Our Love Story - A Tribute To My Husband
My Husband, The Love Of My Life
This page is dedicated to my husband, who showed me the true meaning of love, and continues to do so to this very day. I cannot imagine how my life would be now if he hadn't been with me to show me the way.
I am truly blessed!
A great sense of humor, a winning smile, and the ability to give without expecting anything in return. A proud American, serving in Vietnam. A loving father to his son from his 1st marriage. The best friend a wife could ever have!
It didn't start out that way. It was a long journey. But we are proof that love can prevail.
All photos on this site are my own, and subject to copyright
In The Beginning....
Our first meeting was not indicative of how our lives would turn out. I attended a party, where I met my future husband. He was there with friends, and they were quite obnoxious! I asked who he was, only to learn he was the brother of the host. I kept my distance for quite some time.
Months later, his brother (the party host), died suddenly. I found myself at the wake sitting next to my future husband, and he showed me a totally different side that night. He was quite endearing, even in his grief. I spent the next few hours just sitting there, holding his hand.
He lived in small country town, about 4 hours from me. A couple of weeks later, he sent me a bus ticket, asking me to come stay for the weekend. Three weeks later, he asked me to marry him, and I said "No". But he was persistent, and 5 months later, we were married!
Husband & Wife
On May 14, 1983 in the chapel at my church, we became husband and wife. My parents were married at this church, and my grandfather had built the chapel, so it seemed the most appropriate place to hold the ceremony. We wanted a small, simple ceremony, so just a few were in attendance: my parents, brother & sister; his parents, son, and brother, and a couple of mutual friends.
After the ceremony, we held a reception for our friends at a local steakhouse, then headed to our new home in the city. We didn't have a honeymoon, because he had to be back at work. The first few weeks were really wonderful.
But then his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) kicked in, and it was something I didn't understand. He would hear a backfire, causing him to crouch on the floorboard of the pickup, screaming "Get Down! Get Down!". He crawled through bushes; he saw the enemy lurking outside the house.
We had to move out of the city. He explained that he couldn't be around so many people, because it triggered his PTSD. He was afraid he might end up shooting an innocent bystander. So two months after our marriage, he had his job transfer us out to the country.
We set up house in a mobile home on an acre of land. I was a city girl, and really didn't want to live in the country. I didn't know anyone, and for the first few months, didn't have a vehicle or telephone. But I loved and wanted to be with my husband, and I didn't want him to suffer in the city! Little did I know the suffering that Vietnam veterans deal with every day!
My husband was in charge of literally hundreds of pieces of off-road construction equipment on a lake construction project. The project ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so I hardly ever saw him. When he did have time off, he either wanted to go fishing - his greatest passion - or drink beer. I didn't mind having a cocktail occasionally, but would rather spend some time with him.
We compromised, and I ended up going fishing with him & his work buddies, or going to parties where there was actually a few wives. I made a few friends, got a vehicle, and finally got out of the house a bit. But my husband's long hours & beer drinking finally got the best of us.
One night, he came home and said "I love you, but think we should get a divorce." I was stunned! He explained that he couldn't be the husband that I deserved. We both cried a lot, hugged a lot, but I finally agreed.
The In-Between Years
We were apart for 21 years. I married someone else 3 years after our divorce, then moved back to the city. It was a really bad, abusive marriage, but I hung in there for 7 years. My husband finished the lake project, then moved to another small town. He also remarried, but his only lasted for a year and a half.
We spoke a few times over the years. There was no animosity between us. His mother sent me Christmas cards, and we still had friends in common.
I thought about him quite a bit over the years. It seemed that I was always attracted to the same kind of man. I finally decided that if I was going to be with someone like my 1st husband, that it should be him.
So I called him.
First meeting in 21 years
We spoke several times on the telephone. He wanted to come stay the weekend with me, but I was a bit nervous. So I suggested that we meet at his mother's house on Thanksgiving afternoon. I thought that having people around would help break the ice.
It was a bit awkward at first, but after we eased away from the family members, we got to talk a bit. He told me that he was sorry that he didn't try harder the first time around, and wanted to know if I'd give him another chance. I told him I felt the same way, and agreed to come stay the following weekend at his home.
We spent a year getting to know each other all over again. He still drank quite a lot, but he was much more attentive, and we spent a great deal of time together. He asked me if I would marry him again, and of course, I said "yes!". But with one stipulation: It would have to be forever.
I leased out my house in the city, packed up all my belongings, and on December 1st, 2006, we were back together for good.
First Act of Love
To show me that he was serious, he entered alcohol rehab at the Veterans Medical Center in February 2007. He spent a week there, and came home a different person. It was good, for the most part. But without alcohol, his PTSD became worse, and he had horrific nightmares. His often dreamed of swimming in a river of fire, with bodies floating next to him.
But he was willing to stick it out. A couple of weeks later, he entered a month-long rehab program at the VA, where he learned how to live life without alcohol. It was tough having him gone for so long after we had just gotten back together, but it was worth it. I was so proud that he made the choice to become sober!
My husband told me that he would prove to me that he loved me, and did so on a daily basis. Each morning, the first thing he'd say was "Good morning, Sweetheart! I love you!". At night, he'd ask "Are you safe? Are you happy?" When I'd reply "yes", he say "That's all I care about. Good night, Honey. I love you".
If it was a work day, he'd call me at lunch, to tell me he loved me. If it was a day off, he'd find me several times a day to do the same. One night, he said "I'll prove to you that I love you. I'm going to stay up all night, and let you know". It was sweet for the first 3 or 4 minutes of him saying "I love you", then amusing. But after several hours, he was driving me crazy!
It wasn't just the words, however. He left notes to let me know that he was thinking about me. Occasionally, on his way home from work, he'd stop & pick wildflowers for me. When I'd talk to mutual friends, they'd remark "He certainly loves you! You wouldn't believe all the nice things he tells us about you!"
He always complimented me on everything I did, and always said "You're wonderful". Whether it was just a meal, or laundry, or me helping him with a project, he always said "Thank you".
I couldn't help but feel his love and appreciation, even when he wasn't around.
My husband had dreamed of driving a concrete truck since he was a child, so he decided to find a job driving one. The first place he applied hired him, and he soon drove all over the county. He was an extremely hard worker, and always volunteered to work overtime, or go in on his days off. Seldom did he take a vacation or sick day, because he loved to work so much.
But after 18 months on the truck, he began having problems with his back and legs. We went to a number of doctors; he had a series of X-rays and MRI's, and after a few months, finally learned he had sciatica. This started a long journey of pain killers, none of which seemed to get rid of the pain. He finally had steroid shots in his spine, which gave him some temporary relief.
However, by the end of August 2009, he couldn't take the pain anymore. Every time he crawled up into the truck, the pain was so intense he felt faint. He decided to retire.
Ways To Pass The Time
Retirement was good for him, or at least for the pain. It subsided a bit, so he didn't have to take as many pain killers. He became a couch potato, watching game shows & soap operas. I was amused that he became so addicted to television. He had a friend who was also disabled, and they would discuss the soaps every afternoon.
He decided he needed a puppy. His last one had died several years ago, and he was finally ready for another. I eventually caved in, and said "why not!", knowing it would be me that would take care of it.
Charlie Watts became the newest addition to our family. He was quite a cute dog, who followed his daddy around all day. The puppy seemed to bring life back into my husband. They would go fishing together, and visit friends. I conceded it had been a good idea all along.
Just When I Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse
In early 2010, my husband began coughing up blood. Then, a large knot grew on the side of his neck. I begged him to go to the doctor, but he refused, saying "It's just the cost of Agent Orange". But he needed a prescription refilled, so while in the office, I told the doctor about the blood. He immediately ordered x-rays, blood tests and scans, and sent us to a pulmonary specialist.
The pulmonary specialists did a series of tests as well, then called 2 weeks later. She said "You have cancer. Someone from Oncology will call you soon to let you know what to do next." We were shocked! Mainly because of the way she delivered the news.
Two more weeks went by before we got into Oncology. The doctors there told us that he had cancer in his spine, lymph nodes, and lungs. The cancer was attributed to his Agent Orange exposure. It was incurable, and without chemo, he would probably only live about 6 months. With chemo, he'd probably have a year or so.
His pain was so terrible that he said "I wish they'd just put me in a medically-induced coma, or just kill me now!". However, he decided to go for chemo, and had it a week later. He handled it pretty well, and the swelling went down in his neck. After about a week, he seemed almost like his old self. He'd putter around in the yard, and friends would come to visit. He encouraged me to go back to work, and I started on May 28, 2010.
Memorial Day Weekend, 2010
When I came home from my first day at work, my husband was sitting out in the yard, waiting for me. He was in a really good mood, and told me he felt the best he had in months. He gave me a big hug, and told me some friends were coming over to visit. It was such a beautiful, happy day!
My brother came by to visit as well, and we were visiting inside the house. My husband came in to tell me that he was going to put up new flags, since it was Memorial Day weekend. We always celebrated this holiday with friends & family.
The next thing I knew, my husband came back in the house, and slumped into the recliner. It was so hot outside that I thought he had heat stroke. I put a washcloth on his head, and tried to get him to drink some water. But he just sat there. He couldn't move nor speak, so I called 911.
The paramedics showed up in no time, and decided he must be having a stroke. They called the air ambulance, and it landed in our front yard just minutes later. Strangely enough, I took a picture of it when it landed. I told my brother that my husband would find it amusing that he got to ride in a helicopter after all these years.
The hospital was an hour and a half away, and I think I spent the entire trip on the phone calling all the family. The ER waiting room was filled with relatives by the time I arrived. The doctors let me know they had already given him a CT scan, and it showed a brain hemorrhage, probably caused by the chemo.
I stayed with him all night. He was finally admitted to ICU, where he spent the next 4 days.
To Love Someone Is To Let Them Go
I will never forget the doctor calling me aside and saying "It's time to decide what to do". I'm surprised that I can remember it, as so much was going on through this ordeal. The doctor told me that my husband was not going to recover; he would never speak or walk again. His right side was paralyzed, and he could not swallow on his own. He was literally trapped inside his cancer-riddled and pain-filled body.
I asked the doctor what he would do if it was his wife, and he replied "I love her, so I'd let her go". He told me that we could insert a feeding tube, that could keep him alive until the cancer killed him. This could be a few weeks, or possibly a year. The cancer would grow, and in turn, so would his pain.
My husband and I had discussed this in great depth a number of times. He wanted no part of a feeding tube, and he wanted to die with dignity, at home. I'd like to say that my decision was easy because of this, but it wasn't. It was heart-breaking. So I told the doctor, "I'm going to take him home."
It took a couple of more days before I located a hospice that would come out to our home in the country. The day before they came, I got the family together at the house, and we stripped the living room of all furniture, so his hospital bed could be set up. I thought the living room would be best, as we have a huge picture window facing outdoors. Plus, any company that he had would have room to sit & visit with him.
He came home on Monday, June 8th, and got settled in. My stepson (his son), and his girlfriend agreed to help me take care of him, as the hospice nurse came only once a day, for an hour at a time. We were instructed on medications and how to give them, how to work the oxygen machine, and how to care for him in general.
We took care of my husband in shifts; I usually took the night shift, as I had a lot to do during the day. Like visiting funeral homes, and talking to a minister about services. I quit eating for the most part, and developed insomnia. I worried about my husband, and I worried about my stepson. I was so stressed and exhausted that I didn't worry about myself. Time for that later!
My husband's hair finally fell out from the chemo, making him look much older than he was. Also, without food, he was losing a lot of weight, and seemed to be just fading away. Every once in a while he'd "come to", and smile a bit, and try to talk. Mostly, he just slept.
Friends & family came & went. Most of that is a blur. His old boss from the concrete company came by every evening. He'd prop my husband up, support him with an arm around his shoulder, and just talk away. It didn't matter that my husband couldn't talk back.
On Sunday, his father came over, as well as some close friends. We got my husband up out of his bed, took him outside to the picnic table, and let him enjoy the friendship & sunshine. He seemed pretty alert & happy that afternoon.
After we put him back to bed, just about everyone left. I got in my chair beside his bed, and rested my head on his pillow. He was still for a long time, so I was surprised when he reached over, and stroked my forehead. He grabbed my hand, and started whispering to me. I have no idea what he said, but it seemed he was trying to comfort me.
Last Photo Of Us Taken Together
His Last Day
On Tuesday, June 15, a new hospice nurse came early in the day. She said she was there to give us some "relief", and would be there all day. I took the opportunity to go to the funeral home, then run a few errands. When I returned, I told my stepson to go do something fun. He decided to go fishing.
Visitors came & went all day. Around 8:30 in the evening, I came in and put my hand on his chest. He looked up at me, then closed his eyes & took his final breath. It sounded just like a sigh of relief.
The nurse said we needed to call out the medical examiner, but I wouldn't let her do it until my stepson came home. Instead, I contacted my husband's best friends, and they came over to say their goodbyes. We turned on the Rolling Stones - my husband's favorite band - and waited for my stepson. When he came home a little after 10 pm, he, in turn, made the nurse wait for the call.
Finally, a little before 11:00 pm, the medical examiner & funeral director arrived. We all said one last "Good-Bye", then the funeral director covered him in a quilt. I followed him out to the hearse, and watched them drive away into the night.
He wanted to be buried in the front yard, under the flagpole. While it could have been arranged, the minister talked me out of it. He told me that it would be too difficult for me to face each day. So instead, I made arrangements for him to be buried at DFW National Cemetery. It is such a gorgeous place, and he is surrounded by soldiers just like himself.
His memorial service was the day after the burial. It was at a small, country church near our house. The minister thought I'd gone crazy, because I told him he must wear overalls instead of a suit. I told all who were attending to wear Rolling Stones t-shirts, and many of them did. The Patriot Guard Riders came out to honor him, complete with US flags.
After the service, we released helium balloons into the air. It was such an awesome sight! It felt like we were sending our love out to him in the sky.
Love Like There Is No Tomorrow
A few months after he passed on, I had the inside of my wedding ring engraved with "Love Like There Is No Tomorrow". I am so grateful that we got back together, and that I had the opportunity to share with him the last years of his life. Even with all the health issues, it was totally worth it. I treasure the memories of the times - and the love - we shared.
We had such a good time, a good marriage, and good memories:
**Having silly conversations about things like bedbugs until the wee hours of the morning
**Finding shapes & people in the clouds
**Taking long drives in the evening to look for wild animals
**Learning how to trap wild animals and catch snakes
**Watching him dance & sing in the living room, using a light bulb as a pretend microphone
**Target shooting in the front yard
**Meals in town, followed by drives in the country
**Listening to him tell tall tales with his friends
**Going fishing, only to catch a snapping turtle
**Listening to his huge collection of Rolling Stones and Keith Richards CDs
**Building chicken coops
I miss his smile, his laugh, and his great sense of humor. Above all, I miss his love. I grieve for him, and for us. I re-live his final days almost every day. Almost everyone who knew him has "moved on", and I feel frozen in time.
Yet, I'm very grateful. We knew he was going to go, so we took the opportunity to love, because we knew there would be no tomorrow.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read this story of our love! While our "forever" didn't last as long as we hoped, the "forever" we did have was so very, very good!
I hope you take the time to let the people you love know it. It is probably the best gift that you can give!
Remembering & Celebrating
March 15, 2012
Today would have been my husband's 60th birthday. It's hard to believe he's been gone for 21 months! I've had a couple of people tell me today that they are "sorry".
While I appreciate the sentiment, I am not sorry. If he hadn't been born on this day 60 years ago, I wouldn't have enjoyed the times together with him, his enjoyment of life, and his love. I am grateful for today, because it is a day to celebrate his birth, and remember the life we had together.
And More Articles.... - Love, Grief & Remembrance
- The Bereavement Lamp | A Gift of Light, Remembrance and Love
A light burning brightly in honor and memory of my husband
- Top 10 Things NOT To Say To A Widow
The amazing and insensitive remarks that were said to me when I first became a widow.
This article is copyright 2012-2016 Country-Sunshine, and was originally published on Squidoo on January 6, 2012
© 2012 Country Sunshine