I was 14 years old when I met my future husband, having just graduated from St. James School in Arlington Heights. It was at a church picnic and square dance for all to come.
There was another area for younger people to enjoy more hip music. It was there that I noticed him, tall and very handsome, just hanging with his buddies. I thought to myself, "He will never notice me."
But he did see me and asked me to dance. I was happy and a little unsure also. Being one of six children, I had never been out on a date. I was so very young.
But there was something about him and he asked me out. I was doubtful my parents would consent. Being excited and hopeful, I asked them about an afternoon double date for a picnic. I told them we would be back by dinner hour and asked them to please sleep on it before they answered.
To my great surprise and delight, they said yes.
Fast forward, we got married. I was 18 years old and he was 20 years old and we were crazy in love.
Four full-term babies later and a little two-bedroom, one-bath Rolling Meadows house, our journey continued.
His dream of becoming a police officer came true, and he joined the Rolling Meadows Police Department.
He had a zest for life and he lived it, maybe more than others, in his 57 years.
He was very honest and Irish, with a great sense of humor.
In his line of work, he would not take any gifts from people. He said once you do, there might be an expectation they will ask a favor.
He was not a perfect man. None of us are.
He loved fishing, poker games and beer. I loved fishing also on the Chippewa Flowage in Hayward, Wisconsin. We were in many fishing tournaments. I even won once. My prize was a handmade muskie rod and reel.
After 30 years at the Rolling Meadows Police Department, he went to night school and got another degree and became chief of police in South Barrington.
We purchased a house at the Tiger Cat Flowage in Hayward with hope to retire there.
But it was not meant to be. Colon cancer came along and with it surgery and five years of chemotherapy.
His attitude was amazing, and he tried to not call attention to how ill he really was.
When he was stronger, he tried to protect his family and take care of us.
We used to have this corny dialogue, and I would say he is my warrior who went out into the world and fought the battles.
But I was truly happy when that police car came home and he was safe. It may sound silly to some, but I couldn't wait to hug him and say, "Welcome home to your castle, your safe haven for a while."
He had a wonderful freeing effect on me. Always giving support if I wanted to go somewhere or do something.
He had much living he wanted to do.
It was 18 years last October that he died.
What helped me in my loss?
I joined a grief support group at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington. It helped a little because I saw others' pain too, not just my own.
I had been working already for Shelter Inc. a couple days a week. It was volunteer work, and I loved going there.
That helped me function to be with others. More than any paying job I ever had. I had something to get up for, a purpose and some friends.
Family support helped, knowing they were hurting as well.
Most of all, I found Jesus. Not right away. I had thought I knew him, but I didn't, not truly.
Eventually, I went to Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows and attended the women's widow meetings on Saturday mornings.
It was overwhelming at first to go to two huge churches, Willow Creek and Harvest. I felt kind of lost at first.
I joined a small Bible study group and gained more friends through Harvest.
I have grown and changed a lot. Still, life is hard sometimes. That's why I have faith and believe that our permanent home is in heaven where my husband is now.
That is my hope.
THE LAST KISS SERIES
■ Patty & Corey: The Heartbreak.
■ Diana & Joe: A widow's advice: Embrace bereavement, don't avoid it A Straight From the Source story.
■ Janice & Joe A story of someday A Straight From the Source story
■ Janice & Joe Five lessons I've learned so far A Straight From the Source story
■ Patty & Corey: The Love Story.
■ Patricia & Tim: A widow cherishes the memories of her warrior A Straight From the Source story
■ Bill & Marian: A love that lives in dreams A Straight From the Source story
■ Dennis & Maggie: I reread her letters, I played her favorite songs A Straight From the Source story
■ Dennis & Maggie: Just Let Me Talk A Straight From the Source story
■ Patty & Corey: A widow wishes she had asked for one more kiss.
■ Patty & Corey: A widow's mission to sustain her husband's barbershop.
■ Donald & Helen: A widower's essay becomes his daughter's short film A Straight From the Source story
■ Susan & Guy: A widow's guide to dealing with the loss of a spouse A Straight From the Source story
■ Ted & Donna A widower's plan to count his blessing at times of deepest grief A Straight From the Source story
■ Fred & Beverly: Unique and Devastating Loss (by Wifeless) A Straight From the Source story
■ Last Kiss Epilogue: Some widows heal from grief by healing others
■ Ken & Michele: A widower's story of a loving couple's life A Straight From the Source story
For more on the series, please click here.