By Beck

This is a reprint of my Valentine’s Day post from last year and it’s one of my very favorite things I’ve ever written. Do you still have living grandparents? Between the two of us, my husband and I have three – two grandmothers and a grandfather – and our relationships with them are now almost unbearably poignant, since never is the inevitable end of everything more obvious than when you are with someone very, very old and very very beloved.

I told you I was awful at frosting.
My grandmother gave me her good dishes right after Christmas, the ones my grandfather bought for her while they were dating. “I’m never going to give a big dinner again,” she said.
The Boy was up most of the night, awake and coughing. His dad got up with him, rubbed Vicks on his chest, gave him medicine, sat up with him for hours and then went groggily off to work. The Boy was surprisingly chipper when he got up and insisted that he needed to go to school, his mouth full of pink frosted sugar cookie. He rubbed the edge of the fancy plate, admiring the faded roses. “That’s really pretty,” he said, and then grabbed his bookbag and dashed off to school waving goodbye before he got into my mother’s car.
My grandfather died less then three months after The Boy was born, but I think he’d have liked him, my earnest, kind-hearted Boy. I can picture the two of them solemnly going to the barn together to feed the cats, my Boy talking endlessly, my grandfather straight-backed and handsome. It’s been nearly six years now, and my grandmother lives alone in the large house my grandfather built for her and life is very long.
I was the only one awake in the whole house for a while last night – unless you count the cats tearing around downstairs, the morons – staring into the pale near-darkness. I did my usual sleepless prayer, listing off this long list of people I worry about, things that I fret over, my wishes, and then, my husband’s sleeping hand on my hair, I added my last wish. Let me go first, I whispered into the darkness. Don’t make me live a day without him.
16 Responses to Hearts
  1. Beck
    January 15, 2009 | 12:17 pm

    That would be “living GRANDPARENTS.” My parents, for the record, are 58 and 60 and would take being described as elderly with EXTREME amounts of ill-humour.

  2. his girl amber
    January 15, 2009 | 12:29 pm

    I remember reading this for the first time, and thinking two things: first, I was agreeing with your prayer because, yes, I can’t imagine living without my husband, either. second, I remember thinking that you were no ordinary writer.

    I still feel the same way.

  3. Laura
    January 15, 2009 | 1:43 pm

    I feel the same way. I think of this when I look at the widows in our congregation who lost their husbands so long ago.
    I have grown some in the years we’ve bee married and am more willing to trust God’s wisdom if he goes first. But if so, I hope it isn’t too much before me.

  4. janet
    January 15, 2009 | 1:50 pm


    I remember this post. The “…my husband’s sleeping hand on my hair…” line still echoes in my head, from time to time. Lovely.

  5. Mom24
    January 15, 2009 | 2:08 pm

    So beautiful.

  6. Heather of the EO
    January 15, 2009 | 4:40 pm

    ugh…my Grandma is currently living her days without my Grandpa. It breaks my heart to think of her alone in that house, the one they shared for so many years, so quiet. It’s void of snoring from the recliner and the smell of the home-made bread she always made for him.

    Now I’m crying. But I appreciate this post more than I can say.

  7. Angela-BecomingMe
    January 15, 2009 | 6:56 pm

    Absolutely beautiful

  8. Omaha Mama
    January 15, 2009 | 7:55 pm

    Hey. I did NOT expect to have to catch a sob in my throat on a post with a picture of sugar cookies. NOT fair.
    I have three living grandparents, Hubs has none. We were with them at Christmas and what you put here, about the inevitable, it is so true. Even if you believe that where they are headed for is so much better than here, it doesn’t help our poor hearts. Those of us stuck here for the duration. But picturing my grandmother reunited with her beloved (she’s been widowed for 12 long years and has never ever looked at another man) at heaven’s gates does make me smile a little.

  9. Erin
    January 15, 2009 | 9:12 pm

    What a beautiful post – I have wished the same thing myself. I can’t imagine being without my husband.

  10. Heather
    January 15, 2009 | 10:40 pm

    Wow. Stunningly lovely.

  11. Patois
    January 16, 2009 | 1:00 am

    This is worth publishing each and every year. For eternity.

  12. Nadia
    January 16, 2009 | 12:02 pm

    Loved this.

    ” Let me go first, I whispered into the darkness. Don’t make me live a day without him. ” The number of times I have thought this very thought and uttered that very prayer.

  13. Lisa b
    January 17, 2009 | 7:39 pm

    how could I forget the tear jearker surprise ending?!?!
    Next year you will not get me!

  14. Woman in a window
    January 19, 2009 | 11:03 am

    Yes. I remember this one. I love it too.

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