Francesca met her husband over 50 years ago. She had many boyfriends, 2 engagements and one failed marriage behind her when she met Wally. Suddenly  life made sense to her, love was not just attraction or infatuation. Love was comfort, complete comfort, it felt like an eternal embrace, love filled her up and up and up. Francesca had met her soul mate and married him a year later.

They were happily married for over 50 years. Well in their 70s, Francesca would sometimes go on a trip with the local bus and William would be waiting at the bus stop for her to return. He would be there 15 minutes early, just in case the bus was early, and she would be the first one to get off the bus. Every single time. After 50 years they would still feel butterflies when they were reunited. He adored her, she adored him.

William would still caress her shoulder in the middle of a party, would still look at her from across a room full of people, would still hold her at night and kiss her in the morning. For over 50 years they felt happy, through tough and dark times, through good and blissful times. They could not have any children but this never made them doubt their relationship. Their partnership was one that held them both in equal union.

William fell ill with cancer, terminal cancer. Francesca looked after her husband and best friend, both knowing that the bond was about to break but still genuinely smiling at each other and still feeling in love.  He left the nurses in tears by telling them over and over again with tears streaming down his face that he couldn’t die because he couldn’t leave his wife, he never meant to leave her alone. He wasn’t afraid of dying, he was afraid of leaving her.

3 Years after William’s death, Francesca lives on her own in their house, surrounded by a few of his pictures. Her house is immaculate, and she just needs me to help her with the vacuuming. Francesca is 82 now, and often talks to me about love and happiness, grief and death. She tells me that being in love is the best feeling in the world, and she is the luckiest person because she had over 50 years of feeling it every day.

She tells me that because her love for her husband was so strong, her loss is larger than life as well. She tells me that every day there is a moment where her grief utterly overwhelms her and she feels emptier than a black hole. She tells me about how the fact that her husband was spared from feeling this kind of grief is one of the only things that keeps her going. She finds strength in knowing he was always perfectly happy with her.  Francesca is getting weaker, and it’s frustrating her. But in a way I feel she is at peace with this as well.

I don’t think Francesca will ever stop grieving, and as she told me her story I teared up a bit while holding her vacuum cleaner like a teddy bear. The value of her love for William was so great that when she lost it, she lost everything. Yet she still smiles when she talks about him and still says she is the luckiest person in the world, even though she is in pain every single day. I like Francesca a lot. I grief for  Francesca’s pain, and hope at the same time I’ll be just like her. She said the risk of falling so deeply in love is that when you lose it, it will leave a deep deep hole. She also told me it is worth it a hundred times over and I should never settle for less.

I think that was the best thing I’ve heard today. Today was a good day.


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