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I’ve been a widow for twenty-four years now and there are days, like the anniversary of his death or my birthday or new year’s day, when I think back on my amazing marriage and how it worked.

I think my biggest “take-away” is that I learn more and more about the gifts my husband gave me during our twenty-nine years together.

He put me first. Always. I don’t think I did the same for him, at least not to the same extent. Sometimes, I let work dominate. He worked 80-100 hours a week, but if I or our son needed him, he was there and work came second. I worried about being laid off or fired on a regular basis and that drove me to put it first and it fills me with shame. On the other hand, many women told me that if their husbands worked night after night and never came home before 9 p.m., they wouldn’t put up with it.

But that didn’t bother me. I knew there were patients in the hospital that needed him. Not that they saw him very often. He was a clinical chemist and ran the labs. He only saw patients when they needed an arterial blood draw, which is more painful than a venous draw. I remember him practicing, hour after hour, to get it right. All our fruit had holes in them for months. But, having done that, patients waited until he could do the draws. No one else. After he died, I got calls for months from patients who wanted to know when he’d be on call for draws and I had to tell them that he was gone.

When I had to have surgery – a complete hysterectomy – I was terrified. Any surgery I’d had before almost killed me and I needed him to be there. I “knew” something would go wrong. The doctors pooh-poohed me when I asked if my stitches would blow when I was throwing up from the drugs they’d pump into me and they dismissed my fear. “Never happen.” Of course, it happened. If my husband hadn’t stayed round the clock, I’d have bled to death when my stitches blew at 2 a.m.

What I didn’t say in the previous paragraph was that my husband was in the middle of a huge project at work, moving the entire set of labs from one part of the hospital to another. He put me first. He periodically walked outside the hospital during the day and called someone or answered a phone call, but he was with me. He didn’t question this at any point. It was who he was and what he did.

This gift has stayed with me because, after that experience, five months after to be exact, he dropped dead at my feet and I began my widowhood. I lost my lover, my best friend, my support, my partner, my better half. But the gift remains with me and has made me work to be a better person to others ever since.

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