Four years ago today my father-in-law passed away. He was actually my husband’s step-father, but Don’s real dad died when Don was just a little boy, and his mother married Walter a couple of years later. So for Don, Walter was the only dad he really remembered.
Walter was almost 89 when he passed, and my husband and mother-in-law were both with him. It was a totally unexpected passing, despite the age. Walter was in relatively good health, although he had lost his leg a few years before his death. Walter could be a little grumpy at times, but I always respected the courage and strength he displayed after losing his leg at such an advanced age. He was an inspirational trooper, and I never heard him complain about the leg. He mastered the use of his artificial limb, and when a young woman at his church lost her leg in a motorcycle accident, he gave her emotional support.
It was the kind of death we all hope for – not right away, but when that time ultimately comes, and it eventually does for all of us. Walter had fallen, something that occasionally happens when one wears an artificial leg. My mother-in-law gave us a call – they only lived a couple miles away. Walter was still a bit dizzy when Don arrived so 911 was called.
Walter was chatty with the paramedics, and aside from a change in his complexion’s color, he seemed fine. The paramedics decided to give him a little oxygen before taking him in to the hospital to be checked out, and when they slipped on the oxygen mask – Walter was gone – as quickly as that. It was a great way for Walter to go, but not so much for Don’s mom, who was not expecting such an abrupt departure.
This year Don and I have decided to reclaim Valentine’s Day – a day to celebrate love, not mourn loss. Don has gently reminded his mother that a better day to commemorate Walter would be on his birthday, not the day he passed. It’s also a much better time to go to a restaurant, considering the crowds on Valentine’s Day.
I’m not saying we won’t remember Walter today….we will remember him, along with the other Walt (my dad)…and all the other people we’ve loved who are no longer with us. But, we are not remembering him, or them, because they died, but because we still love them.
Happy Valentine’s Day!