Donna Smaldone
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Thursday / March 23 / 2017

Jack: dying for the one you love

His smile would charm even the most cantankerous. “How did you possibly put up with him for nearly 60 years?,” I lovingly nudged, inquiring of his bride. She lay there, dying in the hospital bed placed in her home to cradle her. The next door neighbor I had only just met. Unwittingly. Just days before she took her last breath. 

I saw the cars there. The coming and going. The unusualness of it all. Upon a break in activity, my bare feet felt the stiff grass beneath them as they made their way over to Jack & Gay’s home.

Even before knocking, he answered the door. That smile.
The one he always wore for her.

“Come in, please,” he beckoned. I obliged. What choice did I have, standing there on his doorstep.

Gay lay there, breathing in rhythm. Peaceful. I grasped her hand as if we’d known each other years deep. “Hi….“, I whispered. She squeezed my hand back and I leaned in to kiss her forehead. “I’m Donna from next door. I’m the one who has the white, fluffy dog that barks a lot!”

Not opening her eyes, she smiled knowingly.

Grasping her other hand with complete synchronicity, the kind only a loon can sing of in the deepest of dawns, he smiled that smile. The one he wore only for her. “This is the first time in 55 years she hasn’t slept by my side,” his voice echoed. Understood by all who heard it.

Nothing to say. Nothing to do. Just to smile, and share the love they’d partaken in for so many decades. What an honor. I imagined the scope of what they’d seen together. The adventures they shared. I watched the dance between their souls. The way they dreamed dreams only young lovers can dream.

He smiled in adoration. That smile he always smiled for her. And for the brief moment he took his gaze off her, he thanked me. Profoundly. For being there.

I found myself wanting to be there more. To do SOMEthing. ANYthing to help alleviate the pain.

Mom and I prepared homemade goodness in the form of pork chops, mashed potatoes, and good ole southern pie and ice cream. It made me feel good to add to Jack’s life so he could share the last of Gay’s.

She passed quietly in the night, knowing her prince was by her side.

He’d never be the same.

We chatted from day to day.

He traveled. He kept the house in perfect condition. The lawn, manicured the way she loved it and in the fashion that kept him feeling useful.

He gave me a pin bearing the resemblance of my white, fluffy dog, Zeke. “I don’t know where she ever got this,” he declared. “But I’m certain you’ll appreciate it more than I will!”

It’s pinned to my lampshade.

Months later, I found my Jeep dead in the driveway. Dear Jack spent nearly 90 minutes with me, puttering, pestering, trying all he could to make her mumble more than a small grunt. He even lent me his tools so I could reach the battery should I need to tie her back in. The tools he kept so organized in his garage. “Just be sure to return them,” he joked. I assured him I’d return the “wrench thingy” in good condition. We laughed in unison in spite of me.

My fingers, now cherishing that wrench thingy, I imagine him dancing with his bride.

You see, just this morning, my neighbor to the other side reached out. “Do you know what’s going on next door?,” she inquired. I was out of state and did not know.

“There is an ambulance and a firetruck outside Jack’s house!”

I didn’t need to hear more. I knew. He passed almost six months to the day. Jack, the vibrant, healthy man I’d embraced just weeks earlier had died of a broken heart.

“I’ll be brave!,” he declared with fierce determination. He fiddled with my Jeep but we both knew, we were there together to share the memory of his marriage. His love. His true one and only.

Such enviable love.

“It’s okay…..,” I assured him. “You know she put up with your shenanigans for a reason!” Indeed she did. I didn’t question her reasons and I didn’t need to. I saw it in her smile as she lay without speech, looking at the man she’d adored for decades. They were tied together for eternity.

I wouldn’t have guessed so soon and yet, here we are.

Dear Jack, I wish I could have hugged you one more time, but I know you’re in the embrace of your one true love. I’m so happy for you.

Dance. Laugh. Conspire.
Do so forever as you’ve always dreamed.

I am grateful to have known you both, even though only briefly. You gave me a glimpse into your hearts, your world, your lives. Into Forever True Love. Thank you.

Fly free.
Dream big.
Know that I’m keeping the wrench thingy (yes, I’ll double check with your son Steve). But I’m keeping it. Because YOU mattered. You touched my life and I’ll never forget that smile.

The one you’re now smiling just for her.

Cheers, dear neighbors!
To forever, enviable love!! xo

24 responses to “Jack: dying for the one you love”

  1. Julie says:

    Oh Donna! This is such a beautiful tribute!! Thank you so much for sharing….I am so glad you were able to share in their lives and experience the beauty of it! I love you so much!!!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you, Jules. I’m glad, too. I know as a nurse, you see a lot of life and death and I’m grateful for the love and compassion you share from the heart with all you encounter. I love you, too!

      Love, Donna

  2. Jonathan says:

    Beautiful documentation of two people sharing a life together. Even at the end are starting a new beginning.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you, Jonathan. I love how you said that because indeed, their brand new adventure has just begun for all eternity. How beautiful.

      Love, Donna

  3. Jeremy says:

    just so beautifully written. their love will just keep flourishing in their new life and they’ll be dancing and laughing and smiling and holding hands for eternity.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      oh Jeremy… so beautifully stated! Thank you for reading, for sharing, and for encouraging me to pen this post. To enviable love!!

      Love, Donna

  4. Penny says:

    Beautifully written and such a lovely honour to them, Donna. My sincerest condolences to you and the family members of Jack and Gaye.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you, my sweet friend. I am so blessed to have shared just a glimpse with them. Thank you for reading and for sharing your sentiments.

      Love, Donna

  5. Christine O says:

    Oh…. such a beautifully written love story of a timeless relationship. I can feel Gaye’s hand reaching for Jack’s as he joined her in eternity… Donna, you are amazing- how blessed you are to have known such a beautiful Couple on this earth.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you so much, Christine! Truly an honor to have a glimpse into the enviable love they shared. I appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Love, Donna

  6. Patti Polunci says:

    This is beautiful Donna. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Roxanne says:

    Wow Sis, WOW. The way you brought their story to life for me was amazing! So beautifully written and WHAT a LOVE STORY <3 I was starting to wonder what happened to the wrench thingy hehe but then I read the rest.. Beautiful! I love you Sis thank you for sharing this with me <3 Made my day!! <3 I can see Jack and Gaye dancing beautifully in the heavens above <3

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Oh Roxiey sis, thank you so much! That means the world. My prayer is for you and Sefa to continue as you are and love to this place. Beautiful indeed. Love you!!

      Love, Donna

  8. Elaine Racette says:

    Thank you for sharing the beautiful story of Jack and Gaye. I feel so blessed that we were able to be there in Gaye’s final hours on earth. Their love was manifested even though Gaye was so very ill. I am very thankful that you and I got a chance to pray for them at that time. The blog that you wrote is really a beautiful tribute to Jack and Gaye.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you so much, Momma. Wow, what an honor it was to have the special glimpse we did. It’s such a blessing we were able to share that together. I’ll always remember when the four of us held hands with one another and prayed to the God they’re now celebrating eternal life with. I love you, Momma.

      Love, Donna

  9. Monica says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your witness of this enviable love! Such a beautiful story, and though it’s sad it gives hope that true love exists in this world. More people need to hear and see that it’s still here. I hope and pray to live a life of enviable love as well, to my last breath and to eternity ❤

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      ah yes…. thank you, beautiful lil cuz! I see this enviable love in what you -n- Gio share and it warms my heart you’re getting married! Thank you for being who you are and for relishing in this love story with me. I love you!

      Love, Donna

  10. Mike says:

    Thank you for sharing. I cried reading it in the card aisle at CVS of all places.
    What a gift to witness their love!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Hey, Dr. G! Thanks so much for reading…. even in the card aisle of CVS lol! Your reaction is a true testament to the enviable love you -n- Tracey share. Cheers to a lifetime of happiness together. Can’t wait to share a slice of life with you guys in July!!!

      Love, Donna

  11. Laurie says:

    That is a beautiful story, Donna. I am so glad you got to witness and be a part of this amazing love story. I am glad too that Jack is reunited with his love, Gaye. I am going to hug my husband and kids right now!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I appreciate you reading, Laurie. Thank you for sharing in their love story with me and for taking that enviable love and adoration back to your own true love and your babes.

      Love, Donna

  12. Steve Bass says:

    Donna, thank you for such a fitting tribute to my father. He
    shared his life with the woman whom warmed his soul.I
    am blessed to have had parents as I do.Watching Jack &
    Gay love each other more than life itself was special.She was his world.I miss them and wish more
    people could share a lifetime like they did.
    again thank you for such a fitting tribute and always be loving and kind to all you love.
    sncerely,
    Your neighbor Steve

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Your comments mean a lot, Steve. Thank you so much. My intent was to pay a fitting tribute to your parents and I’m glad you feel I did. CHEERS to forever, enviable love, dear neighbor.

      Love, Donna

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