We became friends six years ago upon the death of her husband. I had met her before, but when I entered the hospital room to transfer her husband to my funeral home, I saw her under pressure. It was then that I knew I liked and respected her.
In years past, she had been a nurse; a military nurse. That meant she was strictly business, no drama. I admire and like that in a person; military service and no drama. Both show great moral integrity.
She was fierce in defense of her deceased husband. The hospital staff’s aftercare toward them both seemed poorly executed juxtaposed against her exemplary standards. She wasn’t having it and she was snapping that staff into shipshape operations.
I must admit, I was impressed. She held her own, and in customary military nurse fashion, under the stress, sadness, and confusion of losing her spouse, she commanded respect and honor toward her loved one. Even though she was tiny in stature, she excelled head and shoulders above everyone else in the hospital that day. She also put me on notice that she had high expectations for the services that my funeral home would be providing. Although I sensed she was a little shaky under her strong and organized composure, she was indeed brilliant in a moment when most people crumble and fall apart.
Three years ago my friend remarried. It turns out that she married a friend of my husband. A few days ago, we (my husband and I) received an invitation to her birthday party. As we prepared a birthday gift, we shopped for things that we thought she might enjoy. Once we put the items together, although a very thoughtful gift for others, it seemed to lack something for this very special lady. I lamented over it for days, and at last, the morning of her party, I realized what I could give my friend that would express my love and admiration for her.
I went into my office, selected a beautiful archival paper, and printed out an article that I had written three years earlier about her wedding. I framed it and tucked it into the gift bag.
My husband and I jumped into his tiny sports car to travel to her home. As we arrived, her family was preparing a shrimp boil out under the tall shade trees dappling her hillside property. Her husband had constructed a dance floor beside her serene pond, and the breeze softly blew offering a fresh and comfortable temperature to a fall afternoon in East Texas. I could hear birds singing, horses neighing, and fish jumping. It was a beautiful afternoon, well spent with treasured friends.
As her guests prepared to eat, my friend shared her life’s story with us. She grew up in Iowa, where she and her six siblings had been placed in an orphanage. Four of the siblings were adopted by one family; however, they endured separation from the other three for half a century.
Last month, my husband and I, watched a documentary on the “Orphan Trains.” From 1854 to 1929, a network of “orphan trains” relocated as many as 300,000 children from east coast orphanages from cities like Boston and New York City to at least 39 of the states. Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 of these needy children were brought to Iowa to live with both farmers and town residents. (Orphan Trains.) The orphan trains were organized and overseen by nuns and priests. It was an amazing movement put forward to provide for starving and abandoned children during a time when our country and its citizens were poor and suffering. Her adopting parents were storekeepers.
Throughout her life, my friend has carried five different sur names; her birth, adopted, and three married names. Her life has been filled with tragedy and instability. Amazingly, through it all, she has found strength, integrity, fortitude, and above all else, abiding love.
As I watched she and her husband take to the dance floor, my heart was moved, and a tear trickled down my cheek. My dear friend, so strong and filled with virtue, began life suffering the deepest and darkest struggles imposed upon children; abandonment, starvation, and goodness knows what else. Now she is cherished, loved, and admired by her husband and friends.
Her previous struggles still haunt her, I can see it just under her layer of composure. Her soul; however, has found solace and is comforted. It mirrors the peace found in the nature surrounding her home. Above all else, my friend has found pure love. She is blessed with the dedication of a man of honor who loves her more than life itself.
Out of misfortune; true fortune is found. May God bless my friend and her devoted husband, he and she have found their deserved joy. When my friend read the article I had written about her wedding, she wanted to show me a painting of her and her husband in their home. The words, “Together Forever” are painted across the bottom of the portrait. She said those words mean something to her; and she thought they would mean something to me too. She was right.
I believe she and her husband will be together forever. I believe their love transcends time and that it will remain with them beyond death. I believe they are eternal companions, enjoying pure love through their holy union as husband and wife, and I believe that God, in his infinite wisdom, has put into place a means whereby they may continue to experience eternity basking in their joy, together as an eternal family.
I believe from the deepest depth of my soul that families are forever, and I hope that you, during the course of your life, will experience pure love. When you do, I hope that you will believe, and seek the blessings of an eternal family too.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a Certified Grief Counselor (GC-C), Funeral Director (FDIC), published author, syndicated columnist, Podcaster, and founder of the “Mikey Joe Children’s Memorial” and Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, Podcasts, and Grief BRIEFs related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award.
It is my life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, please visit my podcast at Deadline_TracyLee and follow me on Instagram at “Deadline_TracyLee”.