All right, I'm borrowing C.S Lewis's title to his novella about the loss of his wife. But it seemed appropriate. In his book, Lewis notes how very personal grief is. And I have to add my own observation that it's an awful peculiar sort of thing.
Grief never goes away. If you are lucky, it dulls. But sometimes the claws of it cut furrows in our soul.
For the majority of my life, the Fourth of July meant lobsters, grilling and fireworks in Maine with our family's oldest friends - the Husseys. I remember waiting (not so patiently) for the fireworks that Dr. Hussey had brought to Maine from North Carolina, and the crushing disappointment when he dropped a lit match into the box holding them and threw the box in the lake. I must have been about 10. He had a special way of cooking salmon on the grill that I've tried for years to reproduce, but can't quite get right. My oldest son, who never had the opportunity to meet him, is named for him.
About 18 months ago, his wife and my second mom, Phyllis Hussey was diagnosed with cancer. For lots of reasons, she opted not to undergo therapy. Her argument is she wanted the days she had left to be the best they could be, and spending the days (even more days) dealing with the side effects of chemo wasn't the way to go about it. She left us on June 10, 2013. She died as she had lived. Completely on her terms.
My mom and I had spent a long weekend with her about a month before she died. In typical style, Phyllis had told Mom that she had an event to go to while we were there, but it wasn't anything big and we should definitely come. Turned out it was a cocktail party for donors to the Medical College of Virginia. Mom and I were both aghast since neither of us had packed clothes for this kind of event. With pure aplomb, Phyllis said that we could go in our jeans and that would be fine. Not. So while she napped that day, Mom and I took a trip to the mall. We spent the night sipping champagne at the very wonderful Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The next night, she and her youngest son, Miciah, were making plans for her summer in Maine.
Mary and Phyllis at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Her kids came to visit for Mother's Day. Most importantly, her newest grandchild had been safely born, and Phyllis had met her granddaughter through the wonders of Skype. She was a women who met the end of her life with grace and courage and very few regrets.
So, when my husband asked me what I wanted for dinner on the 4th of July, I said, "Lobsters and grilled salmon" and burst into tears.
Grief's like that. It reaches up and chokes you when you least expect it. So Dr. Robert Hussey and Mrs. Phyllis Hussey will never be far from my heart or thoughts.