Lessons in love
by Connie Brisson
Since I was a young girl, I’ve always feared my parents’ deaths.
As I got older, the fear grew less but I still didn’t expect to lose them both within four months of each other last year. My Dad died last November 29, just months after Mom on July 20.
When we went to the old age home (the morning after my Mom died) to tell my Dad about her passing, we found out that he had a heart attack during the night. He was very disoriented and far away.
My immediate thought was that he intuitively ALREADY knew that she was gone – that somehow, on a deep soul level, he felt her leave/pass over during the night – and that knowledge and loss had brought on his heart attack. It was one of those “coincidences” that didn’t seem very coincidental.
Then he had another heart attack within a week. The doctor told us to be prepared for his passing soon and said this was common. Many old married couples die one after another; they can’t seem to live without each other.
I have to tell you that, beautiful as the idea was, it didn’t sound like my parents. Although they had been married for over 60 years, I wouldn’t have called their marriage a love story. Things were more practical and real in our house. In fact, Mom jokingly called their fighting “communicating.” In many ways I thought they were just trying their best to get through life.
And yet, at the end, after everything was said and done, it was apparent that my Dad couldn’t live without my Mom. For me, after all the struggles I had watched them go through, this was ironic and heartbreaking.
My Dad wasn’t a big talker. Indeed, he chose his words carefully and honestly. One of the last times I saw him, I asked him if he missed Mom. He sat there solemnly for a long time and then he hung his head down and sorrowfully said one word that I’ll never forget: “Terribly.”
I started to cry. I cried for him, I cried for my Mom and I cried for me. I cried because I wished Mom could have heard the way he said it. I cried because I wished that he could have felt it with that much conviction throughout all the years they were together and I cried because somehow I almost didn’t see it – the depth of the love he had for her. And if I hadn’t asked him if he missed her, I would have missed one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard him say about her.
I’ve had many people say to me, about my parent’s 62 years of marriage: “Oh, they must have loved each other so much,” but honestly, until near the end that wasn’t what I thought.
I thought that my Mom gave up a large part of herself in order to stay married and keep our family together. I thought my Dad was very driven. He was both the both master of the universe and somehow lost at the same time. I thought they both just accidentally happened to each other in a time when people were more unwise about love and “happily ever after.”
And, what I realized once my Mom died is that I didn’t know a thing about how much my Mom or Dad loved each other. I realized that I didn’t have the right to judge how one person loves another because love has so many hidden treasures that no one else ever gets to see or understand.
I’ve been married for 15 years now and I appreciate the give and take of marriage and relationships. Even more, I’m humbled by the mistakes I’ve made with Marcel, my little Gabrielle, my family and friends – well, you get the picture. My love has NOT been perfect.
Yet somehow, from the time I was a small girl, I had this illusion that love should be PERFECT and if what was happening wasn’t perfect, then it wasn’t really love.
Then, somewhere along the way, I had this realization that everything in between was love too – even the painful parts. Learning and growing, especially in my journey as a mother, showed me more about love than I ever imagined. I started to see that the process (of mistakes and forgiveness) was in itself a testimony of our deep love for each other.
I was talking to a friend one day about all of this and she said something wonderful. “Love doesn’t always look like we think it should.”
Thank you Mom. Thank you Dad. I love you both very much. Maybe it wasn’t perfect … or maybe it was.
Connie Brisson is the publisher and editor of Mosaic Mind, Body and Spirit Magazine since 2004. From a simple newsprint format, it grew into a beautiful full color, gloss magazine that was distributed throughout Alberta, Canada until the end of 2018. It’s now evolved into an online magazine that continues to help people heal, transform and live their best lives. www.mosaicmagazine.ca
ART: Detail of Heart’s Delight, © Carol Breen. Carol’s art is a visual diary of everyday objects and people around her. Her art is about color, humor, transformation, communication, and travel (both imaginary and real). See more at www.carolbreen.ca
NOTE: This article was first published in February 2009 in © Mosaic Mind, Body and Spirit Magazine. This information is for educational purposes only and is intended to supplement your current health program, not to replace the care of a licensed medical doctor.