And Just When I Thought All the Scars Had Healed

The other day the telephone rang. I didn’t recognize the number so I figured it was someone else trying to sell me something I didn’t need.
“Is Janet Cowling there?” a woman’s voice asked.
This is one of those button pushing questions that sends me through the roof because my wife Janet died three years ago.
“My wife died three years ago! Why don’t you people go to the trouble of updating your call lists? Have you no shame? Have you no decency? What are you trying to sell me anyway?”
The woman’s voice became tiny. “I’m not trying to sell anything. I worked with Janet in the probation office in Belton, Texas, thirty years. I was her secretary. I was just thinking about her recently and wanted to talk to her.”
All of a sudden I was reduced to the size of a piss ant. No, piss ants towered over me.
“Oh my goodness,” I gushed. “I’m so sorry. It’s just I get these calls asking for her and that make me angry.”
“I get those too and I get angry too.” She was being very nice to me, and I felt like a heel. “It hurts me to hear that she is gone.”
“She had breast cancer,” I explained. “She went through chemotherapy, double mastectomy and radiation treatments. She had about two weeks she felt well enough to drive herself to go Christmas shopping. She came hope and wrapped presents. She kept saying, ‘This is so much fun. This is so much fun.’ The next morning she awoke with a blinding headache and dizziness. She couldn’t even stand up. I took her to the doctor and found the cancer had metastasized to her brain. She died three weeks later.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that. She was so sweet to everybody. Another girl in the office, Lorena, had asked about her too.”
As a side note, Janet always thought Lorena hated her because she gave her so many probation reports to type.
“I remember one time we had lunch at our desks,” the woman continued, “and we decided to go down to the candy machine and get a chocolate bar. It was so good we decided to get two more. We ended up eating a total of six chocolate bars!”
That sounded just like my Janet. Even though she was an officer she never had any pretense of adhering to some unwritten rule that officers couldn’t be friends with the secretaries. And she loved her chocolate bars.
“I thought it was awful the way some people treated her,” the woman continued. “But she never got upset.”
This was true also. There was a lot of office politics over who would get the next promotion. Janet had the best skills so she became the butt of jokes to make her look worse. Sure, she would be disappointed but she never let it get her down nor did she take it out on anyone.
Of course, I felt a need to apologize again. She was very gracious. After she hung up, I realized why my temper had such a short fuse that day. Recently, my 18-year-old Chihuahua Tootz died. She was the last pet Janet and I had. Each evening when Janet came home from work Tootz would sleep on her lap. We brought her to bed with us, and she always snuggled up next to Janet.
Tootz’ death was just one more connection to my wife of 44 years that was gone. Grieving came back for a short visit. My main weapon fighting the mourning process is to remember there can be no grieving without great, deep longstanding love and joy. And I would not give up one moment of love and joy to avoid the grief.

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