Several years ago, I struck up a friendship with a reader named LaTrelle. It began because she was on the mailing list of my weekly newsletter so she’d often reply with her thoughts and comments on what I had written.
This went on for a few years until LaTrelle encountered what would be the difficult challenge of her life — her husband, John, of almost 50 years, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Suddenly, our casual conversations became serious. She poured out her sorrows, asked for prayers and, day-by-day, took me along the journey that the still-devoted sweethearts were walking. Actually, they were so sideswiped that the truth is they were crawling.
Within hours of him passing from this world into the Lord’s hands from the comfort of his own bed, she wrote to tell me. She was devastated but shared his last words that he had whispered the previous day.
“On the day before he left me,” she wrote. “I was leaning over him, kissing and petting his face. He said, ‘I love you’ and I reassured him over and over of my love.”
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As he drifted away from her, he smiled weakly and asked, “Can we do it all over again?”
Over the years, I thought of this many times. His last words were to let her know that he would live every minute of their times together, the good, the bad, the hard, the easy, the sad, the happy. He wasn’t ready for it to be over.
Neither was Miss LaTrelle. Her heart was broken and she would write me often. Sometimes she would share stories of their lives, especially the romance and the early years. One morning she wrote and said, “It’s such beautiful morning. When I prayed, I asked our dear and loving God to tell my darling ‘good morning’ for me and I thought of you.” Then she moved into a story.
Miss LaTrelle carried on, with a deeply broken heart, for a few more years before bidding this world good-bye to say “hello” to her darling who was waiting inside the Pearly Gates. Her children knew of our friendship and wrote to let me know of her home-going.
I’m sad that Miss LaTrelle is not here to know this story. I wrote a column about her husband’s death words in September, 2011. Another reader wrote the other day that she had clipped that column from her newspaper and kept for these past few years.
“I’m writing to ask permission to read parts of this at my stepmother’s funeral.” She went on to explain that the marriage between LaTrelle and John had always reminded her of her father and his wife. She had been battling Alzheimer’s for five years. “My father has been there every step and every day for her. It is amazing the care he has given her. Now, her days on earth are winding down and we are beginning to plan her funeral.”
Earlier that morning, the reader had sat by her stepmother’s bed and read my column to her. “I read the article to her and cried like a baby. Your words were as touching today as they were when I first read them years ago.”
They weren’t my words. I just recorded them to share with a world that has too much ugliness and not enough stories of enduring love like LaTrelle and John shared. I have thought often of his words as I did on the day that I was stirring up a cake in the kitchen. Upstairs, Tink was whistling happily as he worked. That pure joy in his tone. “Can we do it all over again?” I said aloud, still stirring and listening to my husband’s happiness.
I imagine that if I outlive him that those will be my final words, too. Though I suspect I’ll add, “Except for a couple of things.”
Ronda Rich, author of “What Southern Women Know,” writes the Dixie Diva column that appears in several newspapers.