A “Mardi Gras” Kind of Love

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Paul had just graduated from college and was a young instructor at a college in Chicago. He knew it was against the rules for an instructor to date any students, however, there was one young woman, who was so beautiful that she captivated him every time he passed her on campus.  He couldn’t stop thinking about her. Her name, was Catherine.
Paul worried that he shouldn’t date a student, even though he was only four years older than her. But when his heart just couldn’t take it anymore, he decided to do the honorable thing. He approached the Dean of the college for permission to court Catherine, whose nickname was Cathy. Upon the approval from the Dean, these two became inseparable.
Throughout their courtship, as they discovered each other’s pasts, it became known to Paul, that Cathy, came from an unusual childhood. Not the typical home one would expect.  Her childhood was not talked about, as if it were a secret. The reality was her mother suffered from a mental illness her whole life and it was kept hidden.  Her father was a pastor, and in that day and age, mental illness was too embarrassing to talk about. With her father being in the public eye, things were constantly brushed under the carpet.
The reality was, Cathy being the oldest daughter of six kids, had to fend for herself and care for her younger siblings, her whole childhood. This environment lacked the love a child should receive from their parents, which made her miss the experience of having a childhood. Growing up in filth, lies, and a witness to the odd and peculiar behavior of her ill mother, left her deeply wounded with scars of feeling unloved and unworthy.
 Yet, Cathy wanted a different life and she was willing to fight for that right to live a life of feeling worthy and loved. She was willing to do whatever it takes to not to become a product of her environment. To never be the mother, her own mother was to her.
Paul, grew up in New York and came from a loving close nit family out east. As they courted, like peeling an onion, layer by layer, Paul encouraged Cathy to share her past with him. Slowly, over time, she trusted him and spilled out her hauntings from her childhood. Paul loved her even more for the scars she carried.
It was inevitable, he fell madly in love with Cathy.
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They married in 1957. And immediately headed out to Virginia where Paul excepted his first position as a pastor out east.  This meant Cathy had to leave the Midwest and all she knew.  By 1968, the two of them pioneered out west to California and built a whole new life on the west coast together.  They lived humbly, serving their church as Paul was a pastor for 30 years and Cathy taught at the Christian school. They had a boy and girl, who completed their circle of love and their beautiful marriage only grew to the deepest of all levels.
However, their marriage, like all marriages had seasons they had to endure great pain and challenges. Cathy had hidden ghosts from her childhood that haunted her heart horribly. Most marriages would not have lasted. But not with these two.  They were committed to each other and together worked through all the hauntings in Cathy’s heart, shedding light on each and every one of them.  Through Paul’s unwavering love for Cathy, he showed her the unconditional love and the worthiness she deserved. Till eventually, the hauntings became so light and distance that happiness could pour back into Cathy. This painful process took most of Cathy’s adult life…. meaning their whole marriage.
As if that wasn’t hard enough, their only daughter’s husband was tragically killed in an accident leaving their daughter a young single mother of an 18 month old little girl. Paul and Cathy had to bear the horrible grief together of their only daughter’s horrible loss. Together, with their faith, they held their daughter’s broken heart in the palm of their hands.
Through all the hard knocks of life, Paul and Cathy remained faithful to God, and faithful to one another. As the years past, they not only overcame all the hardships of their life, but also, had many wonderful seasons as well. Their lives were centered around their family, loving all the precious memories they created with their son and daughter. They had one granddaughter, who was the complete joy of their life. God not only blessed them with one son in law that went home to heaven at a young age, but years later, they were blessed with a 2nd amazing son in law, that stepped into their daughter’s life and helped heal her heart as well.  Joy was one again restored.
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Together, Paul and Cathy fulfilled their dreams of traveling around the world, even though they lived humbly. They reached their bucket list destinations of visiting the Holy lands, England, France, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Norway, and also lived 6 months in Hawaii which was a dream come true. The two of them had adventures most only read about in books and together they lived life in the most adventurous ways.
About eight years ago, now in their late 70’s they went to back to the Midwest. Cathy visited her old roots and attended her high school reunion. An emotional trip for Cathy, as she was visiting some old ghosts in her life, yet, at the same time, had found a great peace with it all.
They also visited a niece that had remained close to them over the years.  It was on that visit, that Paul, while he was on a walk with his niece, broke down and shared that Cathy, his love of over 50 years, was recently diagnosed with the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Through his tears, he looked at his niece and said, “I don’t know how to live without her. She is my best friend, and we had so many more things we wanted to do together.”
Paul was devastated and didn’t know how he was going to go on without his Cathy. The hardest part for Paul, is they simply hadn’t finished their bucket list in life together. It wouldn’t be the same without his best friend by his side.
When they returned home, as Cathy’s progression of Alzheimer’s began the horrific journey of watching her beautiful memories slip away, something happened to Paul. As Paul struggled with the disease that was carrying his bride away from him, an old brain injury from when Paul was two years old and also a series of recent strokes, started to wipe away Paul’s memories too.
Together, they were both suffering from severe dementia………. at the exact same time.
Until one day, they were both unable to live on their own anymore.
Their daughter along with her husband, had the painful and grueling task of seeing both of their parents’ independence of driving, and living on their own be taken away. They had no choice now but to put them into a nursing home where they both could received the best of care. Their daughter looked high and low for a nursing home that they could be in the same room. The first facility she found, they were able to stay together in the same room.
However, Paul wandered one day from this facility and they had to temporarily move them to another facility. Their daughter once again, searched high and low to find a room they could be in together, however, those rooms are far and few between, as most nursing homes only have single dwelling rooms.
With no other options available, for two months Paul and Cathy were placed in the same facility but separated for the first time in separate rooms for over 56 years.
Each night, they would cry for each, get angry and refused to be apart.
Though their memories were fading, and conversations were now different with them, on many occasions, in the morning, one of their rooms would be empty.  During the night, one of them would sneak into the other’s room, crawl into the twin bed and snuggle with the other, till they both fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Many mornings, nurses would find these two, cradled together in each other’s arms in a twin bed.

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Their daughter and son in law, were completely dedicated to finding a facility that they could be together once again. The search continued until they finally found a place. Paul and Cathy are now in the same room, share a queen bed, where they are still the ‘hugging couple!”
However, the story doesn’t end here.
God had a different bucket list for Paul and Cathy.
God wasn’t done yet with fulfilling Paul and Cathy’s bucket list.
Paul was right, their goals were not done yet.
As their minds slipped away together, their conversations didn’t make sense anymore, their minds both went back to the state of a little child.
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Cathy, had been given a second chance to live the childhood she never had.
All she ever wanted was to be loved and cared for as a little girl.  Now, she gets to ask for candy, (chocolate being her favorite) have lots of hugs and kisses every single day, and have people care for her. She is loved on every single day in a clean and safe environment as her mind is that of a little sweet girl.
The best part is, her most cherished friend and soul mate, Paul is there to share her childhood with her. For his memory is that of a sweet little boy now.
The two of them, in aged bodies, have the youthful thoughts of young children and the two things that have remained are their faithfulness to God, and to each other.
For when these two see each other, their faces light up, their love for each other returns at the site of one another. Hugs, kisses and embraces are evident when these two are together. On special occasions, Paul, though he is unsteady on his feet and has a walker now, will even steal a dance with his bride and daughter.
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This is what Agape love looks like.
Paul and Cathy 58 years of marriage, in their nursing home,
celebrating Mardi Gras with childlike hearts.
I dedicate this blog to my beautiful Uncle Paul and Aunty Cathy.
Though you may not remember me anymore, I remember all that you taught me.
You gave me hope as a little girl, to leave a broken world, just like Cathy did.  You instilled in me that with ‘God all things are possible’.
Uncle Paul, the day that you told me of Aunt Cathy’s illness, what we both didn’t realize, is ‘God’s bucket list’ for the two of you. 
You are still achieving your dreams and goals by allowing Cathy to receive the childhood she so desperately wanted.
‘Through sickness and health, till death do we part!’
You are both the most amazing example of wedding vows, that have been tragically lost in this country.
I will be your voice, as to the beauty real love holds. The key to a successful marriage is…
Agape love.
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Agape love is the highest form of love. A love that is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional. This is what real love looks like.  The only way to find this kind of love, is honor, respect, commitment, and integrity. The kind of integrity that when no one else is looking, you choose to do the right thing.  Center all these qualities with faith, and this is what it takes to have Agape Love. The greatest example of this kind of love was Jesus sacrificial death on the cross to save every single person in the world.
This year, I celebrate my 20th anniversary with my Agape love, Derek. 
Thank you for being such an amazing example of what REAL LOVE is.
May many more be inspired to center their life around the qualities this country was founded on…
Agape love.

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Pictured on left, Derek & Sarah Hein, Cathy and Paul.
The day Paul told his niece on their walk, that his sweet Cathy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 
Till we have long talks on walks again in heaven~
Love Forever …. Your niece~
Sarah Hein
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3 thoughts on “A “Mardi Gras” Kind of Love”

  1. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story.  Aunt Donna and I will be celebrating our 58th anniversary in April – I’m 80 and she is 77 – luckily we both still have our health.  We are moving on to a new chapter in our life as we sell our 3 – level home and move into a the one – level condominium that we purchased last year.   Uncle Dick

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