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.


Janet Muirhead Hill said...

Hi Mary,

What a touching story of love and devotion triumphing over pain and adversity!

I have friends with MS. One lives in a nursing home now, requiring complete care. It seems such a waste of talent as this educated and gracious woman gradually loses control of her body. Yet her attitude is bright and optimistic, and her faith, strong.

Thanks for sharing.

ChristineEldin said...

They must have had some amazing stories between the two of them. What a heartbreaking, but also beautiful journey. It's amazing to me that really people are responsible for defining happiness for themselves. That's the best way to live.

Janet Grace Riehl said...

Yup, these family stories and pictures are precious, aren't they? I'm glad you're telling them.

If you like this kind of story, I know you'd enjoy the "Daddy 'n Me" category on Riehlife...Pop, 92, was recently featured in the newspaper for his war heroism...and how that, in turn, saved his own life. Another of these great stories we must continue to share.

Janet Riehl

Mary Cunningham said...

It is a devastating disease, Janet. I have a very good friend who has it, too. She also had tons of talent!

Thanks for commenting

Mary Cunningham said...

Thanks for the comment, Chris. They were two special people. Uncle John was the last brother. My last link to my dad. Now, my 4 surviving cousins (three have died) are the "older generation."

Mary Cunningham said...

You and your dad have some wonderful stories, Janet. I'll be sure to stop by.

Thanks for the comment.

Mayra Calvani said...

THanks for sharing this, Mary. It's a sad but touching story.

Mary Cunningham said...

Thanks, Mayra. It was one of those stories I had to write in order to honor the long lives of a devoted couple.

WriterKat said...

What a nice tribute to commitment and love. There's a lot to be learned by them. It's just so easy to give up when bad times hit, and so courageous to keep going.

Mary Cunningham said...

Writerkat, thanks for the comment. They were an inspiring couple, and you're right. It is much too easy to give up. Their years of devotion is inspiring.

Thanks to all who have taken the time to read this post and share their thoughts.

Transplante de Cabelo said...
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Mary Cunningham said...
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