“My heart skipped a beat …”

After celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary, staying by his wife’s side through 8 years of cancer and chemo, and laying her to rest, a 75 year old man finds love again at a widow/widower’s group meeting.

Key Points:

• Cancer interrupts a couple’s plans for their retirement… some!

• Death takes a spouse of 50 years

• Fate brings new love to an aging well couple

Read Dr. Massey’s Comments…

What stands out in this story for you? Bill was a loyal, loving husband of 51 years. He learned more about cancer than he ever expected or wanted to. Then, when his wife pre-deceased him (which neither of them expected), he fell in love again. There are three parts to this story – all equally important.

First, Bill lived a long and happy married life with his first wife. They had four children, and traveled often. This is important. Couples strengthen each other by sharing activities like walking or cooking, by making time for travel or fun dates, or quiet, intimate moments to enjoy each other. I encourage all of you who want to age well to avoid the ruts in the road. It’s easier than we want to believe for couples to go their separate ways, enjoy separate vacations and hobbies, and miss the opportunity of loving each other differently and even more sweetly as they age. Bill and his wife did not miss the opportunities. Good for them.

Second, the couple was not yet retired when the first bout of cancer struck. And four years later, just when they must have thought they’d beaten the beast, it struck again, this time affecting many organs. Again, as was their way, they rallied, attended support groups, even hosted some groups in their home. They stayed active, managed their travel excursions around the chemo sessions, and enjoyed whatever time God provided. Yet, I am sure that they were both weary, that the wife smiled harder than she felt, and that Bill put on a happy face when he saw how much effort it was for her to move. Courage and love mix together when caregiving is with a spouse. When the husband is asked to tend to his wife, he has to dig deep into his male mind to find the female warm fuzzy words that bring comfort. And he has to come to terms with his own feelings and fears with each step.

Third, never give up on love. Bill was 75 when he met Joanne. It was the first widow/widowers meeting for each of them. Interesting, each had to be coaxed to attend. A man who loved one woman well was invited to love a second as well. They had a ‘carpe diem’ courtship, each aware by reason of their spouses’ deaths, that time was not on their side. Yet, their positive spirits have given them 7 years already, and the rest remains a mystery. What is not a mystery is the joy these two share in each other. Bill is my godfather and uncle. It has been a pleasure to spend time in their company.

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Dr. Mary Ann Massey

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