Yesterday, we buried my father-in-law's ashes. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly difficult and sad occasion for all present - but most of all, for my mother-in-law. Married for 58 years, she's alone now. She's not really alone, obviously, as she has friends and a tremendous amount of family all around her, but that's not the same. They married when she was 18, and she is in relatively good health. Now she has to figure out how to live without the man she has done everything with for an eternity.
After he retired, they did everything together ... church together, men's/women's bible studies together, errands together, the death of each of her parents together, vacations together, everything together. How do you live a separate life when you've never been apart? How do you go on when the one person you could tell everything to isn't there to talk to anymore? I know people do it, all day, every day, but how?
My mother-in-law is a good woman, a great cook, a crafter, an excellent grandmother and great grandmother. She has a fantastic memory. She is wonderfully sentimental and kind. We cry at the same dorky things. She remembered to bring a box of kleenex to the funeral. At his memorial in April, she received mourners for 2 1/2 hours. Just as today with the small amount of close family that came, she had to meet and greet each person. If the roles were reversed, and I had lost my greatest love, I would have been in sack cloth in the corner, unable to recall my name, let alone remind my son to invite everyone back to his house for lunch. She is an incredibly strong and resilient human, given what she is going through.
When I was in college and my husband was in graduate school, I spent many, if not most weekends at their house. I would drive over on Friday night and stay through church & Sunday dinner before returning to school. At least once a month, we'd have dinner at Howard Johnson's. He always had the fish fry with extra tartar sauce and black coffee. She would have something different or exactly what I had, which was always the cheapest thing on the menu, because he never let me pay. On the way there, we would pass an exit on the highway that pointed to a far off part of the state. She would sigh and say someday we'll go. He'd pat her hand and keep on driving. Now, they can't go together, and she has to decide if someday will ever come to pass.
At night, if my husband was in town or if another family member stopped by, we would put four of us at the kitchen table and play euchre into the wee hours of the morning. We always had to split them up; her and my husband, me and Dad. If we didn't do it, they'd run the table together time after time. Communicating with their eyes, they never had to say a word. Now, half the team is forever quiet.