It was the text I dreaded: “We are moving him to hospice today.”
Our dear friend Walt had been battling lung cancer for a long time. His health was compromised so that any infection that might ordinarily be handled with antibiotics, any blood clot that would otherwise be cleared with simple blood thinners, could be devastating. I knew he was in the hospital. We were praying and keeping in touch and hoping for the best. When I received his daughter’s text, we knew we needed to prepare to say goodbye.
I responded, “We would like to come visit. Would that be ok?” I didn’t know if that would be intrusive or comforting, but I had to ask. They welcomed us and we made arrangements to have our girls cared for the next morning so that Tony and I could be there together. We didn’t know what we would do or what we could say once we got there, but Walt and his wife Nancy have been so dear to us over the years that we wanted to be available in any way we could.
After we dropped our oldest off at preschool, we made our way to the hospice house. We didn’t quite make it to the room before we were met by Walt’s daughter in the hallway. She burst into tears and told us that he had just passed away about 30 minutes before we got there. We wrapped our arms around her and cried together.
We then made our way into the room where he laid, still and pale, and sitting nearby was Nancy, his wife of 38 years. We hugged and cried, she thanked us for being there and said, “Sometimes things aren’t fair. It’s a fact of life, but it is such a hard fact.”
We sat and listened to their stories of the days and weeks leading up to this very morning. We cried, held hands, looked over at sweet Walt and as sad as we all were, we agreed that seeing him laying there so peacefully was so much better than watching him struggle to breath and gasping fearfully for air.
His body was there, but it was clear to all of us that he was not. His kindness, his generosity, his humble smile were not laying in that bed. Nancy and I sat together and held hands and after talking through the events that led to this moment, she said, “I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to be there without him. I had a feeling when we left the house to come to the hospital that this might be the last time we were leaving this home together, but I just don’t want to be without him. I have never been without him in 38 years.”
There has been this trend in modern culture to do away with some of the more traditional marriage vows. Some have opted for “as long as our love shall last” in lieu of “until death do us part.” There are those that commend this change in the language as being more realistic considering the current divorce rates. Others believe that this shift dooms a couple to failure.
We watch couples like Walt and Nancy and many others who have been married decades longer than we have. We have seen that it is commitment, not emotion, that keeps a couple together. It is a desire to serve one another, to let go of selfish desires, to choose the wellbeing of the person beside you before your own that keeps a marriage strong. These couples have figured out something that is actually very unnatural – that love is not about what you can get out of a relationship, but instead about what you can give. It is in the giving that your love grows.
Walt and Nancy
These two have meant everything to us. Their love and faithfulness is something we have aspired to in our own marriage. We have been on the receiving end of their quiet generosity more times than we can count. They have celebrated the arrival of each of our babies by bringing meals and gifts and cards. They have been supportive and present to pray over every crazy transition in our lives over the last eight years.
Walt and Nancy have been passionate friends, to us and to each other, and would always rather be together than apart. And here we are witnessing the part of their marriage vows where they promised to be together until death separated them. Yet, even with her husband’s passing, Nancy is not separated from Walt. She leaned into me and said, “It’s not like losing half of myself. It is like losing all of myself. I don’t know what I’ll do without him.”
We will be here for her. Her family, her children, her grandchildren will be here for her. Still, her adoration for her husband, her commitment to their life together will not fade. They committed their lives to one another, not once and for all, but every single day.
Please honor them with us by reading their love story. We interviewed them as our very first “Real Couple” blog post where Walt shared this advice with us…
“Don’t miss an opportunity to be with your wife! Staying married is not all there is. At our age, we know couples that have been married thirty years or more, but they really aren’t together. They live in separate bedrooms, some in separate houses, vacation separately, and don’t have any shared interests. Nancy and I spend a lot of time together, even doing things the other might not love so much. You know, shopping is not on my list of favorite activities, but I go with her so I can be near her. We take drives together just to talk…”
You can read the rest of their love story here. Help us celebrate this beautiful couple, this incredible man, his wonderful wife by leaving a comment below. You may leave your condolences for Nancy and their family if you like. We would also love to hear from you about how their marriage, and other long-term marriages, have encouraged you to #staymarried.
A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 1:00pm at the Chapel of the Resurrection in Bothell, Washington.
Thanks for stopping by!