Tuesday, March 11, 2008
True Love Lives On
A family gathering in my grandparent's backyard. My Aunt Jean is 2nd from left. Uncle John is taking the picture. (Oh, and I'm the little squirt on the right)
My 94-year-old uncle died on Feb. 20. My aunt died twelve days later. She was 90. They were a remarkable couple. Uncle John was my dad's brother―the middle child among three sons. My Aunt Jean and he spent much of their adult years in Chicago.
Although life was good, not long after they were married, Jean was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis; a potentially devastating disease, especially for a young mother raising three young children. But, it didn't stop either of them. My uncle set out to get her the best care possible, and she faithfully exercised (swimming daily) through the pain. It was years before she was forced to give up her cane for a walker and eventually, a wheel chair.
Still, they took all life had to offer; traveling the world and, after retirement, moving to California to build their dream house, complete with amazing ocean view. Their time in the new home would be short-lived, however, when my aunt began to deteriorate and had to move into a complete care facility. My uncle visited her every day until his failing health prevented it. But, whenever possible he still took her to church and out to dinner on Sundays.
The completion of their journey begins and ends in early February when my aunt, whose 65-year struggle with MS finally caught up with her, was rushed to the hospital. "She only has days to live," the doctor told the family. The family believes it was then that John decided it was "time for him to go;" his caregiver days over. But, Jean surprised everyone; family and doctors alike, and left the hospital in good spirits. My uncle's path was, however, irreversible and he simply "went to sleep" a few days later sitting in his wheel chair.
The Friday before her death, Jean began to deteriorate, once again. But, just like before, on Saturday she rallied and smiled and talked to her daughter. On Sunday, a caregiver saw her pointing to John's picture, telling him, "I'm okay." Early Monday morning he came to get her.
And so, they are free. He from constant, frustrating battles with old age; she from the never-ending struggles with a disease that still has no cure in sight. No longer bound to wheelchairs, I like to picture the two of them dancing on clouds as my aunt tilts her head back and laughs…just the way I remember.