Saturday, May 7, 2011


Grandma Barnes (Doug's maternal grandmother) passed away about two weeks ago. Katy asked me to put together a slideshow for the memorial and, of many great images, this one is my favorite:
I love it because it really makes me happy, knowing these two and what a wonderful team they were. And for exactly the same reason, it makes me absolutely heartsick. That's a word I don't use often, but I think it is definitely the most appropriate word here.

Let me back up for a minute. Doug's cousin, Stephanie, was asked to speak from the grandchild's perspective at the memorial, so she asked all her cousins to send her some of their favorite memories of Grandma--and boy were there some great ones! I had a great deal of fun listening to Doug and his sister Jennifer as they compiled their lists of memories. After several of the stories she told, she said, "I guess that story's about Grandpa as much as Grandma." Finally, having the same trouble with his list, Doug replied, "Its so hard to think of a memory of Grandma that isn't about Grandpa. Where Grandma's personality really sparked was in how she interacted with him." I have often referred to them as Abbott and Costello--they are hilarious, and if there's anyone who ever spent time around them and didn't enjoy it, I'd be quite surprised. But if you take away half the team, it just doesn't work. They were entirely devoted to each other and clearly enjoyed one another's company. Its fun to be around people who are always having fun with each other, and they always seemed to be having a great time. There was much talk of Grandma's ability as Hostess Extraordinaire--a well-deserved title--as she kept everyone well fed and watered and comfortable. But even in that, the real magic in her hosting was the entertainment, which nearly always came from her interaction with Grandpa. We've all asked many times over the last few weeks, "What's Grandpa gonna do now?"

They've been married 61 years. They've constantly and consistently been the most important thing in each other's lives since they were both in their early 20s. At that point, do you even know who you are without each other? If you've had a good marriage, which they most certainly have, then you are a huge part of who the other person is by then. And so it shouldn't be all that surprising then that the photograph above evokes in me a very similar feeling as this one:
My cousin snapped this photo of my grandma last fall at the graveside of her companion. She and Clark had only been married 10 years, but he is her eternal companion and I can tell you, seeing the difference in my grandma over the last 10 years, he is a big part of who she is now.

So these images make me heartsick for the loneliness of the spouse left behind to wait for a time. Not that either of these two wonderful people is really alone: they both have large, loving families. But even that wonderful blessing is not a substitute for the daily companionship of your one closest love, around whom you've built your life--and your self.

And I admit that is also makes me sad for very selfish reasons, because I know that the statistical odds make it very likely that one day, years from now (many, many years, I hope), I'll be the one sitting in that chair. And even now, likely decades from that point, I dread that thought. Barely 8 years in to our relationship, I can't even imagine a life without my husband. You know how after you have kids, you only hazily recall what it was you were like, what your life was like, before they existed, because now every thought and decision is so naturally informed (whether consciously or not) by your parenthood? I can't really remember who I was before our relationship. Oh, sure, if I stop to think about it, that's in there somewhere, but I so rarely think of anything in terms of "I" "me" or "mine" anymore--my life is all about "we" "us" and "ours". When I'm upset and need to vent, I turn to him. When I'm excited and want to share it, I turn to him. I casually express thoughts to him I wouldn't dare hint at to others. I so seldom have any need to explain myself. We enjoy each other's company nearly always. I remember laughing one time when one of Grandpa's grandchildren asked him about keeping up a good marriage so long and he replied happily, "Just don't get bored, ever."

I can't imagine being bored with my husband, ever. If we know each other this well now, are such a part of one another after less than ten years, I simply can't fathom how difficult it would be to say good bye after six decades together. Maybe if I'm really obedient and good, the Lord will let us quietly slip away together in our sleep, sometime around 2069. Of course, by then Doug would be 93, so maybe I'm asking too much. . . .

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