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A Different Kind of Gift

BOSTON (CBS) - It has been three full weeks since my bride of thirty-one years and the mother of our two super kids left us. The word 'full' aptly describes these weeks. With the rush of visitors and phone calls ebbing, with my children heading back to their lives and routines in other cities, I find myself with a small increment of time for some reflection. I'm honored to share it with you now. It is said that everyone deals with grief in their own way and on their own timetable. Sadly, I'm finding out for myself how true it is. Twenty-one days have passed and the emotional hills and valleys are still forming without consistency. My realization is this, that what direction we move our thoughts at times like these often determine how we feel and act emotionally. I've chosen to head down a more positive path. It's challenging when someone so young and vital has left me too soon. And by no means would I criticize those who are dealing with grief in other ways. Anger, bitterness or abject sadness are tracts that for many are key to their experience. During this difficult time of loss, I have consciously chosen to appreciate gifts.

Being with someone in their final days is emotionally jarring but not without an exceptional amount of meaning. My children and I had the chance to be with her, to speak our love and appreciation and to poignantly offer heartfelt goodbyes.

Was it painful and challenging to hold my wife's hand, stroke her forehead while giving permission for her to free herself of pain and enter into rest? The answer is obvious. But I cannot imagine being anywhere else during what I feel is a sacred time. It was truly a gift to participate in some of the most intimate moments in our long, loving relationship.

The kindness of family, friends, colleagues and listeners is something that I've welcomed and put to important use. Expressions of sympathy and caring serve to soothe my sadness because I've opted to welcome them enthusiastically, applying them to my emotional wound like medicine. The situation is still so very sad but these gifts of support, proposed with such elegance, touch me greatly. From students of Wendy's with severe learning disabilities to listeners from across the country got to know her by listening to me talk about her on the radio, I continue to savor and appreciate each and every note, e-mail, card, phone call and hug. It is salve for the soul. My hope is that for others dealing with loss, expressions of support help them as well.

Finally, there is the endless supply of gifts my Wendy brought forth during her lifetime with many continuing in the present. When someone asks the inevitable question at a time like this, "What can I do for you?" I answer simply that I have but one request. That they do as I do and honor the legacy of a woman who lived her life bringing people together, doing what she could for others and brightening lives with help, humor, humility and love. She was a teacher who garnered tremendous respect from colleagues, school administrators, parents and most especially her students. She is teaching me every day about the importance of a well-lived life of hope and fulfillment.

I met up with an old friend who had been estranged from his children for many years. Wendy felt troubled that this separation following a difficult divorce was so long lasting. She ran into our friend at the hospital shortly before she died and offered her prayers that he be reunited with his children and precious grandchildren whom he had never met. It seemed an intractable situation, but Wendy confided in me that somehow, someday this family would be reunited.

Well, that gentleman shared with me a story that I happily dub a miracle. At Wendy's funeral, on a day of profound loss for so many, the man came face to face with both estranged daughters in the lobby. The odds of such an encounter in a crowd of hundreds seemed slim. But it happened. They exchanged hugs for the first time in over a decade and agreed to start the work of mending their relationship. A joyous meeting with his sweet young grandchildren should happen soon.

This chance get together took place during a time of intense sadness. The daughters and their father knew and loved Wendy, as did so many. I know this story is an example, a sign if you will, that Wendy is continuing her outstanding work of bringing people together. She was and continues to be the best at it. Hearing this tale today is my gift, a timely one for sure. I'm quite confident there will be many more to come.   Thank you my love.

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