A widower and a widow
By Lisa Smartt
Posted: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 8:03 pm
Maybe Christmas is a strange time to talk about death. But for a lot of you, Christmas brings a stinging reminder of the one who no longer sits at the dinner table. The one you loved deeply. People say things like, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved.” But you wonder sometimes. The pain is so unbearable.
In the last 24 hours I’ve seen a widower and a widow. They’re both grieving. But the situations are completely different. Dr. Harold Smith lost his beloved wife, Dottie, this week. They had been married 64 years. Raised a family together. Saw grandchildren grow up. Dr. Smith is an accomplished man. He had a successful military career, an impressive resume, and a long list of accomplishments at UTM. But he never mentioned any of those things to me.
He looked over at the casket and said, “She took up with an old country boy like me and I couldn’t believe it. I was grateful.”
I replied, “And I think she stuck with you pretty well, didn’t she?”
He just chuckled and smiled. Anyone who knew Mrs. Dottie well could testify of her deep love for God and people. Her death was unexpected. I’m sure Dr. Smith always thought he’d be the first to go. He assumed he’d step into eternity before his beloved Dottie. But that was not to be. For the first time in 64 years, he’ll be celebrating this Christmas without the love of his life.
I dreaded meeting Elizabeth Dunagan, the widow of Casey Dunagan. But her sweet spirit and beautiful attitude were evident to all who came through the line. She was attending her husband’s memorial service, even though she’d not yet celebrated her second wedding anniversary. Their 6-month-old son would never walk to Daddy or throw a ball with him in the front yard. Something didn’t seem quite right about that. Too young. Too little time. But none of us were in a position to challenge reality. That much was clear.
Nick and Cathy Dunagan amazed us all with their ability to love and encourage others in the midst of their terrible grief. They showed a rare understanding of God’s blessings and providence even in the extreme suffering of losing a child.
Casey’s siblings read scripture and spoke words of hope and humor at the service. Their powerful testimonies about heaven became more than just words. Theology translated into real life. But when his wife, Elizabeth, stood to speak I could hardly control my emotions. She loved him. He loved her. They were a family. She smiled as she recounted a conversation with Casey’s doctor. She had told the doctor that he must help Casey get well because she had signed up for the “50 years plus” marriage plan. But it was not to be.
Christmas is a time for joy and celebration. But some of you will shed tears as you gather around the tree this year. Someone is missing. Many of you will be forced to deal with the age-old question. Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved? Ask Dr. Smith and Elizabeth Dunagan. I have a feeling they’ll say “yes.”
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website, lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.14.11