When I heard that my friend Don passed away this morning, my response was both joy and sadness. Joy, because Don was no longer suffering and, having seen Jesus face-to-face was probably having the time of his life. And sadness, because there will be so many people that will miss him. Top of the list will be Clarice, his beloved wife of over 50 years. I spoke to her this afternoon and asked how she was feeling. “Still a bit tender,” she replied. Yeah, I bet. I then asked if anyone was going to keep her company this afternoon. “No,” she replied, “I just want to be at home and think about what life will be like without him.”
When, in my line of work, you walk with people through this kind of thing, you can’t help it affecting you personally. I mean that in a positive. way. Francelle and I talked about it over lunch.
“So,” I asked, “What would you do if I went suddenly? Would you want people around?”
“No,” she answered, “I’d be like Clarice. I’d want time on my own, thinking about what life will like without you.”
Tender stuff. It altered how we spent time together that afternoon.
It’s one thing to preach about how great Heaven will be (which was what I actually did this morning); it’s another thing to consider people you love very much going there without you.
I remember visiting Don and Clarice some weeks back. This was just after Don found out he had a brain tumour. It took them completely by surprise. Clarice was the one who had the health issues, having endured umpteen operations on her melanoma growths. They both expected her to go first. Don had a clean bill of health and hardly saw a doctor all his life. And now here they were facing a very different scenario. It only goes to show we don’t know what life has in store for us next.
When I arrived at their house there they both were, sitting on the couch holding hands and looking out at the ocean (they have a beautiful view of the sea which they both have cherished most of their married life). It was just one of those lovely scenes, that you didn’t really want to disturb. They weren’t talking – they didn’t need to. Words were unnecessary. When you’re married that long you can almost read each others minds.
I’m sure that’s where Clarice will be now – sitting in that same seat staring out to sea, not imagining life without Don but actually living it. No one can walk this path with her; it’s a path she will have to walk alone. But not completely… she has Jesus. And for those who know and love him, he really is the best company to have.
Especially in these times.