On October 20, 2011 at the age of 87 Papaw Charley was struck while crossing the road by an SUV and died almost instantly from his injuries. It wasn’t the driver’s fault. He was not crossing in a crosswalk and was in one of the busiest intersections in his neighborhood. He was out earlier than usual, during morning rush-hour traffic. Charley had been walking the same route (although usually much later in the day) for over 20 years.
In the five years that have passed since he died, we have experienced a lot of firsts. Our first day without him, the first week, the fist month, the first years. New grand-babies have been welcomed into our family that will never know their Papaw.
My mother died when I was 9 months old. My grandparents took me in, gave me a home, a life and later adopted me. They also gave me a living example of a marriage that stood the test of time.
Sixty-four years, 7 months and 20 days is much longer than most marriages last.
Shortly after Papaw died, Mamaw commented that she should take off her ring, because she wasn’t married anymore. While I understood her grief and trying to make sense of the life that was now hers, one that no longer entailed caring for her life partner, her lover, her lifelong companion, her first and only love; it sorta broke my heart a little. A lot actually. That simple gold band on her finger that they paid less than $10 for 69 years ago holds immeasurable value.
Their marriage was a shining example of weathering the storms, working through the tough times, and overcoming obstacles side by side, hand in hand.
In May of 2010 my husband bought me a beautiful wedding set for Mother’s Day and our 17th wedding anniversary that would follow in September. A beautiful princess cut solitaire flanked on each side by many diamonds with a matching diamond band. Something I had dreamed of for many years, finally mine. Rarely did it leave my hand.
Then Papaw died and I heard Mamaw’s statement. I slid off that diamond ring and replaced it with the meager gold band that I married my husband with 18 years ago. I didn’t take it off for over a year. That simple gold band that cost us less than $100 has now become a profound reminder. Never take each other for granted. Say “I Love You” every time you part ways because you never know if you’ll get a chance to say it again.
That ring now lives on the middle finger of my right hand.
Sometimes I wonder if that’s not an ironic place for it to wind up. I’ve flown it loud and proud at my husband more than once. Every time I do the flash of gold reminds me that this hardship between us is temporary, that we’ll work through it, apologize, compromise and love each other all the more for doing so.
I hope that my children can look at our marriage and be proud. I hope that we’ve laid down a foundation of how to get through the tough times, modeled love, compassion, respect, how to honor one another and how to love fiercely, fight fairly, be kind and give back to others even if you think you have nothing of value to give. I hope that we can be even just a small spark of the shining example that my grandparents gave to me.
They say that time heals all wounds, but it doesn’t.
Time teaches. Each day teaches us that we can survive because we are alive to face another day. Time teaches us that we can take another step forward because no matter how hard yesterday was, we are standing in today. Time teaches us that we have no choice but to go on. How we use each day we are given, that’s what matters.