Many years ago I met a man. He was a gentle, soft spoken and kind man. The more I got to know him the more beautiful he became in my eyes. Though he was advanced in age, when I think of him now, I envision a strong and youthful man.
He had never married.
But he had loved.
Her photograph sat on the television set. She was so young. So beautiful. Smiling at him forever from that face.
He shared stories of knowing her and her family. He loved them all. I can still see them in my memories playing cards in the kitchen. And I only see them through the telling of his memories….that’s how clear his memory was to me. I hadn’t even been born when he lived those moments.
They were engaged to marry. He was a strong, hard working man. He had seen war. She was ready to marry him and have a family and share the rest of her life with him.
She died two weeks before their wedding.
He buried his love and considered her his wife. He maintained a relationship with her family and stayed close to her parents until they passed years later. He bought their home. He lived a good life. A decent life. He was active in his community and in his church. He enjoyed people and they enjoyed him.
He told me where her grave was. He would visit her every week, often times every day. I asked if he was going to be buried with her. He said her parents were with her, and he would join them all. One day I was in that cemetery and went to her grave. I saw her name on the stone and immediately her smiling face came to mind. I saw her in the black and white manner of the picture on his television. But you know how our minds are….my vision of her wasn’t really a static picture. There was more energy in the vision I had of her by now.
I asked if he had ever dated again. He said no. He didn’t see the need. He had no desire to be with anyone else. He didn’t spend his life moping. He didn’t barricade happiness from entering his life. He chose, or it was chosen for him, to live his life as well as he possibly could. He had plans to one day join his love. And he knew to be with her he had to be the kind of man she had expected him to be.
He lived a life dedicated to love. Though he never expressed any anger or frustration or ‘why me’ attitude….. I found myself feeling pain for him. He was not bitter. He was pleased with his life and his world. But I couldn’t help but feel sadness. I wasn’t sad about him. I was sad that they were apart for so long. And I was sad that such a kind man suffered such a loss and yet dedicated his life to simply loving and being a very decent human being. And I was sad that we have a world full of people who get exactly what they want and still aren’t as kind as this man who lost the only thing he ever wanted. I was sad that this kind of existence doesn’t touch and teach us all every day.
This man aged, and aged…..and aged. Living a good long life that almost seemed oddly cruel. It wasn’t, not to him. Just to my notion of love and romance.
And then, as we all must, he died.
I remember that day. The moment I found out he had died.
I smiled, and felt a burst of joy. Happiness. That he had died.
One weekend I made a purposeful visit. To her grave, and made sure he was right where he told me he would be. Sure enough, there he was. It was just a visual confirmation for my still earth bound existence.
In his death he believed he would be with her.
And I did too.
It made me very happy.