Downsizing can be difficult

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – June 29, 2018

Downsizing can be difficult – A touching discovery

As people age, many try to downsize, rid their homes of clutter, and simplify their lives. Many do this task so their children, heirs, or beneficiaries won’t have to tackle it later. Some downsize for other reasons. For example, our Champ Pat, from Orange, California, wrote this week: “I am sorting, packing and staging my home to sell.”

Often, it’s not an easy task. Cleaning out one’s living spaces inevitably uncovers lots of memories. People say, “I can’t throw this or that away.” They stop and reflect on the past. Could be an old photo or letter or memories of camp or childhood friends.

That happened to Pat, who added: “In doing this, I found a handwritten note from my Mom as she went through the grieving process over my Dad’s death in 1994. I have typed it and saved it to my computer in case the handwritten pages get lost.”


Our Champ, Pat Buttress Orange, California

Pat shared her mom’s letter with me because years ago, when Pat hosted a city of Orange/Time-Warner cable TV program titled, “Orange View,” (which she did for 16 years), she interviewed me and had told me the story of her mom, RoseMary, who had been widowed, and how she subsequently found love again, with an old friend named Harry.

This week, when I read RoseMary’s 1994 letter, it choked me up. It made me reflect on my life. I decided to share portions of the letter with you today, as so many of our Champs will relate to RoseMary’s words.

At the end of the letter, Pat adds four short paragraphs of comments, which are significant for widowed people who find love again.

WARNING: This letter, written in 1994, is heart-wrenching. Have a tissue nearby.

Memories of a Cherished Loss
By RoseMary A. Buttress

January 31, 1994

“I’ve just returned from Sierra Vista Hospital where George died. At this moment, I’m in a daze, I followed the doctor into emergency and went in to say my final good-bye. I tried to kiss you one final time and tell you how much you’ve meant to me. You were a wonderful and devoted husband and father…always there with your happy, positive thoughts and your beautiful smile.

I can’t believe I’ll never hear your voice again. You looked so happy and peaceful I wanted to lay down beside you and go with you. Unfortunately, I cannot, but just as you always told me, I know you will always be with both Pat and me and sometime in the future we’ll all be together.

I hope you know how much I will always miss you and cherish all the time we had together. You gave me identity and worth, self-worth from my 18th birthday until now. However, I think I’m strong enough to go alone until we meet again. Vaya con Dios, My Love!

It is now after midnight and Audrey & Beth have left and Pat will come home tomorrow.  But, what shall I do now…it is difficult to lay down in the bed and reach over for you and you are gone. I leave the lights on and hope I can go to sleep, I’m so tired.  Finally, I call Unity 24-hour call-in line. They are so kind, warm and understanding. The call is helpful and finally about three o’clock I fall asleep.

February 1, 1994

Pat returned home to Morro Bay, and we talked and waited for Gloria to arrive. It was nice to remember the good times we all shared and yes, the tears were there as well as the laughter.

Together we went to the Mortuary to make the arrangements you and I had agreed upon. It’s so final, and I’m drained of all feeling.  We are to pick up your ashes on Thursday.  I still can’t believe you are gone, but I can’t wish you back with your illness.

Thank goodness you were able to retain your dignity and intelligence until you died. You and I had such communication together and knew from the beginning we were in love and belonged with each other. We could read each other’s minds even across the room.

We were two halves that made a whole.  I was so proud to be your wife.  You were and are the light of my life. We are soul mates and I know you are somewhere watching and waiting for me.

As I write this, I’m reminded of how often you and I tried to make the world a more colorful and happy place. We’ve had our share of problems, but we never tried to unload them on our friends. We’ve always felt that laughter and joy was the way to go. Thank you, Dear.

About a week later

It’s Friday and Pat and I are driving to her house for a while. It hasn’t been a week since you died, and I miss you so. I wake up with tears and try and remember your courage and love of life even with your pain of the last years.

I still see you every morning with your wonderful smile and laughing eyes. You were always so positive and cheerful, and everyone felt better just knowing you.

I don’t think you had an enemy in the world and the tributes and notes I’ve received are heartwarming. Of course, I knew you best and had the time of my life with you. You were my rock of Gibraltar and made the world a wonderful and loving place.

Several days and months later

It’s almost your birthday. Your 88th! You and I were so hoping you could live through 2000 so we could be together for the turn of this century. It doesn’t seem fair to date anyone, I just want you with me, I’m so missing everything we shared, and we were lucky to have had it all. No one can replace you.

I have a clear picture of you and Pat chatting together on a bench in Solvang on my 70th birthday. I wish I had taken a picture of you both. It was less than 3 weeks later when you died, and my tears are with me every day.

I am sure you are with Pat and me daily and I hope wherever you are, it is beautiful and wonderful. There must be golf to share and many of your friends with you. I still hear your laughter and your joy of golf…both are happy memories.”

Pat’s Comments:

“This was the last of what my Mom wrote. She did as she and Dad talked about before he died, she reached out to Harry Wagner, her Roller Skating Dance Competition partner from when she was in her teens.

She and Harry finally met at Pacific Grove in northern CA and in October 1994 they married with my blessings at the Elderberry Inn, outside of Yosemite.  They were married for almost 11 years until Mom’s death May 2, 2005.

I knew Mom would never forget my Dad, I know she is with him now…but I was also very happy for her and Harry…to have each other as companions and to watch over each other in case of health issues.

I will never understand the resistance of adult children to have their parents remarry…the other parent is not coming back so I believe letting the living parent make a new life is what God expects of the remaining parent, and, of the children.”

Tom’s comment: Thanks to Pat for sharing her mom’s lovely letter. This story reminds us that remarriage can be wonderful for widowed people. Pat is a seasoned Public Affairs professional, who was most recently the north and north-central Orange County Public Affairs Region Manager for Southern California Edison (SCE).  Her career includes 20 years as Governmental/Public Affairs Manager.

Pat is the Chair of the Orange Chamber of Commerce (membership 500+ businesses). To read more about this fascinating woman, her website is: http://www.PIBPublicAffairs.com

Author: tpblake

Tom Blake is a newspaper columnist in south Orange County, California. He has published four books. His primary topic is finding love after 50 and beyond, sometimes far beyond, for people 80 and older as well. He also blogs about travel at TravelAfter55.com.

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