It’s the time of year when cemeteries are hosting decorations. I had an experience this week that I still haven’t found a good word to describe. I’m not totally comfortable saying it was a pleasure, considering the context. What I can say is, while the day was somber, it was an event I was fortunate to be present for.
There is a man whom I know that is a bit of an anomaly. Knowing his life story, it is sometimes difficult to understand how happy he is. It seems, no matter how hard life gets, his attitude never wavers. As long as I have known him I have never seen him in poor spirits. It would be easy to assume he is a man of little depth, but as I have learned, to do so would be a great err in judgement.
On this fateful day, he needed a ride to the cemetery and I was happy to oblige. We arrived and walked through the gate, taking a moment to speak to the other families there. He carried on joyfully as he is much more social than I am. I meandered around the graves, looking over family names I knew. He made his way to the stone he was there for, and I walked over to join him. I read over the name and dates on the long-faded plague at my feet. He dutifully placed flowers and a small arrangement he had made on the ground. Then placed two sets of windchimes on hooks overlooking the grave.
“She loved windchimes.” That line still echoes in my head. I looked over all of the flowers he laid out and listened as the windchimes started to ring. That’s when I realized just how hard the day was for him. On the ride over he had been his normal chipper self, but now looking at him you could see only sorrow.
They had been married almost as long as I have been alive and I feel comfortable saying, if it wasn’t for tragedy, they still would be today. As the day past he spoke more about her and the life they lived. They had very little. To them, a luxury was what most people today take for granted. It’s a bit odd to hear someone laugh about not having electricity or running water, but it made sense when you realized her being there was what made him happy. In a world where people are never satisfied with what they have, these two had nothing but each other, and wanted nothing more.
As we drove away from the cemetery I began to think about the other couples that I know. One by one I began to wonder which of them would be so devoted to their partners. I know some who have married for financial or social gain, a few due to circumstance. I don’t know about all of them, but there are some who I have heard say that they won’t care for their spouses in times of great illness, and others who have said they will move on and find someone else if theirs dies. There seems to be a great deal of devoution missing in many marriages today.
I was then lead to my second line of thought. I only had to think about it for a moment because the answer was written on his face. I wondered, if he had a billion dollars, would he still be sad? If he could go back to a giant house and have staff waiting on him hand and foot, would it matter? I can tell you, he could have as much wealth as Warren Buffet, and it wouldn’t mean a thing to him. If he had that much money, he would give it all away if it meant he could spend one more day with her.
A question I would pose to those of you who are married, would your spouse do the same? The modern wedding vows usually include some variation of “for better or worse, sickness and in health.” How serious is that commitment taken in your marriage? If the choice came down to worldly riches or your spouse, what would it be? Would you be satisfied if you had nothing to your name but your love for one another? If they die, will part of you die also?
I’ve made the point nemours times that I don’t have a great history when it comes to relationships, and it would be fair to say that I am not even qualified to speak on the subject. But, I would point out that things like this are why as of date I prefer to be alone. I, and those of you unmarried, should avoid pairing with someone who is only there for benefit. All of the things of the world are meaningless when you’re rotting in the ground. Why strive for status? Socialites won’t care for you when you’re no longer there to appease them. Why strive for money? Money comes and goes. Houses deteriorate, and a new car loses its value the second it touches asphalt.
This could be the day that it happens. Any minute you could get a life-changing phone call. It might be a car wreck, a brain aneurysm, or a stroke. There could be a cancer diagnosis and you are fortunate to have a few months more. But, it will happen. Meditate on that for a moment. What will really matter to you then? Will you have wished you had spent more time at work, or bought a bigger house? Will you regret that you never got around to getting that boat? All of these things are temporary. Do you know what lasts? What endures all things? If your spouse is your world, what will matter most to you when your world ends? Will you have wished you spent more time with them? Perhaps realized that it’s not the boat you wanted, but who you wanted in the boat?
It’s hard to find a never-ending love often only spoken about in poems. But, I assure you, it exists. I have been blessed to see even a glimpse of it. Such is the view of a dead wife’s grave.