The following was written and published in The Grip newspaper as my tribute to the love of John and Dianne Herbert. Dianne took her last breath on earth with John by her side, Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 12:30AM. I will never forget the exchanges I had the honor of witnessing their last few weeks together.
There are days when one of us is trying to simultaneously console a tummy ache and cook dinner while the other is reconciling a bank statement with a toddler running a big truck up and down his leg. There are situations where he sees things one way and I assume the burden of making him see things the right way. Okay. My way. There are times my words are curt and his actions seem insensitive. And, there are moments we both wish we could re-do.
We can’t. And, parenting aside, marriage is one of the hardest institutions to navigate through.
But, I know it’s possible.
What is that thing that makes her stay even when the hard moments are unbearable? What is it that makes him still say, “I love you,” after she has hurt his heart? When bills pile up and the funds are low? When one is running to soccer and the other is running to the office? When time is scarce? When emotions are running high? When patience seems to have packed herself up and moved across town?
What is it that makes a marriage run until the very end?
Respect. Honesty. Intimacy. Selflessness.
Those are all words I think of when I think of a successful marriage.
But, perhaps, the simplest answer is commitment. Staying in the game. Choosing love over and over again. Saying no to the easy way outs and saying yes to until the twelfth of never.
For better or for worse.
This is the kind of love I witnessed every day I went to see John and Dianne. Bed-ridden with cancer, Dianne forced a smile into the eyes of the man who sang to her while he held her water. Nurses would come and go, and John swore they were all scared of being out of a job because of the care he gave Dianne himself. “She’s the queen of the house,” he’d tell everyone. I watched him leave her side only to turn and run back and steal a kiss. And, she obliged.
I’m not sure what their last day looked like as he requested to be alone with his wife of more than forty-six years. I don’t know the words he told her or the songs he sang.
But, if he didn’t sing these words aloud, I know they echoed in his heart:
You ask how much I need you, must I explain?
I need you, oh my darling, like roses need rain.
You ask how long I’ll love you; I’ll tell you true:
Until the twelfth of never, I’ll still be loving you.
May we all be inspired to love….
until the twelfth of never and that’s a long, long time.