It was a gentle plea. He reassured her that they could talk about it in the morning. He might have known they would be her last words. That’s how close they were. She was the love of his life and he would spend this long and satisfying relationship trying to be the man she deserved. She was smart and witty. She could size a person up with a glance and deliver a perfectly timed one liner that let the person know they were made. Pete was a big guy with a marshmallow heart. He was like a big puppy dog, but he had his pride. I think Joan helped build up his confidence and self esteem. He loved spinning his beautiful life as an ideal. I remember when I was twelve he told me that he had something most people never achieve. I was so curious to learn this life secret. He told me that he had “peace of mind”. It was a concept I had never considered before he told me this. Only now forty six years later it’s just starting to make sense.
Pete checked himself out of the hospital against doctor’s orders to go home and mourn and get his plans in order and collect his thoughts about how he will be remembered. He asked my sister to come up and help him put things in order. He had her run errands for him and she fed him as much as she could. His large frame seemed extremely frail to her. Picture an eighty seven year old man that’s six foot five at one hundred and twenty five pounds. But he was sharp as a tack mentally. One of the last chores for my sister was to pick up Aunt Joan’s ashes.
Tina and her husband Roger drove to the mortuary and found the old stone building at the edge of town. They saw a tall thin young man in a black suit standing at the entrance . He led them into a nicely furnished waiting area. He slipped out of the room and returned with a box. He carried it in both hands and handed it to my sister. Tina and Roger brought her home to Pete. He took the box and sat with it on his lap for a while. Eventually he put the box on the mantle above the fireplace. The next couple of days he cried. Tina felt it was normal and healthy and what he needed and wanted to feel, but before she left she voiced a concern.
“Pete, you are such a social person. You are so used to being with people and telling stories and enjoying the stories of others. Do you think you might be happier back in the nursing home or assisted living facility where you can talk to people and socialize?” Pete thought about what she was asking and he looked at her and smiled. “No, Tina. I’ve never been alone and I really want to have the experience.” I think he really might have been right when he told me that he had “peace of mind”.
Tina said she had the best time with him and she was grateful to share that week with him. Within a couple of days he checked himself back into Hospice. No one knows what he did with his wife’s ashes. I don’t expect you could find them in the Koi pond. He died exactly one month after his sweetheart. He was ready. He was the man that she deserved. Uncle Pete will most certainly rest in peace.