Sam Cook: In face of loss, let the heart speakI picked up the phone and made the call, but I had no idea what I was going to say. A friend in western Minnesota had lost his wife to complications after a long struggle with cancer.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
I picked up the phone and made the call, but I had no idea what I was going to say.
A friend in western Minnesota had lost his wife to complications after a long struggle with cancer. I had received word just a few hours earlier.
Most of us have made this kind of call. There are no words that can ease the pain, no sentiments that seem to offer a salve for that kind of sorrow.
But none of that matters. You make the call. You let your heart do the talking.
My friend has a few decades under his belt. He has dealt with loss along the way. But as much as any of us can foresee the end when a loved one is up against cancer, nothing prepares us for the finality of death.
I said hello. I told my friend how sorry I was.
For the first couple of minutes of the call, my friend tried to talk through his tears, and it was difficult to understand what he was saying.
When he regathered himself, he began to talk about his wife and their relationship through the years. They were a farm couple. That meant they were business partners as well as husband and wife. In years past, she took her turns during harvest time, driving trucks full of corn and soybeans to the elevator in town. She ran the home base, too, monitoring two-way radio conversations among the men in the field, coordinating logistics, preparing meals.
My friend talked about how rarely he and his wife had been apart, how badly he had wanted her to remain alive. With chemotherapy, they had bought almost four years since they had learned of her cancer. Almost four years of days at the lake and grandkids in school plays and Halloweens and Christmases. Almost four years of evening ATV rides through the fields, NFL Sundays in the den and church meetings in town. Almost four years to become like family with the nurses at the chemo lab.
I know my friend and his wife and their family only because I have been fortunate enough to hunt pheasants at an adjoining farm. Our friendship was built on long tromps through heavy grasslands, around pickups parked in farm yards, over pies we always brought from Tobies in Hinckley on our way west.
My friend talked for an hour in that phone call. I didn’t need to say much. He covered a lot of ground, and I learned things about him and his wife that I had never known. We laughed several times along the way. His tears came again a time or two.
He said he didn’t know what he was going to do without her. Except when he was away on hunting trips, he hadn’t slept alone in 45 years, he said. He had said the same thing to his kids and grandkids earlier. And his grandson, 5, had said, “I’ll sleep with you, Grandpa.”
And he did.
Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/samcookoutdoors.