Love and Grief: When Loss Enters Marriage

Like most family-oriented guys, my friend Chris searched and searched for his true partner and soul mate.  I watched on the sideline as he spent months, lamenting on how he wanted to find a special woman to love, especially after two previously failed marriages.  He still believed in love, and despite all the pain it had caused him in the past, he wanted to be married again.

His first marriage took place when he was very young and did not last a year.  His second attempt at marriage didn’t work out much better due to the abuse he suffered at the hands of an alcoholic wife.  Still undeterred he didn’t give up and after much prayer and many flat dates he finally found her.  He found the love of his life and she was perfect for him.

She was strikingly beautiful plus genuinely happy.  The timing was perfect, as she was also looking for the right partner, after resolving to the fact she needed to let her first marriage go.

Out of all the people I have met in my life, she was the most optimistic person, along with a strong Christian faith that I have ever known.  When she entered the room, it would light up from the warmth of her smile.  She was the light in the room and her smile was always bright.  She made all strangers feel like they were old friends and her welcome mat was wide and long.

It wasn’t long after they started dating, they started getting serious and as fate would have it, Chris was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  This scary news would be quite a blow to any new couple, but not them. They were so much in love they decided to trust their hearts and move forward together in life. Without skipping a beat, they flew to Hawaii in 2009 and got married on the beach, in a romantic ceremony on Valentine’s day. Not knowing how much time they would have together, or what guarantees the future held for them, like smitten adolescents they ran full steam ahead and did it anyway.

They got married because they believed in each other and believed in love.  It was refreshing to see what being “in love” meant and no matter what life threw at them, they weren’t going to let it get them down.  Why?  Because they recognized from the start that they had something special.  They were committed to the good everyone searches for and that is probably what I loved most about them.  Good to be alive. Good to be together and good to be in love.  They made a good life with what they had.

From that first day forward their marriage was not only good but great.  Why great?  Because they were made for each other.  Great because they created a wonderful family around this love, and mostly great because they not only appreciated each other, but each and every day they had together.  To them each day was a joyful celebration since there was no guarantee there would be a tomorrow.  They were both grateful and kind individually but even more grateful and kind together as a couple.

As the years rolled on they didn’t hold back on life and the good times. Working and then taking wonderful vacations, like taking a cruise on the Adriatic Sea, snorkeling at the Maho Bay Beach National Park in the U.S. Virgin Islands or simply enjoying their family and friends at their lake front home, every day was a treasured gift.

If there had been sharks swimming around them in the picture they would still have their thumbs up!  That was them, always  fun loving adventurous and positive.

Her parents lived in a little house right in front of theirs, which was by design, so they could watch over them and care for them as well.  Her ten-year-old daughter lived with them too and they nurtured her, a precious little girl who was busy in school, sports, church and theatre into

an active teen.  Chris was a loving stepfather who adored this child and she lovingly called him C-(Chris)-Dad.  And of course, there were dogs in the home.  Lots of dogs, four at the last count and they were all spoiled but you would never know it, because they were so good and well behaved.

As if a page was suddenly pulled straight out from of a Greek tragedy, this Disney type of happy days didn’t last long, but the change that came next was not what everyone expected.

Chris was still battling his cancer and searching out new treatments, doing well, when suddenly in September 2015 a bad car accident happened in the front yard and in a flash his world was gone.

Her car was hit by a Jeep as it swerved around the curb, at a high speed, smashing into her Lexus at the foot of their driveway.  The First Responders arrived quickly on the scene and had to cut her out of the car, and the good news was she was alive, conscious and waving to let everyone know she was okay.

The impact was too great, and she later passed away in the ambulance, with her daughter by her side, in route to the hospital. Her death was such an unexpected blow for all of us, that at the time we could hardly process it.  Everyone was in a state of shock, especially Chris.

Things quickly changed at home for him and it was if his beautiful family dissolved right before his eyes.  His stepdaughter went to live with her biological father and his in-laws were grieving so hard that his presence was a difficult reminder of their loss.  In the end it was just Chris and four dogs, alone and hanging on to the crumbs of what little happiness they had left.

In January, Chris lost his fight to cancer.  The doctors told his sister that he had survived five years longer then any of them had expected and I’m sure this is because of the love he had for his wife and his desire to be with her.

Now that she was gone, you could tell his fight for life was gone too.  He never complained about his poor health, but you could tell he was deeply sad inside, missing his bride.

I spoke to Chris on the phone just two weeks before he died, and he never mentioned a word about the cancer taking over.  It was a gentle conversation and he said something that touched me.  He said each night he would go outside to watch the sun set and sit on the back deck.  Then he would look up to the heavens and say, “Darling, I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Last weekend was the funeral for my dear friend Chris; he was 59.  It wasn’t a terribly sad gathering, because we all knew he had suffered a great deal over the years and he was ready to go.  Life had dealt him some hard lessons as well as good times.  He is happy now, in heaven along with his wife and I’m sure that is where he wanted to be, with her.  She was probably there to meet him at the gates.

The reason why I felt moved to share this story is because it is about goodness.  Goodness in people, goodness in life and love.  About taking chances and moving forward.  About trusting and creating loving relationships with both family and friends.  Life is still good even when it is unfair or scary.

Stay positive and be grateful no matter what you are facing because we don’t know when it will end.  All we only know is that we have now, we have “This Day” and this day is all we need.

Luellen Hoffman

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Luellen Hoffman is an adjunct professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and has a successful career in the Washington, DC area. She has won top awards and recognitions from, VNU/Nielsen Business Media for her outstanding people and communication skills. Hoffman is a feature writer of a children?s column with a Chicago based magazine for over fifteen years. She also created an equestrian scholarship at Dartmouth College in 2002. Her husband Michael died unexpectedly in 1994 which led her to write this book and share her experience of a Special Dream in hope of reaching out to others who may be have had this same unique experience. She has two sons, enjoys art, music and sports. Luellen appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Continuting Bonds Through Albums and Stories.” To hear Luellen being interviewed on this show, click on the following link:

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