We’ve been listening to the morning prayers posted in Canterbury Cathedral in England, hosted by Dean Robert who often begins his time with a history lesson of this day.
Today I am back in time with my own memories of this day, for today, September 23, marks the 25th anniversary of my first husband’s death and passing into new life. Those memories are chiseled in my mind and although it seems like a life-time ago, it has shaped the trajectory of my life.
We took this picture, that summer 25 years ago, the last family photo. I knew in my heart it was the last one, and even resisted taking it, wanting the reality of his sickness and dying to just be a bad dream.
I’m grateful now, of course, but still look at this picture with some sadness. That summer was bitter-sweet: the tenderness of shared moments, meaningful conversations, time spent. The heart ache was profound.
The night and morning of the 23 are moments I will never forget. We said our last good-byes, all of us gathered in our living room. Andy’s brother Dennis was there, from Peru. My mom who faithfully supported us in those last weeks. My children and I. He took his last breath at 5 am, after a long night of pain. But his last words were of love to me and our children. On his chest was a beautiful rose our pastor’s wife had given him the day before. His colleagues, RCMP and ambulance were the ones who picked him up that morning, and those are moments you never forget.
In the days that followed we hastily prepared a very meaningful memorial, for his brother had to return to Peru. Over 500 people showed up, an incredible tribute to his life and contributions to the community. The love of our friends and the community were an incredible comfort.
My children are now at the age their father was as he said good-bye to us all; and I look back with thankfulness for that summer, even though it was very hard. God was very present to us that summer, in so many ways. And I see God’s loving guiding hand in all the years that have passed.
One of the things he whispered to me in those last weeks was “No regrets”. This was profound to me and I have never forgotten it. We tried so hard to save his life, but in the end were so grateful for his spiritual healing. His faith was what saw him through and he came to a deep peace that sustained us.
I know I am very blessed to have had those moments. Not all who have a loved one die can have those meaningful conversations. It is a lesson to me to keep saying “I love you”, to live my life every day so there will be no regrets.
So today, we remember. We look back, and are grateful.