selfless disposition, and the same dogged determination when push came to shove.
Grief is complicated. Layered. Compounded. We live 2000+ miles away from immediate family which makes it especially challenging. My husband thankfully got on a plane between deadlines to be at his mother's bedside, to watch The Martian with his dad ... to say his goodbyes.
(To get away from my gentle reminders as he plowed into yet another assignment, "You have to feel to heal, babe!")
It feels better to be back East, within the warm embrace of our sprawling Irish Catholic family. Their love language is levity. The soaring eulogy my husband wrote and delivered for his parents was unsparing in this regard. He had people laughing ... and crying ... on repeat, having done the impossible task of distilling two exemplary lives and one magnificent love story into 20 minutes. His point being: lives filled with quiet, heroic daily deeds, sidesplitting laughter, and unwavering dedication to faith and family, should not only be consecrated, but celebrated.
Always and forever.
* Damn right, I'm quoting The Notebook.