Monday, February 22, 2010

A Toast To The Stars

My husband grabbed his half-filled wine glass from the kitchen counter and headed outside. When I asked where he was going, he answered, "To give a toast to the stars." That morning, we had received the awful news that his beloved father had died, so I knew exactly what he meant. He came in several minutes later, with tears streaking his face.

It's never easy to lose someone you love, but when it's a parent, it's an unbeliveable sorrow. I experienced it in 1995, when my mother died, and again in 1998 with the death of my father. And, even now, I daily mourn their passing.

As a partner, you want to "make it better". In the past couple of days, I have embraced my husband, held his hand in church when I saw the sorrow in his eyes, wiped his tears, and talked with him. But I know that this is a sadness that will linger, getting easier to bear with time, but always there.

I thank God for loving family and friends who have sent touching messages and called to commiserate and to share memories. And there were many great stories to tell. He was the type of man who touched everyone's heart and left his imprint.

My father-in-law wasn't extraordinary by some standards. He was just a caring, hardworking, middle class male who worked hard to see that his family had the necessities of life. He liked to laugh, play the organ, fly model airplanes, read to his grandchildren, and help his three children with anything they asked of him.

In the last years of his life, he was a widower who found a special lady named Louise. The two of them danced every morning for exercise, spent social time with friends and planned for their future. Sadly, they only had two years to experience life together. It should have been more, for he declared he had never been happier.

Our daughter says it's hard for her to fathom that her parents are now the "heads of the family". That sounds odd to us, too. You just never imagine a world without your parents there for guidance and support - no matter how old you are or how old they get.

Last night, as our children and grandchildren gathered for a family wake, we reminisced about our favorite times with Dad and Grandpa. And, with laughter and tears, we raised our glasses and toasted to the stars. As I looked up, I'm sure I saw him smiling down at us - and that helped. Thanks, Dad.