Lynda lost her husband, Craig, to cancer in September 2010 after 26 blissful years of marriage. She was heartbroken. But she was also grateful to Craig for showing her what lies ahead when he asked Lynda for permission to "go home" in his final days and seemed to be seeing something or someone from his hospice bed.
Several months after his death, Lynda wrote an essay about Craig that she shared with me through a mutual friend. I think it's a lovely description of their meant-to-be relationship and their goodbye. I'll share excerpts of it here, starting with how the couple met:
I had worked with an insurance company in Hamilton [Ontario, Canada] since 1964 at the age of 19. Craig worked for the same company, but was traveling all over Canada in a managerial position. I got married in 1967 and went through a 17-year abusive relationship that I was finally working at leaving behind in 1981, when all of a sudden Craig was transferred into our branch as the new manager. He was not happy at all about coming here -- but they insisted he was the man for the job. He also was trying to leave behind a 30-year relationship that had just never worked out. The fates had intervened, we met, and two years later we realized we were meant for each other. ...
My whole world changed when I met Craig. I always liked to say that life began at 40 for me, and it was true! I had never felt more loved or more respected in my life. While perceived as having a gruff exterior, Craig was a very soft and caring person. ... I will never forget him approaching a failing small grocer in the town where we lived a few years ago. It was Christmas. He knew the man was probably going to have to close out and walk away from his business, so he offered to pay for all of his produce. He then asked the grocer to deliver the goods to a shelter or food bank to help out other people in need. He did not want his name used and he wanted no accolades; he did it from his heart. He was such a good man in so many ways.
And he was a romantic! He loved nice dinners at fine restaurants and he loved to dance, many times getting me up on my feet in the middle of a restaurant where no one else was dancing. I soon learned to go with the flow and to not be embarrassed. He loved and enjoyed life to the fullest, and I loved and enjoyed it right along with him.
We had a beautiful wedding in May of 1987 with just close family and friends, and then later in the evening opened it up to everyone we worked with. It was a day I will cherish forever. Craig's adult children were very happy for us and took part in the ceremony. A few years after we married, we welcomed our two grandchildren into our lives. .... We bought our first house together, and with Craig's encouragement I learned to garden. We did everything together -- soaking up every opportunity to make up for lost time in our earlier years. We had a lot of friends and we entertained back and forth with them.
When we retired, we started traveling extensively, with Italy topping the list of our favourites. We were so very happy. But more important than any of this, I was loved, and I thrived and grew into the person I was meant to be, and who I am to this day. Our age difference had been a concern for Craig when we first met. But in Spring of 2010 we were coming up to 26 years together, and I felt truly blessed. I imagined that we would have at least another 10 years together because he was a very vital and young man at heart.
Then our world fell apart.
We knew something was wrong when we moved to our new townhouse in March, and by May we got the news that he had terminal cancer that had spread to his bones. With broken hearts we trudged on, with Craig worrying as much about me as I did about him. He was still my rock, the one who was strong, while I tried desperately to control my emotions. ... We tried to make the best of the six months we eventually got, pouring our hearts out to each other and cherishing every moment we could. But in the end it hurt so much to watch him suffer. ...
One night when we were struggling quite a bit with his care, he turned to me and said, "You need to call hospice in the morning. It is time for me to go." I cried and said "no," but he insisted and simply reminded me that we'd had a good few days visiting with family and friends, but that now it was time for him to go. One of the hardest days I have faced was seeing him go out the front door with the transport team, knowing that he would not be coming back ever again.
The 19 days he was in hospice was quite an experience for me. I started seeing a change in Craig that I had never imagined. About a week before he passed, he started pointing to the corner of the room as though he were seeing something -- and neither his son nor I could figure it out. .... Two days before his death, Craig called out something that we couldn't understand. Also in that time period, he reached up over the bed with his right arm and made grabbing motions at the air from right to left. He would knit his eyebrows together and his eyes looked different, as though trying to listen to someone. This is just my take on things while he was having the near-death experience.
I will never forget the day he turned to me and said, "I want to go home." I started crying because I thought he wanted to come home to our house. But he said, "No I can't" and then, "When can I leave?" Almost immediately I realized exactly what he meant. ... I put the rails down on his bed, sat as close to him as I could, taking his hands in mine, and told him he could leave whenever he wanted -- to go and do whatever it was that he needed to do. It was one of the most profound moments of my life because when I remembered it in the weeks that followed, I realized that once again Craig had given me an amazing gift. He had opened up my mind to what lies ahead for all of us, and I will always love him for that moment.
Craig passed away later that week in the early morning hours of September 4th. He is with me every day in my heart and in my memories; he was and always will be the love of my life!