For 20 years she had hated him. Well, perhaps hated is too strong a word. Maybe just intensely disliked . . . but probably closer to hated. He had married her daughter, and he shouldn’t have done that. He wasn’t right for her, his background and life experiences were all wrong. It was a terrible idea . . . a horrible mistake . . . a union headed for disaster . . .
I’m sure you get the picture.
But during the last five years of her life, something changed. He was still the same person, but maybe she began to see the good in him and how well he treated her daughter. Maybe she realized she was in the waning years of her life and perhaps she shouldn’t have judged him quite so harshly. But for whatever reason, she began to call him for little things. Could he come over and take a look at this? This other thing didn’t seem to be working right. Could he come over and take a look at that? And when he’d arrive he’d fuss with her and aggravate her until she’d finally agree to get in his truck and they’d just go riding around—spending time together and making amends for the past.
But the day came when it was obvious her life was drawing to a close. After 84 plus years, her body was tired and it was time. There were opportunities to visit, maybe not for truck rides, but for conversations at her bedside. But he couldn’t do it. He just . . . he just couldn’t do it.
It wasn’t that he didn’t care. He did. He cared deeply. Maybe too deeply. And maybe that was the problem. Throughout his life, Death had seemed to follow him, sometimes directly confronting him but, more often, taking those he loved . . . his father murdered when he was just a boy . . . his best friend dying beside him in combat . . . there always seemed to be violence involved and, even though that was not the case now, he had seen enough of Death. He had seen too much of Death, visiting too close to home. If he had the choice, he would not watch it again.
When his wife realized her mother was dying, she called him. Did he want to speak with her? And he did. He told her he loved her. He wished her a safe journey. And he knew she heard him because of the single tear his wife told him crept down her cheek.
It’s been almost a year and a half now, but his voice still grows softer as he remembers and his eyes still fill with tears. Despite his love for this woman he could not bring himself to be there as she slipped from this world to the next—and maybe his story is one from which we all can learn. Sometimes, when a close family member or friend chooses not to be present as Death approaches, it isn’t because they are in denial or because they don’t care. Sometimes, they are all too aware of what is waiting for this person they love, and sometimes they love them too much to be a part of it.