They had a life

Thirty-four years of turmoil 

People lose soulmates all the time. Many, perhaps most, reach a point where they can get on with their lives. Others never seem to move on.

This guy I know (I bet you do!) whose wife died just over a year ago is one of those who doesn’t seem to be able to move on. He’s still in that hospital room, sitting at her bedside, holding her

hand, still warm in his. Until it wasn’t. He’ll tell you exactly how long it’s been — thirteen months and fifteen days.

He lives alone now, seldom goes out. There is one man he occasionally meets for coffee. The coffee guy lost his wife a couple of years ago. He shocked the solitary guy the other day when he said he had met a new woman — the love of his life, he said.

This astounded the other guy. He couldn’t imagine finding another love of his life and starting a new relationship.

It’s not that he wants to wallow in grief. He just doesn’t have the spark to ignite a new relationship. Compared to his coffee friend Mr Sparkplug, he’s a dead battery.

The life he had with his wife was like several lives, thirty-four years of sturm and drang, emotionally intense, tempestuous, tossed about on waves of tragedy — mainly the early death of a son.

In between the turmoil, they travelled the world, stayed in fine hotels and lived the life, as the saying goes.

There were periods of time when they were apart, during which our hero (by which, of course, I mean antihero) tried to put his life back together. But they always ended up with each other. His wife was steadfast. She was always there for him. And he, in his own vagabond, messed-up way, was always there for her.

In the end they were together. The last three years of her life-draining illness he was her caregiver. When she was dying, as he held her hand, he told her he would love her forever. Sounds corny, perhaps, but he meant it with all his heart.

No other woman could take her place.

People used to say of his wife, “She’s very warm.” Now he looks for warmth in the fire he lights on winter nights, a bottle of bourbon on the coffee table and the memories — the good memories — of his wife and their life together.

Niels Arestrup as Michel, who still longs for his wife, in Angelina Jolie’s ‘By the Sea’

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