Mary insisted I wait to enter her room until she put on her lipstick. Her arms were the diameter of the steel pole on which the IV hung. Her goal on the white board: “To get fat.”
Her doctor insisted she be hospitalized after her weight dropped to a dangerously low level. She drove herself there.
It was clear she considered it all quite an inconvenience. Mary fretted about getting her tax return in the mail. She worried about missing her part-time job because, “They’ll look for any excuse to get rid of you at my age.”
Mary lives alone in her home; her only daughter lives in another city. If ever there was a proud and independent woman, it is Mary.
“How are you doing?” she asked. Her Bugs Bunny hospital gown, borrowed from the children’s department to fit her tiny frame, seemed ill suited for the respect owed to an octogenarian.
“Mostly it’s just moments,” I begin to answer.
“Moments like this,” she interrupted, her bright eyes intent.
“Yes, moments like this,” I replied quietly.
Mary always remembers that we share the sisterhood of widowhood. When she inquired about my wellbeing, she wasn’t asking for a current events report on my life. She wanted to know how I was getting along without my husband.
Mary has lived independently for over a decade. She manages her own money, maintains a lovely home, and can still hike up onto a bar stool with a little help. Her spirit is strong and her spitfire ever present. Yet in this moment, she felt vulnerable.
And so it is on the journey of divorce. We know we are capable. We see we can make a good life for ourselves without our spouse. We go on with all of the other rich parts of our life beyond our marriage.
And still there are moments. Moments when it would be wonderful to have your beloved waltz into your hospital room with a bouquet of flowers. When it would be a deep comfort to have someone who knew you like no other to be your advocate. When you long to have your hand held patiently by the person you know isn’t going anywhere.
And then the moment passes.
A mere toothache last week was enough to send me into a “moment” of wishing I had that spouse who would offer to go out into the rain to buy a bottle of aspirin for my benefit. Who would give me permission by the second day of pain to label it an emergency and call my dentist on a weekend. Who could ask, “How are you doing?”
But on this rainy April Sunday morning, Mary and I saw our moments pass. The bright yellow bouquet I brought cheered the pale green room. My toothache was gone. Mary and I are laughing. I tell her I love her.
The moments had passed, and in this new moment we were reminded why life is sometimes best lived moment by moment.