It is 4:25 p.m. on the afternoon of 6 May 2013. I am sitting here at my laptop just a few feet away from Lolly, watching her as she listens to André Rieu and his orchestra performing in the broad, sloping square of Cortona, Italy in 2004, recorded on a DVD titled “André Rieu in Tuscany.” They are playing the drinking song from La Traviata, and the audience has linked arms and are swaying back and forth in time to the music. The colored lights, the happy, smiling faces of the people, the softly lighted shapes of the buildings in the background, the beat of the music, are wonderful things to behold.
But they can’t hold a candle to what I saw and heard just a few minutes ago. They can’t even come close.
Today has been an extraordinary day. A wife who has been unable to talk for many years, who usually spends her day sitting with her eyes closed, spoke to me today; looked at me with her eyes open; smiled; watched and listened to what I know is her favorite DVD.
How and why I do not know. Whether it has any meaning for the future I do not know. Whether this day will ever repeat itself I do not know. I accept what I have been given. It is gift so great there is no way to translate my gratitude into words.
Just 15 minutes ago I was feeding Lolly. Pizza. Warmed in the oven and cut into tiny bits she can easily chew. I used to roll her to the table for supper, but I find it is a little easier on her arms and shoulders if she is lifted in and out of her recliner and wheelchair as few times as possible each day, and so I now feed her supper in her recliner, sitting beside her on a little footstool that does the job.
Lolly chewed and swallowed as André Rieu and his orchestra paused for a moment and he introduced soprano Carmen Monarcha, telling the audience she was going to sing O Mio Babbino Caro, “Oh my dear father.” It is a plea from a grief stricken daughter for help in finding some way she can wed her beloved. It was always one of Lolly’s favorites, and it made me happy to see her eyes open as the soft tones of the deeply emotional aria began to fill the room.
Then I heard a tiny sound as I reached out with a bit of pizza on a spoon. I looked at Lolly as I heard it again. And suddenly I could no longer see spoon, pizza, room or anything else as I realized what I was hearing. My beloved was singing along with the music — tiny, breathless, softly sung notes, but beyond any doubt, the same notes that were filling my ears. I could not see because tears of joy and gratitude blinded me. My hand paused, then sagged to the plate. For five minutes we sat there together, just as we had sat together so many times before, sharing a moment of beauty.
She is there in her recliner now watching more of the DVD. Yes, watching. Her eyes are open, though not as open as they were just a while ago. It is now 5:17 p.m. and the DVD is approaching its end. She laughed a little a moment ago as my son came downstairs and said something to her, but now I think she is falling asleep.
What do I think will happen now? That’s a question I do not allow myself to ask. What do I hope will happen? I don’t allow myself to hope. It is better not to think, and not to hope, to just do. What you can. In every way. Every day.
Days come and days go. If on any day you can find some way to bring a smile, however small, to a face, then do it. And if you are unsure that you really caused that smile, those open eyes, that flicker of happiness, ignore your doubts. Be content that you have done your best.
No one can do more, Johnny.
When you give your all there is no more to give.
Except when a day like this one comes along. And then what you give is thanks.
Thank you, Lord.