Till Death Do Us Part…
Reflections on Losing the Love of One’s Life
“…To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”
There it is, the ultimate vow two people can and ever will make to one another. Sadly, these days it’s often based more on hope than actual conviction. Would it be too cynical to say ‘Till death — or the courts — do us part’ might be more appropriate?
Still, those very words, taken at their true and intended meaning, have no doubt meant the world — and more — for countless souls past and present.
This came to mind as I read (and re-read) the following letter written by my mother Carol Stolt back in 1976 following the death of her husband of thirty years, my father, Clarence Stolt.
I present the following both to honor their memory and offer the hard-earned perspective of a woman who found and lost love in her lifetime.
I’ll let her explain:
“Since the death of my husband two months ago I have frequently been asked by relatives and friends, “How are you doing?” I usually respond “Pretty good” as I find it very difficult to state verbally the depth of feelings I do have. But the other day when I was thinking certain thoughts I decided I should put them down on paper.
How deep a wound can grief cause before it starts to heal? How long must I wake in the morning with that hurt feeling in the pit of my stomach — the feeling one has when you leave for your first day of school, or the day you begin a new job. It’s the feeling of quivering uncertainty inside which you try to cover up on the outside.
I think to myself, “How could I have better prepared myself for this?” or “What could I have done beforehand to ease the hurt and help the pain?” There is no way one can realize the effect of the death of a loved one until it actually happens to you.
At first there is the excitement of having relatives and friends there to support and help with the many funeral plans which need to be made. This occupies your mind almost totally at first. After the funeral is all over there is a great need to be alone just to catch your breath. Then the legal matters, which must be attended to keep you busy, and your mind is focused on what must be done first.
Finally things settle down and minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, grief starts seeping in to your heart and your soul. When you are busy with family and friends the pain and fear can be shoved to the back of your mind. But in those odd, fragmented moments when time suddenly catches up with you, those precious memories keep crowding in to your mind, and nothing will blot them out.
It is hard to know what things my jog the mind and cause the tears to flow. It hits as suddenly as an attack of indigestion. It can be triggered by the refrain of a Guy Lombardo tune, the sight of a beautiful sunset, the sound of a friend’s voice, finding an old letter tucked away in a drawer, finding the old fishing shirt he wouldn’t let you throw away, even seeing the tomato plants he nurtured in the back yard. That’s when the grief rips at the very core of your being, and you wonder if life is ever going to be good again.
Grief is a slow process. There must be time for tears and sadness before our hearts can begin to heal. There will always be a corner of your heart which will hold the hurt no matter how many days, weeks and years pass.
After the initial phase of grief, as days and months go by, a new kind of emotion takes over — the kind of feeling that makes you feel warm inside when you remember something he said, an old habit that was as much a part of him as his voice, the way he laughed at a joke, or the nice things that people remember about him. When this takes place you are turning the corner and have conquered the hardest part of it.
Grief can send you in to the darkest pit of agony, from which you may never quite return, or it can take you down a tenuous, frightening path for a while. When you get to a point when you tell yourself — and show the world — that you will no longer be the victim of death, then it all turns to that feeling of gracious thankfulness that you did know and love this person for the time you did; that you are blessed to have three wonderful children who are a part of him that lives on.
Then you feel strong enough to face the future, knowing he would be proud of you and would say, in that inimitable way of his, ‘I knew you could do it, Mama.’”
Well done, Mom, if I do say so myself. Thanks for sharing.