Yesterday, when we headed up to the Anchor Center for toddler time, our neighbor, Ruth, tagged along. Grandma Ruthie has been adopted by our family as a surrogate grandma for the kiddos, since their blood relations are all too far away to spoil them. Grandma Ruthie is very much up for that task and the kids adore her. It was great having her come with is to Anchor Center, since the place is so close to our hearts and she can truly appreciate what it's doing for us... plus she can hang out with Mera in sibling care. However, the real reason she tagged along was to visit Joe.
When we bought the house it took us all of five minutes to meet Ruth and Joe, who lived right next door. Actually, my parents met them first because they were staying in our new house prior to the wedding (we didn't move in until the blessed event). My parents quickly reported that our new neighbors were flat out awesome, as my dad used his smoking as an excuse to chat up Ruth and Joe across the alley and Bill and Marie over the back fence. A good time was had by all.
A person only had to be around Ruth and Joe for roughly 15 seconds to see that they adored each other. Joe always called Ruth his "hunny" and as soon as you met them he'd put his arms around her and say something like "This is my hunny! Isn't she beautiful? Aren't I one lucky guy?!" His enthusiasm was obvious, his love was enormous, and Ruth's slightly flustered and embarrassed response of "Oh, Joe, they don't want to hear that!" was full of love and happiness. The first day Nick and I met them, I remember coming home and saying to him "THAT is what I want us to be like when we're in our 70's."
Joe has cancer, and less than a year after we married and moved in and met them he was at home receiving hospice care. On March 19th, nine days before our Mera was born, Joe passed away as peacefully as possible in his sleep. At the end his pain was beyond managing, but he was a gracious and kind and loving man right up through the end. Just a couple of days before he died we visited him. It was clear to everyone that he was on borrowed time. When we came home after that visit, Nick and I discovered that we had each told him, separately, that we would do our best to take care of his hunny when he was gone. I remember his weak voice telling me how important it is to be good to your spouse, to love them, to do your level best by them. On his way out, the most important thing he could think of to tell people was to love your spouse, because that had been the most important thing to him while he lived.
Joe is buried at the Fort Logan cemetery in Denver, and I sort of assumed that Ruth went up to see him often. On the second anniversary of his death, this March, I brought her flowers and a card and asked her if she could tell me how to find him so I could visit. I was shocked when she told me that she herself had only been to visit him a couple of times. She said "I can't stand to go alone, it hurts too bad, but the kids are so busy they can't really go with me." I told her "Ruth, I'll go with you any time you want."
Sunday night she joined us for dinner and it came up again. I told her, "Ruthie, we go to Denver twice a week. Any time you want to join us we would love to stop over and visit Joe. It would be an honor to take you to see him." She accepted and asked if she could go with me the next day. Of course I said yes.
So on Monday we went to the Anchor Center first, then lunch at Panera, then we headed over to the cemetery. On the way we stopped at a florist and she got him a lovely bouquet of flowers.
Visiting the gravesite, I was struck by Ruth herself. She's such a strong woman, sort of a spitfire, really. She doesn't look to be as old as she is, I think, and she's not afraid to tell you exactly what she's thinking. She loves the Lord with all her heart, and she's so honest and kind. I love Ruth to pieces, I truly do.
Watching her visit him I thought of her strength and a thought occurred to me. Love that strong leaves strength when it goes.
I wish I'd had more time to get to know Joe. I really do. I know this much - he loved his wife and she loved him, in a way too many people never experience in all their lives. Their love was truly special, it lit up everything around them.
We need more love like that in this world, don't we?