12.24.2013 III. Who is The Love of Our Life?
In 2009 Charlie created a Facebook Page and started to connect with his friends from high school, college and any place he could remember their names. He missed each and every high school class reunion due to wallowing in a drunken stupor the night of said events but those days were over now and he proceeded with his personal program of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
One late night he received a notice that Janet from High School had accepted his friend request. He sent her an email and she also a night owl responded at once and their friendship was borne.
Charlie remembered Janet as vivacious and a true extrovert who embraced all that life had to offer. She was on the cheerleading squad and could jump higher than any other cheerleader. She would stop athletes in the hall and congratulate them on their win at football, basketball or wrestling whatever the season. But she also had a gleam in her eye that she wanted the best life had to offer. Charlie was amazed that after all these years she actually remembered him and more dumfounded that she was asking him questions about his life.
They talked online for months and grew closer by the day. They shared the most intimate details of their lives and why neither of them had married. After many hours of laughter and sharing they decided to meet. Janet warned Charlie that she had health issues but Charlie was not swayed for his had found his soul mate almost five decades after they first met.
Charlie proposed over the phone and Janet accepted. They decided to marry in Kansas City and Charlie commenced planning what Janet referred to as our simple ceremony. Charlie flew to Kansas City and was met by their mutual friend Greg Storey who informed Charlie that Janet had been hospitalized and that her situation was very serious.
Though having not connected for the better part of forty years, Charlie and Greg barely talked on their way to the hospital. Once there they were relieved to hear that Janet’s condition had stabilized. She beamed when he walked in the room with a bouquet of roses and a helium balloon. “Are those for me” she demanded?” imitating a folksy Gone with the Wind Scarlet O’Hara accent.
Janet asked Charlie can we move the wedding here? And so they did. The Chaplain arrived and so did the nursing staff and the resident physicians who crowded around Janet sitting upright in bed and Charlie for the first time in his life dressed in a Tuxedo with Greg standing in as his best man and Janet’s niece as the flower girl and her nephew as the ring bearer and her Sister Karen as the maid of honor. It was quite the scene for this December evening.
The Vows were pronounced and recited and Charlie kissed the bride. The room was cleared and Janet held Charlie’s hand while gazing in his eyes and said: “Charlie I am moving to another facility.” Charlie nodded his approval whatever is best for you is what is best for us.
An ambulance was waiting and Janet was transported out through the emergency room into the cold night air and lifted up and into the back of the medical transport for the ride across town. Charlie checked into a nearby hotel showered, changed clothes and waited for his rental car in his room watching in silence as the snow started to fall.
The phone rang and Charlie hustled to the elevator and down seven floors to the lobby where a young man in a doorman uniform and a lit bowtie handed him a contract which he signed and accepted the keys but not the insurance before hopping into his new 928 Porsche for the five ten minute ride down the street.
Charlie arrived at the facility with a street address listed on the front exterior wall but otherwise just an anonymous white brick building. He parked his car and walked into the main foyer. The transport physician from the hospital Karen Parker greeted him with a handshake and said as she pointed down the hall: “right this way.” Charlie peered around the corner into the room which was much nicer than the hospital room with a couch, several high back deep cushion chairs. Janet leaned forward and said: “My darling husband, please come here and give me a kiss”. The family and friends assembled there parted to make way and Charlie sat near Janet at the head of the bed while family and friends entertained them with stories of old and new some even involving Charlie from high school or that the vest of his Tux was inside out during their nuptials.
For the first time in his life Charlie felt as though he belonged. He relaxed and for a few short hours had not a care in the world while holding the hand of Janet his wife. Around eleven that night the group started to leave by one by one departing with lots of hugs and wishing each other a Merry Christmas! Finally and at last it was only Charlie and Janet in the room. After some small talk Janet asked Charlie if he would go to the Jack in the Box across the street and bring her back some real junk food. Charlie laughed and walked out into the snow as the happiest man on earth. He ordered one of everything and returned with two large bags and one hundred dollars worth of food.
Something seemed amiss as he turned the corner of the lobby and saw a group of nurses gathered outside the room of Janet. He arrived put the food down on the coffee table looked up just in time to see nurse Hanna documenting the time of Janet’s death.
Charlie was completely devastated and two staff members assisted him to the head of the bed where he could see for himself that she was gone. He was escorted to the lounge area where he was met by the on call chaplain who arrived only moments before and who sat quietly with him. Charlie through his sobs said “I thought she came here to get better?” Chaplain Marty replied: “Charlie she came here to die, this is a Hospice and after meeting you Janet knew her condition was terminal and sought to discontinue active treatment preferring palliative care instead which means when she was transferred here she was in essence taken off all life support measures with a standing order not to resuscitate. Charlie blurted out: “Well why then if she knew she was going to die did she send me out to buy junk food and not allow me to be with her at the time of her death?” Chaplain Gail replied: “Charlie, no one knows for sure but this isn’t the first time a hospice patient has sent a dearly beloved relative on a mission and prior to their return the patient has died. I think, and I am only speaking for myself that sometimes people prefer to die alone and believe that it will lessen the pain of others if they are not present.
“Charlie for what’s its worth Janet wanted to walk the last mile of her life in the state of Holy Matrimony with you. You made her dream come true and now she is resting in peace and has commenced her journey home to be with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ forever.”
Charlie still in shock stood up and said: “Thank you for your kind words. Please keep the food” and with that he walked out of the building and into the night air. As he approached his car Charlie heard church Bells and checked his watch realizing that it was five minutes until twelve at night on Christmas Eve. He followed the sound to a Catholic Church where he parked his car blocks away and slowly entered the standing room only vestibule. An usher escorted him inside the church to the third row from the front near the choir band. He sat on the end and worked hard not to weep in public while taking in the mass and this festive joyful moment replete with the sound of French horns, trumpets and a string quartet to compliment the standard band assembled for this evening.
The Mass lasted almost two hours and he stayed to the very end when the lights were turned down and the chief of security an elderly man who walked with the aid of a cane approached Charlie and introduced himself as Cary Duke and engaged him in polite chit chat.
Charlie realized that he was being asked to leave; the first tell he read at all since arriving in Kansas City. He stood up and hugged Cary wished him a Merry Christmas and left as quietly as he arrived. He heard the sound of the doors locking behind him and looked all around to see not one soul anywhere for what seemed like miles.
He started to sob as he entered the car and closed and pressed the lock button before crying his eyes out and emitting many years of pent up emotion possibly for the first time in his life. He reached for the Christmas card that the Chaplain had handed to him from Janet who wanted him to have it upon her death.
Charlie read the words: “My dear Charlie no words can express my deepest love for you and how you made my life so complete all the while refusing to believe what I was telling you those many months prior to our meeting and marriage. I may not remember everything you have said to me but I will always remember how you made me feel, Love your wife Janet.”
He kissed the card and wiped away the tears that smeared the ink writing of his name. He gently placed the card into the envelope and tucked the flap inside to protect his priceless love note and remember for all time that for at least a few minutes on one Christmas in his life he was married and happy too!
Charlie drove aimlessly around neighborhoods that early morning taking photos of the brightly lit homes signaling the arrival of Christmas and the painstaking efforts that families would take to wrap the tallest tree in the yard to home made sleighs replete with wooden deer and the sacred nativity scenes which were his favorite.
Charlie waited forty years for this moment and now it and she were gone. He arrived at his hotel at sun up to a number of messages waiting at the front desk. He turned his cell phone on and more messages and text came streaming in to his account. As Janet’s husband his advice was needed for funeral arrangements.
That early Christmas morning Charlie sat quietly in his hotel room chair and returned each and every phone call deferring to Janet’s family to make whatever arrangements they deemed appropriate; they welcomed the news and invited him to one of their relative’s home later that day for Christmas.
Charlie arrived in Kansas City seeking a reprieve from the ghost of loneliness that had been his constant companion since he ventured out into the world on his own. He found it and realized in all of his previous trials and tribulations that nothing prepared him for the clarity of death arriving so abruptly and close to him especially during the Sacred Feast of Christmas.
Charlie never did leave Kansas City but sent for his stuff and pets and remained close to his new family for another twenty years until his death in the same Hospice as the same church bells announced the arrival of the Messiah and Midnight Mass.
Charlie lived his life wanting to be happy but no one promised for how long. Much of his and our denial in life may be attributed to simply drifting and compromising our core values especially as Christians while our spiritual development remains truncated and we remain unprepared for what awaits us prior to, at the moment of and, after our death.
May We Celebrate the True Meaning of Christmas and Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ turning from anything separating us from the Love of our Holy Blessed Heavenly Father and encouraging others especially our family and friends to turn away from sin and embrace the Holy inspired word of Almighty God.
Art and Photography
Billy Ray Cyrus-Some Gave All-1992-6
The Christmas Wedding