When Howard met Grace: lifelong love story culminates in hospice
By Barbara A. Hoepp, LCSW
One of the best things about life as a hospice social worker is the opportunity to hear wonderful stories about how people met and fell in love.
It’s amazing to me how many men took one look at the woman he is now caring for and fell in love with her grace, her smile, her playfulness and her willingness to accept a scared, shy, embarrassed fellow who already knew that this woman would be his bride.
Recently, I sat with a gentleman who brought his wife to their condo at the beach for a last time at the seashore. He purchased a van with a lift for her wheelchair and all of the equipment needed to keep her comfortable in their castle on the beach. He hired a daytime aide and was willing to give nighttime care because he was used to doing it. His kids were expected to travel through New Jersey on their way visit a college for their daughter, but they were not planning to offer any respite or support. He was a proud man and accepted that his children had their own lives to keep them busy. If he really needed them, he believed that they would arrive.
When we sat down to talk I asked about his relationship with his wife, and he slowly began to talk about going out with a friend prior to leaving for battle in the Korean War. His buddy wanted him to share a double date but acknowledged that the other young lady was already engaged. It wasn’t an ideal date for a lonely fellow ready to ship out, but he accepted the invitation and as soon as he saw her, he knew that she would be his bride.
They remained in contact by mail and when he returned home, in his words, “one thing led to another” and they began dating and were married. Together they had a lovely life and even opportunities to travel to his land of origin. They worked hard; they enjoyed time together and with their children. As he reminisced, a single tear worked its way slowly down his cheek. He didn’t bother to wipe it and he had no shame. It was such a beautiful tear. It carried the impact of an ocean but was perfection in its singular nature. There was nothing to say after that lovely confession.
I needed to meet the woman who inspired such love and sadness.
Lying in bed with her head wrapped in a very bright silken scarf, (God’s) “Grace” (as I like to think of her), was smiling and willing to take my hand. Her language did not add up as the tumor had scrambled her word usage. But her eyes and her smile said it all. She was a happy woman who was loved for her lifetime by a good man who was willing to do just about anything to meet her needs.
For me the gift was in being invited in to share a few moments with this couple. The warmth of her hand, her smile and his love stayed with me and, as you can read, I find it worth sharing. Because in the quiet of that lovely visit, we quickly got past the medical issues and stayed in a place of love shared by two people. That made it so much more than just a day on the job.
In Hospice, we call it “life review”. My hope is that reading this gentle love story will encourage you to take a walk down memory lane with the loved one that you are caring for and perhaps share a small moment with everyone on this site.
Thank you for taking the time.