Bob and Gloria had been married for 38 glorious years. The couple raised two fine sons and life had been good beyond any expectations. The married couple loved to travel and extended trips to far off places were commonplace. It just wasn't possible for life to get any better Bob surmised; life offered everything Bob could have wished for but, as he was about to discover, the nature of our wishes often changes.
Both Bob and Gloria worked at the same place, a St. Louis area hospital. She was an executive secretary. Bob spent his days working in the bio-med department. The two, when possible, met for lunch and talked about the kids and planned their next getaway.
Bob was a shy man with few friends aside from those co-workers he saw five days a week, and the social planning was left up to Gloria. Bob didn't mind the arrangement and actually preferred it that way as his best friend and favorite companion was, well you guessed it, Gloria.
Gloria would not deny that by far her favorite travel destination was Hawaii. Oh, the two had traveled to Las Vegas, Egypt and other spots, but the couple who called St. Louis home garnered a certain affinity for the Pacific Ocean Islands. There was just something about the people, the scenery and those tropical breezes that called to them, and they frequently answered those calls.
It was a cold and typical St. Louis Winter and Gloria and Bob counted the days until they boarded that plane that would once again take them to "The Aloha State." The coats and warm clothes would remain in the closet and the anticipation of those warm ocean born breezes that caressed their faces was almost too great to bear. The February day finally arrived and, following a long flight, the couple exited the plane and set foot on their favorite destination spot, Hawaii.
There was, however, a fly in the ointment this trip. Gloria wasn't feeling well. She hadn't been quite herself since the two checked into the hotel room. Gloria occasionally suffered from bouts of asthma and it appeared that, as untimely as it might have been, the illness had once again reared its ugly head.
The seriousness of Gloria's illness became apparent when Bob discovered that his wife became unresponsive. Gloria was rushed to a local hospital and Bob was told that her condition was critical -- so critical in fact that she was placed on a ventilator.
Bob called his two sons, Jeff and Kenny, and told them of the tragic turn of events. The two siblings traveled to Hawaii, and it was then that Bob and the boys were forced to make a most difficult decision, maybe the most difficult decision a family member could ever be asked to make. Would Gloria be removed from the ventilator?
The doctors told the family that there was no hope for recovery and all that kept Bob's wife of 38 years alive was that machine. Bob and the boys talked and talked and, finally, Bob came to a decision he never envisioned making. Gloria was no longer living she was merely alive; and she wouldn't want to stay alive under those conditions. All three agreed that Gloria should be taken off the ventilator. Gloria Wattler died on Feb. the 21, 2008, and nothing would ever be the same.
Alone, and when not alongside his lovely wife, Gloria, Bob was not comfortable when in the company of others. He found that most people, save one, exposed his shy and awkward nature. Gloria had always been the outgoing partner in the marriage and she brought Bob into encounters and conversations he otherwise would have avoided. Bob never gave the matter much thought and Gloria never seemed to resent Bob's standoffish nature.
A few years passed and Bob eventually retired. The bedside alarm clock was turned off and lunch would no longer be dictated by a clock on the wall but by his appetite. The idea of retirement seemed a good one to most who knew him, but Bob continued to live in the past, and the past for him was a time with the love of his life, Gloria.
Bob had little interest in leaving his home. When his friends asked if he would meet them for dinner, he offered excuses why he couldn't attend. The widower found his favorite chair to be his resting place and the television his companion.
Jeff frequently cautioned his father against continuing his solitary lifestyle and encouraged him to become more active.
"Get a hobby. Have dinner with some of your old friends from work."
"I'm not interested," Bob replied. "I don't know why I'm still alive. I really have no reason to live now that your mother is gone and I wish I could be with her."
Maybe the saddest thing about the death of someone is the way that the passing changes the lives of those left behind. The loss of someone who was loved so very much can drain the very will to live from one who remains behind. For Bob, each day was filled with sorrow and loneliness; but the most frightening thing of all was that which lived in Bob's heart, fear.
Fear is a terrible thing and Bob was afraid. Of what you might ask. He awoke each morning with a fear of that day, a day without Gloria. He was afraid of being alone and afraid of yet another new day of living, and there was no escaping that crippling fear.
A few months ago, and after 11 years of life without Gloria, Bob was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Bob's son Jeff had remained at his father's bedside for days as Bob's demise was imminent. Jeff was told that his father would not survive more than a few days and the end of that life of 73 years would certainly come to its conclusion quietly and with no fanfare.
The days had taken its toll on Jeff and he needed some time away from his father's side to shower, shave and change clothes. It wouldn't take long, so Jeff told the nurse that he was going to leave for an hour or so to take care of some personal needs. He was assured that, should his father's condition change, he would be called.
Well, as it is many times in our lives what we've been waiting for never seems to happen until we have come to least expect it. Bob died at 11:30 a.m. on the morning of July 9, 2019. It was a warm sunny morning and, as might be expected, Jeff regrets his decision to leave his father's side, even for that brief time. Jeff regrets the loss of his father but takes some comfort in knowing that his mother and father are now once again together. Bob's wish, good or bad, did come true and, for that, we must, in some way, be happy for him.
Bob was destined to take one last trip but this time he had to travel alone, without Gloria. I want to believe that when the time of departure came, Bob left with the anticipation one can only have when they know that they are going to be with a loved one. Have a safe trip, Bob.
There is a light, a very special light that shines on you when someone loves you, and two people bask in that warm glow when you, in turn, give your love to that special person. But when that light goes out and the world around you becomes black and dark, you have to find a new source of illumination or live in a terribly dark world. Sometimes the blackness is so terrible that the escape from the darkness and the world around you beckons and entices you with relief. Often the absence of pain and fear is far better than the struggle to live with it.
Jeff believes that his mother did not want to live as she was and neither did his father. As for his absence at his father's bedside, Jeff now considers the possibility that it was Bob's will and wish. If he could have, he might have said to his son, "I choose to leave you softly with the fond memories of each other and our time together, for those are the thoughts a son should be left with, not the sound of his dying father's last breath."
People may die but love is destined to live on and on. Bob believed that the power of love is eternal and surely lasts forever.
Stan Fine is a retired police officer and Verizon Security Department investigator who, after retiring in 2006, moved from Tampa, Fla., to Noel, Mo. Stan's connection to Noel can be traced back to his grandparents who lived most of their lives there. Stan began writing after the passing of his wife Robin in 2013. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 08/08/2019
Print Headline: Once Again With You