Della sat by her husband’s bed side as he slept peacefully for the first time in days. As she looked at him, she seemed to notice the up and down rising of his chest. The medicine had taken hold of him and now he seemed so peaceful. The doctor hadn’t given him much longer, but now she wondered, hoped he was wrong. In her heart, she knew it would not be long. As she looked at his face, her memory seemed to be playing tricks on her. She remembered the first time she saw him. She was 20 years old and he, a youthful 28. He came in to the diner where she worked. It seemed she had worked there seemed forever, but in reality was only several months. It was the first job she was able to secure after the burial of her parents. When he walked in, Sandy sat him at her table. She walked up as he was studying the menu. As she pulled her pencil from her ponytail, she asked what he wanted. He looked surprised as though he was in deep thought when he looked her in the eye and said “Tea, please”.
“Anything to go with that tea?” she asked.
“A date, perhaps?”
“We don’t serve dates here.”
“Could you make an exception?” he asked. Turning pink, Della tried not to smile. It played at her lips.
“I will have to check with the cook.” Moving to go put in the order, Della was trying to figure out if she knew him from somewhere, after all she had lived in town all her life. Sandy seemed amused at his forwardness.
“Who is he?” asked Della, “I don’t seem to remember seeing him around before.” Sandy seemed to be reaching into her memory. “Did you ask him his name?” Who could? Staring into the bluest eyes she had ever seen? “No.”
“Why don’t you when you take his tea over?”. Della chuckled at the simplicity of Sandy’s thinking.
Phil stirred under the covers. Della came back to the present. She placed her hand on his arm to let him know she was there. He looked in the direction of the touch. His heavy eyes opened only a slit, but he knew she was there. He smiled weakly. Della smiled back trying not to let the tears that had formed fall. His mouth moved ever so slightly, had she not leaned in, she would have missed his words. Love Dove. That was her pet name. Phil’s face filled with pain and she smoothed his graying hair. Making soothing sounds, she continued her vigil. Looking at him now, she remembered the first time he had called her that. It was their wedding day. He had found a place in her heart. As soon as the vows were said and as he brought his face close to hers, he whispered Love Dove and kissed her. Over the years, that remained his pet name for her. Phil was not the romantic type, but she never doubted his love. When life seemed to want to swallow them up, he would look at her, say “All will be well, Love Dove” and she knew as long as they had each other, it would be. Children were born, a son lost at birth, job changes, but still he stayed true to her and their family. Then one Saturday after having lunch with Joe, Phil came home changed. She wasn’t sure what had changed but she knew something had happened. There was a quietness and peace about him. A confidence she hadn’t known before. They usually talked about everything. There was nothing secret between them. She knew him well enough that this would be a time when she would wait for him to tell her what had happened.
Phil stirred again as though trying to get up. She laid her hand on his shoulder once again.
“It’s ok, dear.” she whispered.
“He’s here to take me home”, Phil whispered, “May I go, Love Dove?” Della knew she would have to let him go. He had served his Lord well since the time of coming into relationship with Christ. How could she let him go? Peace seeped into her heart, her soul, her mind. “Let me get the children, they are just outside the door.” Della wasn’t sure she could move. She wasn’t sure she was ready to loose the love of her life. Opening the door, Della simply said, “It’s time.” As she watched each of her three grown children come into the room, she knew she would cherish the memories that seemed to flood her. As she sat next to Phil, with the children around, she whispered, “Everyone is here.” Phil tried to open his eyes, but had difficulty. Della started to sing silently and reverently as each of the children joined in. Though silent tears fell as she sang, she watched her husband slip from this world to the one awaiting him as the last note was sung. A peace filled the room. Phil’s struggle was done.