There were two things in this world my dad loved, my mother and his service in the Navy in World War II. He loved both of them from the time he was a fresh faced 18 year old eager to serve his country until his death last September 21 at the age of 85, broken-hearted and confused, suffering the effects of losing his beloved wife and of Alzheimer's Disease.
My mom and dad got married after he got home from boot camp back in 1944. They had four days together before he was shipped out, and didn't see each other again for two years. Mother moved in with his father and two brothers and taught school in a rural one room school house; and dad was at Iwo Jima when the war ended. It's amazing to me that their love lasted not only through the two years they were apart but through their 66 years of togetherness.
My family has been uncommonly blessed by the sweet legacy of their love story. They did everything together: sharing a car ride to work, vacations on the beach, appointments with doctors, sitting side by side in Sunday School, traveling all over the country in a van in their retirement years. Always affectionate, always hand in hand, always laughing and finding joy in the simple moments, and in each other, and in the God they shared.
Last August, my mother suffered a massive stroke and was unconscious for five days. My daughters and I sat at her bedside with tears streaming down our faces, as daddy held onto her hand and said over and over, "Sweetheart, you need to get better. We've got a lot of things we want to do and places we want to go. I love you, Sweetheart. You've got to get well."
She didn't get well. The stroke was too damaging, and she died on August 18. Daddy couldn't live without her, didn't know how, had never had to, and didn't want to. He gave up. As much as he enjoyed staying in bed in the mornings as the Alzheimer's took over, dreaming about his Naval adventures in the Pacific, nothing was left for him without his life long sweetheart. He died a month later of a broken heart. His simply couldn't keep beating without the echo of hers beside him.
This Saturday, we're having a Naval flag ceremony at dad's gravesite, to honor him and his service to our country. But mostly, what I'll be seeing is mom and dad holding hands and walking together forever through the valleys and across the hills of their beautiful heavenly home.