Saying goodbye to a loved one

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 14, 2012

Every week, I relate an episode of my life. I always imagine us sitting down with a cup of coffee and chatting for a few minutes. Silly, I know, but it’s the way my mind works, and I’m learning to embrace it. This morning, however, I find myself sharing something that, although factual, does not seem real. Since our last visit, my family, still raw from the death of my father-in-law, has buried my mother-in-law, Claire Michel.

Prior to July 8, had you asked me about my in-laws, I would have described their role in my children’s lives. You would have heard me mention walks on the levee, spaghetti and meatballs, feeding the hunting dogs, gumbo, trips to Taco Bell, cheesecake, and many, many other things, but you would never have heard me say, “a real life love story.” Not that it wasn’t true, but I never thought of them in that way. I guess they were too busy showing love and didn’t find it necessary to sit down and discuss it.

Minutes after Monique was informed of the death of her MawMaw, she did a little math and sent me this text: “MawMaw and PawPaw were married for 23,867 days and she only lived 16 days without him.” She used that fact in her eulogy, which I’m sharing despite being unable to contact her for permission. That’s OK. I’m not sure she reads my column.

“23,867 — that’s the number of days that my PawPaw and MawMaw Michel — or as you may know them, Charlie and Claire – were married. 23,867. A couple of weeks ago we were in this same church for a very similar reason. My MawMaw sat on that second pew over there. She may have greeted you. I know she smiled at you if she saw you. She was much braver than I ever imagined she could be. She was strong for 16 whole days — her first 16 days alone in 65 years. And 16 days is a long time to live with half of your heart already in heaven.?            

“My MawMaw was one of the most nurturing people that I’ve ever met. She truly just wanted everyone to be comfortable. She was always ready to serve…always ready to put other people’s needs first…and always ready to cook something up for you if you were hungry. Actually, she was always ready to cook something up for you even if you WEREN’T hungry. ?            

“Sunday night brought the kind of news that made my eyes immediately sting. It literally just took my breath away for a few seconds. It just hurt. But you know my very first thought was, she’s been with PawPaw for hours. Because if she can’t be here with us…then that’s where she’s supposed to be.?            

“I don’t know how time works in heaven. I doubt that in eternity there’s a need for clocks or calendars. It gives me great comfort as I think that, although PawPaw was gone from earth for 16 days, he must have just started to look around heaven when he found his bride. 23,867 days were a whole lot to be married…but nothing compares to an eternity together…and that’s what they have now.             

“MawMaw’s life, including her marriage, proved that the greatest joys in life aren’t by accumulating more stuff, by having the most glamorous jobs or by taking the fanciest vacations but by simply taking the hand of the person that you quite literally can’t live without and holding onto the only thing that you can take with you…your relationships.?            

“I MISS her. And I miss him. And I can’t wait to get to Heaven and see them waving through the gate in the only way that they knew how…together.”

Ronny may be reached at