Monday, November 13, 2006

Memorial Day

Tomorrow is my husband's memorial service. He passed away on 11/6 due to a heart attack. I will have much to say about this in the future, but below is the letter a friend of mine will be reading for me to our friends at the service. Just wanted to share it with anyone who cares to read it.

Bill loved nature. He wrote a goal about 10 years ago that says, " I want to live where the influence of nature, the influence of God, is greater than the influence of man.” He loved the desert. He loved mountains too, but especially the desert for its quietness, simplicity and solitude.

Bill loved rain. He was especially happy to hear raindrops on Saturday mornings because it meant he had a legitimate excuse for staying in bed instead of going for a ride. Usually, he went anyway.

Bill loved to ride. It was on a bike that he felt most alive. One of Bill’s favorite Lance Armstrong posters says, "I rode, and I rode, and I rode. I rode like I had never ridden, punishing my body up and down every hill I could find....I rode when no one else would ride." This quote motivated him as he trained for his last 200-mile ride—the Terrible Two. He always wanted to be a good climber, but as he said, he was gravity-challenged, so he trained hard and dropped as much weight as he could. Finally, he is an angel of the mountains, dancing on the pedals. Early in our marriage we determined that it was in both of our best interests for him to bring his bike on every vacation. Even though I am much slower, often we rode together—he always reassured me that he was riding with me to be with me, not to get to the top of the hill first. Regularly he lied to me about how much farther we had to go—the summit was always just around the corner. However, it kept me pedaling even after I realized I had a long way to go.

Bill loved me. He loved me unconditionally, patiently, respectfully, and passionately. I had with Bill what everybody wants. He was my soul mate and my best friend. We played together, rode together, laughed and cried together. Sometimes he surprised me with a cup of tea and my favorite donut on Sunday morning, even though he considered donuts to be a mortal sin. He made me birthday cakes and favorite dinners. He served me a cookie and a glass of milk every night that I wanted one. He gave me more sentimental gifts than practical ones. We talked about our dreams and our fears. We held hands on the couch while watching TV, and every once-in-awhile he’d watch a girl movie with me. No matter what happened during the day, we always kissed each other goodnight. Every morning, usually before 5:30 a.m., Bill kissed me good-bye while I was barely conscious. We always talked a couple of times a day on the phone. Almost every conversation ended with the words, “I love you.” “I love you, too.” His last phone call to me came about ten minutes before the accident. He said that he’d be home in 20 minutes. I was going to go for a ride, but my stomach started to feel queasy, so I decided to lie down instead. Forty minutes later, I got the call from the hospital. I am so thankful that our last words to each other were, “I love you.” “I love you, too.”

I am a better person because of the way he loved me. This is not to say we were happy all the time. Happiness is for teenagers, someone once told me. But we were content, and we enjoyed each other. Don’t get me wrong. We had many disagreements, and sometimes we hurt each others’ feelings. We were very different people, which balanced our relationship in some ways, and caused tensions in others, but we made it work because the alternative was unthinkable. We made it work by not staking our own flag in the sand and requiring the other person to walk the distance. Usually, we met somewhere in the middle, but it meant we both had to give up something. Bill never raised his voice at me in anger. We did get angry, but we worked out the problem with respect for each other.

As I look back at all of the wonderful things about him and all of the things that annoyed me, like having to be 15-30 minutes early to everything, or having to have everything so neat and organized all the time, I realize how those things just don’t matter in the big picture. I’ll probably be early to everything from now on just to feel like he’s with me. I might even keep my closet organized. In this last week, those little things that annoyed me have suddenly become endearing, and I wish I hadn’t wasted so much energy feeling frustrated about those differences.

While we can’t avoid these conflicts completely, we can choose how we respond to each other. No one is entitled to hurting someone else’s feelings just because they’re angry or just because they’re right, and I think that this is one of the main reasons that Bill and I worked so well together. We disagreed, and then somehow found common ground. We understood that it was okay to be different because we balanced each other out. We said “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you,” and we meant it. Well, except for one time when he bought some expensive bike stuff without telling me, but I’m over it now. I now know that all that was little stuff. Bill always reminded me that it’s all little stuff, but how we treat each other in the little stuff is what determines our fate during the more difficult times. Many of you know how Bill has stood by me through chronic illness. He never complained. He just kept loving me--over and over and over again, reassuring me that he was exactly where he wanted to be. I don’t understand why, but I am forever grateful.

I see now more than ever before that each moment we have becomes a memory—some good, some bad. Some we can control, others we cannot, like this one, but Bill would remind us that we always have control over how we treat other people. As you all know, Bill chose to be kind, loving, and positive. If he were here today, he would remind us to love each other. He would remind us to love with our words and our actions in every moment, giving each other room to make mistakes. I have an abundance of both beautiful moments and mundane moments with Bill that are now priceless memories.

Thank you for coming here today to celebrate his life. All his family and I have felt your prayers and support. The love you have expressed for him overwhelms me and comforts me. We are all grateful for your kindness as we go through this very difficult time. Words are not enough.

In closing, I want to share what happened my first night alone because I think it will bring many of you comfort. Of course, I didn’t sleep at all, and I cried a lot. Around 2:00 a.m., as I lay on my side, suddenly I felt a warm sensation on my shoulder. At that moment four phrases came into my mind as if Bill were talking to me. The phrases were, “You’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. I’m okay. I promise, you’re going to be okay.”

I believe with all my heart that these words are meant for all of us.

4 comments:

bryan torre said...

thank you for this, andi.
i can close my eyes and see bill's grin. i knew him only in a measure, but what i knew of him i miss already.

jay are said...

andi, so sorry. The service was beautiful and the things that you wrote were so moving. What everyone shared was so touching. We'll be thinking of you so much, and you know we're here if you need anything.

Anonymous said...

Andi,
We met (I think) once years and years ago. I'm so, so sorry for the hole in your heart right now--what a beautifully written memorial you have here.

No words ever do in the face of this kind of trauma, but we've been thinking of you from afar.
(Heidi, and Conrad)

anya ransuns aka Roxy said...

Andi,

Been thinking about you so much lately. These are such beautiful and honest words and I'm so glad you shared them. Love you,
Susanna