When you reach a certain age, you begin to realize that the relatives you grew up around are slowly beginning to disappear.
I was reminded this week that I’m already at that age.
One of my aunts, one of those relatives I’ve known as long as I can remember, passed away Thursday morning.
As circumstances worked out, I was in town that morning, having just returned from a business trip, and I was the first person available to take my uncle, her husband of 65 years, to the hospital to see her and to the mortuary to begin making final arrangements.
At the hospital I saw moments of a grieving husband seeing his ailing wife finally at peace. It was a time that I touched me deeply. It was time that made me feel grateful that I could be a witness to it and almost ashamed that I was intruding into something that should be very private.
I asked my uncle if he wanted to give me a couple of minutes alone with her but he told me no. I don’t know how my presence there that moment was a help, but I’d like to think it might have been.
How do you say goodbye to someone you’ve spent that much of your life with?
Maybe, if you’re that devoted to each other during your lives together, saying goodbye might just be a little easier rather than harder, because you are able to put in perspective their suffering and their subsequent rest.
Maybe, if you’re that devoted to each other during you’re lives together, you aren’t haunted by so many feelings of regret for having not done more when they were with you.
Maybe when you’ve spent so much time and energy taking care of your spouse, it’s at least a tiny bit easier to realize that you’ve done everything you could do, that you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty that would have been covered in the wedding vows.
I hope my uncle finds comfort in knowing those things. I think, sooner or later, he will.
I hope all of us find that kind of devotion to someone in our own lives.
I think we need more of that in this world.