Til Death Do Us Part: Looking Back on a Long-Lived Love

A ViewPoint by JoMae Spoelhof

Tree GraphicAs a couple ages, thoughts of death begin to enter the mind. One of us would likely be left behind some day. Although in decent health, we sometimes spoke of it. Quite often, actually. Yet in my heart of hearts I couldn’t go there. I could only see the impossibility of going on alone. I couldn’t imagine how I could survive—or want to—the loss of John.
We walked with Godde and knew that Divine Love and Grace would save us from despair when that day came. We lived with that trust and had experienced abundant blessing in our lives. Yet I froze in fear each time I’d try to think about it. To prepare. We were aging. John was sometimes frail.

And then it happened. John was suddenly gone. Stunned and in shock, surrounded by the love of family and friends, I soon realized I’d not fallen into some pit of despair. Christ’s Grace was there, preventing me from falling. Rather than a desperate sense of being buried alive, the loss of any will to live on, I somehow saw steps that needed to be taken. A farewell service to honor John had to be planned. One small purpose after another led me through each day. Looking back, I marvel with thanksgiving that, while Godde often pulls us out of pits, this time those Beloved hands held me from falling in.

Many, many have survived this path before me; we each have our stories. I guess my message is, don’t freeze in fear when you think about it. Christ’s Grace is sufficient and will guide you and give strength and confidence when sorrow comes. You can count on it. For that, I am eternally thankful. It is hard. I miss John, but it was like a miracle to be saved from falling apart, to land in Godde’s arms instead of in a pit.

It’s been more than seven months since John left this world. I often wonder what his new life is like. I imagine his spirit is full of joy and peace and purpose. I, too, find myself in a new world, on a new path. Everything has undergone a paradigm shift. Our home, so full of memories, is the same, yet his voice, his presence, is silent. Or I might say, his presence echoes in the silence. Even so, I am amazed to find joy and peace on this new journey, and even a fresh sense of purpose. For that, I praise Godde with thanksgiving.

We were an item, John and I, as are so many couples the world over. For almost sixty years, we wove a strong yet fragile shell around us. It was a beautiful wrap even with its many flaws. We loved and respected each other, but perhaps the most important key to our long-lived love was that we basically accepted each other the way we were.

I once found a small wall hanging that said: “I want for you what you want for you.” That rather flimsy bit of cloth hung on the wall in our room for a long time, quietly reminding us, when angry or in disagreement, of a sense of balance governing our marriage. Our unspoken goal, in spite of being two very different people, was to put the other first. We often failed in all of this, only to soon find our way back into the warm harmony of our shell.

In later years, the children long grown, our individual threads became more interwoven, threading through and around each other so that when death suddenly took John, it was as if the fabric of our wrap had been ripped apart, forcing me to scramble to mend the brokenness and weave some kind of selvedge to my life, to form some kind of healthy separation so I could continue on alone, to form from the remnants of that broken shell a new security and confidence to move ahead.

Grace has taken on new meaning for me now.

 

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JoMae Spoelhof
JoMae Spoelhof lives in Rochester, New York. She and her late husband, John, raised five children and cared for several more as foster parents. Reading and writing have long been her mainstay for sorting out life’s questions— whether exploring her faith or raising a family.

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