Shortly after Chris died, I received a note from our oncologist. It was dated 12/25, a detail that didn’t escape me–he sat down to write me on Christmas Day. His words are touching and kind. He wrote that it had been a privilege to serve us those four months. He wrote that Chris would stay with him a long time. He wrote that he wished he had been able to know Chris in a healthier time. The last line of the note, set apart as if its own paragraph, reads: You could not have been a better wife.
I have kept this note stuck in the pages of whatever book I have been reading since I received it. It’s positioned so that if I fan through the book, or if the pages fall open to it, the words most prominent are those: You could not have been a better wife. Sometimes I wonder if Dr. Windsor had any idea how often I would read them.
I couldn’t have foreseen the insecurity that would plague me after Chris’s death. We were always so steady together–or, when we weren’t steady, we always returned to such sure footing and nearness; we always spoke clearly our understanding, our forgiveness, our love to each other. It’s incredible how much someone’s words, said explicitly and with intention, serve to create solid ground beneath your feet, a strong, broad chest to rest on.
Then, all of a sudden, those words are gone. And to that void add the unfamiliar tensions and relational challenges Chris and I experienced in the last months of his life. The new, sometimes awkward and frustrating, dynamic of patient and caretaker. Deathbed conversations that we didn’t know were deathbed conversations–that should have led to building blocks but were left as the rubble of a leveled construction site.
I was preserved from this insecurity while Chris was still alive. I experienced strength and calm in my spirit at the time–I remember how that felt and how thankful I was for it, for God’s kindness to steady me. But in Chris’s absence the uncertainty I’ve felt about my standing with him has rushed in like a flood at times. I’ve read and reread Dr. Windsor’s words, but it’s Chris’s words I’ve been so desperate for.
Then yesterday I found them. Looking through a basket on my dresser for some stationery, I found the anniversary card Chris wrote to me on November 15, 2020. His hand was unsteady, his arms already so weak, and I remember how surprised I was that day that he had procured and written in a card for me. How I hadn’t thought to look for it these months I don’t know–there are many things from the hospital that were put in this or that place in my house as if unbeknownst to me. But there it was, and it was like I was reading it for the first time. I heard him tell me, for the first time in almost five months, that he loves me. I heard his gratitude for me, his need for me, his hopes for us in this life, hopes that I know he still has for me, with or without him.
I finally feel I can put Dr. Windsor’s note away. I will always treasure it, but, in God’s undeserved kindness, I see now that it was just a place holder. I have Chris’s love, in his hand, in his words.