I wrote this newspaper column for my husband Bill well before Alzheimer's disease invaded our lives.                                                                                Bill died March 27, 2010.

There was a time when his hands carried a Bible to school every single day. Over the years he used those hands to reach out to an almost endless number of people. As a minister he blessed others with them. As a clinical psychologist he helped people in pain. He hugged his daughters as they succeeded in life and greeted friends. As an artist Bill restored a Victorian house, built an elegant clock and more. With those hands Bill writes poems that stir souls; cooks meals just as he did as a small boy with a sick mother; draws house plans. He has used his hands to fix just about anything as well as create lovely bowls on his wood lathe.
He had soothed those around him and been tender and loving, gentle and warm knowing how vulnerable people are when pain haunts their days. Bill has had fun restoring an old Model T Ford and an old rusty Rolls Royce to their original conditions winning ribbons along the way and using only original parts. Playing Frisbee with our dogs, driving his tractor on our land and conducting choirs bring him joy.
The Rolls Royce Bill restored.
Bill and his Dad after building a shed for our motorcycles. Buffy, our rescue pup, supervised.
It was his father who taught him how to use his hands and who role modeled kindness. His Dad, also a gentle and sensitive man with an 8th grade education, became a "go to" tool designer for one of the major Detroit automobile plants. With his brilliant mind he would calculate formulas in his head while younger co-workers spent hours problem solving with calculators, then came to him for confirmation or corrections. Bill watched his dad, worked along side of him, and developed talents in many areas. They were a team as they designed and built an addition to the family home, made repairs, created toys, fixed old clocks, and designed tools.
But that was yesterday. Those hands are wrinkled now. Bill’s father died several years ago leaving a legacy of love and talent to his son. He, in turn, passed that legacy on giving endlessly of himself year after year. I am certain as we celebrate Father’s Day that if Bill could work alongside his Dad just one more time, his heart would leap for joy. They would smile their warm smiles, crack their silly jokes, and create something that would awe those around them.*

Time marches on and with it significant people in our lives come and go. We think about that on Father’s Day and other special days. We tend to forget it in between as we busy ourselves with things that occupy our time and minds.

The last time we held hands taken just hours before he died.
Bill’s skin is thinner now and his hands are not quite as strong as they once were. Suddenly, those hands are older; still gentle, still talented but remind us each day of life’s fragility and mortality. One day, he, like his dad will pass on from this world. His legacy will live forever and those silly jokes, restored cars, and delicious meals will be memories. One day, if I survive this wonderful man, I will wish I could stand along side him just one more time to do the dishes, read one of his sensitive poems, laugh at one of his silly jokes or just feel his hand in mine again.
Perhaps that is what Father’s Day and birthdays are all about. They remind us to cherish the moments we have with those we love. Those moments disappear leaving us with memories. Hopefully we will not be left with regrets of what we did not do. Hopefully we will cherish what we have right now instead of looking back wishing we had reached out.

As I see Bill’s hands showing signs of aging I am reminded that time is fleeting. We both know that at 73 he is in the final chapter of life. Of course we hope it will be a long and healthy one that goes on for many more years but each day is a reminder to cherish those hands and the man who has used them so well.

*My faith and my common sense tells me that Bill and his Dad are, indeed, together again and that someday I will join them. Our time together was not nearly as long as we had hoped it would. Bill became symptomatic about 18 months later and died 6 years later. I live on now to cherish the rare gift we had and to grieve my loss until we meet again.

Related to:
general grief, holidays, spousal loss


06/14/2014 7:14pm

A beautiful tribute to a beautiful man, dear Mary. And in his wisdom, your Bill chose for himself an equally beautiful wife. May your precious memories comfort you, and bring you peace and healing until you are together again ♥

06/14/2014 9:16pm

Thank you so much, Marty. Yes, he was incredibly beautiful and I was blessed. I look forward to that day.

06/15/2014 4:43pm

You make me love Bill, even though I didn't know him. You had a match nurtured and sustained by both sides. So much to love. So much to lose.

Mary Friedel-Hunt
06/16/2014 2:34pm

I know you would have loved Bill. Everyone did. Yes, it was a totally reciprocal relationship....we fed it well. Yes...you know so well...so much to love...so much to lose. Thank you, Elaine.


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