34: Learning About Loss Before It’s Too Late

34: Learning About Loss Before It’s Too Late

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

Learning About Loss Before It’s Too Late

Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.

~Grandma Moses

One day last week I woke up in a lousy mood. Why? We were out of coffee. I was late paying a MasterCard bill. My favorite clock had just stopped working.

I didn’t even think of saying “good morning” to my husband Bob. After all, we’ve been waking up together for 32 years. As usual, we both got out of bed and headed right to our desks.

I checked e-mail and replied to people who were complaining about rainy days as if we were all living through a catastrophic disaster.

One more e-mail remained. It was from a fellow named John. And it turned out to be a breath-stopping shock.

The first time John wrote to me was about a year ago. He was responding to a column I had written about relationship troubles that Bob and I had overcome:

“Hello Saralee. My wife Donna pointed out an article by you she found moving. It brought her to tears. I’m a grown man who can be very emotional. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a happy ending and everything was fine. Few couples these days enjoy the closeness that you have with your spouse. I am proud to say that I have been with my beloved for 26 years and she’s still the one.”

When I saw his name on this current e-mail, I was hoping to read more about his loving marriage. He wrote:

“Two days ago my wife fell down a flight of stairs. I lost the only girl I will ever love. She was only 54 and in perfect health.”

I stared at his words as my life was overhauled in less than one minute.

I could hear Bob in his study. He was in a bad mood because he kept getting cut off during a phone call to our veterinarian. I asked him to come in and read John’s e-mail.

As he was reading, his demeanor changed. In slow motion, he went from appearing uptight and annoyed to sadly calm. With a deep sigh he said, “Thank you for having me read this.”

I cried as I re-read the rest of John’s note: “She was an organ donor and I am told that because of her good health she can help as many as 50 people. It has been nice talking to you about the love with our spouses.”

I responded, “Your e-mail made me think about so many stupid things I get upset about. You gave me a huge wake-up call as to what matters in life and what doesn’t.” When I asked for his permission to write about this lesson, he kindly agreed and said, “I’m sure Donna would be honored.”

I am the one honored to be writing about Donna’s many legacies. She selflessly changed the lives of 50 people by giving precious gifts from her body. Through the words of her adoring husband, she leaves behind and continues to teach the profound yet often overlooked lesson: love is what is most important. I am also hoping she will help many realize, the way I did, that most everything is small potatoes compared to love, life and death.

And so this morning, it didn’t faze me that I was out of computer paper when a deadline was imminent or that we, along with many others, are so hurting for money that we’re on food stamps.

In silence, I said, “Thank you, John, for being so open with me about your tender love affair. Thank you for showing me that living in the moment is the path to joy, because all future moments are truly unpredictable. Thank you, Donna, for showing me that giving, in its most gracious and noble form, is done without expecting anything in return. Eternally, you will always be ‘the one’—for John—for 50 peoples’ lives you will now be an extraordinary part of... and for me.”

And then I said “good morning” to Bob.

~Saralee Perel

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