Thursday, November 24, 2022

Forgiveness

Mrs. Dalai was the love of my life, and I had the great honor of sharing the past 36 years with her. I will miss her more than I can possibly describe.

She was often a contradiction in terms. She could be shy, she could be brash. She was retiring, she was outgoing. She felt the presence of God, but she didn’t much like dealing with religion. She was easy to love, and she could be hard to love. But we loved her anyway.

Mrs. Dalai and I met on a blind date in 1986. For me, it was love at first sight. For her, it took a little longer. She didn’t know what to do with me. She kept telling me to go away, and I kept coming back. Ultimately, she figured it out. We were married in 1987, not even a year later. It wasn’t a perfect marriage but sometimes we came very close. We had our problems, I guess everyone does, but in the end, they melted into the trivialities they truly were, and we looked forward with great anticipation to our shared future. These were supposed to be our golden years. We had envisioned traveling to the ends of the earth together as long as we were able to do so. That dream was cut short, but at least we managed to visit some unusual places while we were able.

My wife lived for her family. Dr. Dolly and Dalai, Jr, always know that she loved you with all her heart, she was fiercely loyal to you, and wanted nothing but the best for you. She was thrilled to see you both thrive and prosper in your chosen professions. (That all goes for Dr. Dolly's husband.)  She was very grateful for your making trip after trip to our little town in the Deep South, and particularly for bringing her grandson Dalai III to see her so she could get to know him at least a little bit. The last time she smiled was when Dr. Dolly brought the little guy to see her a few weeks ago. 

She and I were not perfect parents. We made mistakes, lots of them, but our love for you, her love for you was never in doubt. Always remember that. She wanted to be heard, by you, and by me for that matter, and to have us validate her feelings. Sometimes we didn’t hear her as well as we could have. But we all tried. 

She loved her extended family. She was devoted to her parents, although her relationship with them was sometimes stormy. Still, as time went on they reached a level of understanding and comfort, and I think she was able to evolve, grow, and blossom under their guidance.
To her brother... you and she might not have been close as most think of it. You didn’t talk very often over the years. But you shared an unspoken bond. There was no doubt that you would be there for each other. And you were. She loved you dearly, never doubt that. And to her sister-in-law, she loved you like the sister she never had. And you were always there for her as well. 

Mrs. Dalai truly loved animals. Not just her beloved pups, but all animals. Well, except for snakes. In our travels, we were able to view wildlife in ways that most have never experienced. Birds in the Galapagos Islands, polar bears in Greenland, and her favorite, whales and sea lions and penguins in Antarctica, even snakes in Costa Rica. She would have taken them all home. Except for the snakes. 

When it came to people, she was trusting, sometimes too much so. She went out of her way to avoid hurting others and often had trouble with the most minor slight from her friends whether intentional or not. But she was quick to forgive. That was the only way she could handle such things. “They didn’t mean it,” she would say. And she would be upset with me for wanting to protect her. 

She was strong-willed; maybe stubborn is a more appropriate description. That, along with love and prayer, might explain how she survived so long after stopping her chemotherapy. Even when the narcotics dulled her mind, her determination was obvious. If she wanted to get out of bed, she would darn well get out of that bed. If she didn’t want to take her medications, she would spit them out. If she wanted to telephone someone, call them she did. Some of you received some of those barely-coherent calls. The core of her being wanted to reach out to you, even if the details were scrambled. 

I feel compelled to state the obvious. Cigarettes took her from us.  Like her father, she simply could not quit, despite my begging, bargaining, and cajoling and that of her family and friends. We finally learned to live with this horrible habit, as she made it clear that there was no other choice. But she was quick to tell anyone who would listen not to ever start. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, I asked her point blank if there was anything I could have done to get her to quit. NO. NOTHING. 

We have all suffered tremendously knowing that she made the conscious decision to stop her cancer treatments. It is so easy to feel that she didn’t love us enough to quit smoking or to continue chemotherapy. It’s easy to feel that she gave up on us and on herself. That isn’t fair. I don’t think she could think beyond the horrible side-effects of her chemotherapy, even though it was working, and could have given her more time with us. Maybe. We’ll never know.

Her course after stopping therapy was not what she expected. She thought she would simply fade away, peacefully and quietly. But there was incredible pain, requiring narcotics around the clock to alleviate it. The medications stole most of her personality, as well as her dignity. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much so, she was never really afraid of death. She became weaker and weaker, her connection with reality became more and more tenuous. Her appetite waned. She started wandering and falling. I didn’t react well to her decline. I got frustrated and even angry with her. I guess deep down I thought I could wake her from her reverie if I just spoke loud enough. It didn’t work. The person we loved was only barely there. Until she wasn’t.

Losing her cuts off the chance to make amends, to forgive and seek forgiveness. We remember the good times, but it would be foolish to say that she was perfect, because none of us are. I think ultimately she would forgive us for the transgressions we might think about now, real and imagined. That is who she was. Trust me. Even the deepest injuries could be forgotten. Sometimes the worst of these took a while to heal, but heal they did. She just wanted us to hear her, to validate her feelings. 

Perhaps that's how to best remember her. If she could have verbalized it, she would simply want us to try to hear each other. This was a revelation that has to be lived to be understood. Maybe that’s what she taught me in her last few days on this Earth. Yelling as loud as you can doesn’t guarantee that you will be heard.  Understanding can only happen if we are capable of listening. 

Mrs. Dalai wasn’t perfect, nor are we. Let that be her legacy to all of us. Today, as we lay her to rest, the only thing to remember is the love she felt for us and the love we felt for her. And remember her with love. Her 66 years went by in the blink of an eye. In another brief instant, I’ll be joining her here. I have no doubt that Hank Williams (who is buried nearby) will serenade us when that time comes, and we’ll dance together once again. 

2 comments :

Unknown said...

Eternal rest grant unto her oh Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon her.
C Kronenwetter
Retired Agfa pacs driver

Dalai said...

Thank you.