I and the Father are one.
God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.
W. Cowper, 1774
The year was 2013. Jose, my wife, and I had decided it was time to select where we would spend the rest of our days. We had viewed a few prospective places when, at our door, a sales person from Henry Ford Village appeared one day, armed with a huge gift basket and the news that an apartment had become available in what we later confirmed was a prime location. Who could ignore a divine hint like that? We moved in shortly thereafter!
Our early years at the Village were very happy. It was such a change to have strangers you encountered bid you good morning rather than avert their eyes to avoid contact; so many groups, social and or study were there to join as were sports activities in which to participate. Life was good, church was close by and the company of family and old friends kept us alive and kicking.
Unfortunately, it was not to last. About one year after our move, Jose developed a persistent hacking cough. It took some time to diagnose but eventually we were told she had small cell lung cancer. That was a surprise because she was a life-long non-smoker. But she had worked many years as a barmaid in her father’s pub and so had become a victim of second-hand smoke. She was enrolled immediately as an out- patient in Karmanos Cancer Center branches in Detroit and Farmington Hills. There she later endured twelve cycles of chemotherapy and the accompanying diagnostic tests using MRI and CT scans to assess progress or lack of it.
In the end, the disease spread to her brain and she elected to have Home Hospice care. As her days drew to a close, she lost her sight and power of speech. She died on November 14, 2016. It was for her, I am sure, a blessed relief.
That, in brief, is the story of the end of almost sixty four years of a wonderful marriage to my high school sweetheart. I was devastated at my loss and remorseful at aspects of my latter behavior. Though friends assured me that I had been a good caregiver, and I had studied all the Hospice literature I had been given, I could not shake off the guilty feeling that I had not done enough at the end. The stark reality that you get no practice run prior to the death of a loved one, no second chance to explain yourself, weighed heavily upon me. I felt, in a childish way, that I needed to contact Jose and apologize for my shortcomings. What could I do as a remedy?
Rightly or wrongly, I ploughed through books. I read C.S. Lewis, H. Norman Wright, Anthony DeStefano and David Jeremiah. Some helped more than others, naturally, and some contained apparent flights of fancy I could not justify with my limited knowledge. However I did find comfort from another source that I had not considered before: the GriefShare course presented by our Parish Nurse. I learned that my regrets were not unique and that others existed from which I had thankfully been spared. In addition, the opportunity to talk with companions who were also going through the loss of a loved one cannot be over-emphasized.
Of course, the informed Christian would ask why not go immediately to the book – The Bible? That’s fine if you’re an expert on the matter, but I was not! Nevertheless, it always pays to talk to someone who is – your Pastor. I do not know what prompted him to action, but he loaned me a book by N.T. Wright entitled “Surprised by Hope”, that radically changed my whole thought pattern of life after death and “Life after Life after Death” as Wright would say.
With that my testimony is almost over. Only one thing remains; the words of a friend. I was talking to him one day about being a widower and he said to me that he was grateful for his many years of happy marriage to his late spouse. That ignited a spark in my mind! Stop harping upon your faults and start giving thanks for the multitude of blessings you have received through the favor of your risen Lord! That is what I vowed to do.
Life has not been the same since.
Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain, God is His own interpreter and He will make it plain.
W. Cowper, 1774