LuAnn passed us a stack of old black-and-white photo proofs, the kind that come on that heavy shiny paper with the images of the negatives on them.
She pointed to a photo of her veil and headgear, which she said cost more than the entire wedding dress.
She told the story of how miffed some of the guests were, having to drive from their homes in Manhattan to her wedding in Westchester County and then to the reception on Long Island.
She pointed to the fact that Doug had a dashing beard at the time, thick and dark, a contrast to the curly hair and clean shaven look we were all familiar with.
As their pet rabbits bound around the living room, nibbling on hay, she told stories in between tears about Doug’s job driving Porsches and the time he self-published a half-page newsletter that was distributed to all the artists and stage workers on Broadway.
Only hours earlier, Doug passed away at home after a trip to a local convenience store for a chocolate milkshake.
He’d been sick for many years with various ailments, from diabetes to heart issues.
LuAnn cared for him all that time, driving him to countless doctor’s appointments, sitting beside him in the hospital, dealing with the medical bills.
She could have lessened her burden by placing him in a nursing facility. But she wouldn’t even consider the prospect.
He wanted to be at home, with his foster rabbits, and the squirrels and chipmunks and occasional skunk he would feed by hand in the backyard.
She was grateful for the time she had with him, but she wished she had more.
In his obituary, which she took hours to compose, she expressed gratitude to Doug’s friends at the model train group in town. He loved those trains.
She thanked the people at the local rescue squad who taught Doug how to drive the ambulance and park it in the bay.
She noted with appreciation the kindness of Doug’s doctors and the neighbors who came to call.
She told us how one of the first phone calls of condolence she received after Doug’s death was from one of his doctors, who also served as one of the county’s coroners.
The doctor was on duty that evening and wanted to let her know how sad she was to learn of his passing. Doug had that kind of impact on people.
In the days between her husband’s passing and today, Thanksgiving Day, LuAnn has busied herself with the details of the arrangements, looking forward to the day when Doug’s ashes would be released to her so she could have him home again.
She’ll talk to him and tell him stories about his rabbits, and he’ll keep her company.
Over the same days, we’ve spent more time with her, sharing tea and cookies and stories.
She’ll be at our house on Thanksgiving. She’s bringing the rolls and a pot of soup she’s been brewing all week. She sent a lovely bouquet for the centerpiece yesterday.
We’ll get to hear more about Doug today, more from their life together than we’ve learned in all the years we’ve spent as neighbors chatting over the fence.
She’ll laugh at our dog while patiently pushing her away. And she’ll no doubt offer to help with the dishes, which we’ll politely decline.
It will be a different kind of Thanksgiving this year, unfamiliar and somber, but filled with stories and laughter and gratitude for the blessings of a lifetime shared.
When you give thanks for your own blessings this Thanksgiving day, remember to set aside a moment or two for the people in your lives who mean so much to you.
We don’t always have all the time we wish we had.
Mark Mahoney is the editorial page editor for The Daily Gazette.
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Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Opinion