Edward Griffin could not believe how fortunate he was to be celebrating his sixty-seventh wedding anniversary with Catherine. At the age of eighty-eight, he had to be careful as he made his way to the bed where his wife waited for him, smiling but silent as always. He had not heard her voice in many years, but it did not alter their relationship in the least. The fact that she could no longer speak had no effect on their unconditional love.
Slowly he pulled back the covers and laid down next to her. His pajamas were almost worn through at the elbows and Catherine thought they should be thrown out, but she knew they were his favorite so she tolerated them.
Edward looked at his wife and felt the same emotion he’d experienced all those years ago when he had asked her to be his bride. He put his arm around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder.
Sweetly he said, “Sixty-seven years, my Dear and we’re still together.” He reached over and stroked her cheek. “I am the luckiest man on earth.”
She smiled at him.
“And you are still the prettiest of them all.” Catherine held a finger up to his lips. She was always embarrassed by how he flattered her, but she also cherished the attention and devotion that her husband had given her throughout their lives.
Catherine brushed a strand of gray hair from the side of her face, and the faint light in the room reflected off the locket she always wore around her neck. Inside was a picture of their only child, Josh. He had just turned nineteen when he was killed while fighting in Vietnam.
Edward said, “Thank you for being so strong. When we lost Josh, you were the one who kept our lives from falling apart.”
He paused for a moment as he thought about how Catherine had been the perfect partner to share his life with. Her kindness, generosity, and unselfishness had blessed him in countless ways. He often wondered why he had been so fortunate to meet such a person and why she had been willing to settle for him.
In his mind, he had little to offer her but his love, but that had been enough. Even after all these years, being next to Catherine was still the most peaceful feeling in the world. She’d always had a natural way of making him feel loved and appreciated.
“You know, when I asked you to marry me I didn’t expect you to say yes. The owner of the jewelry store was a family friend, and he said I could return your engagement ring if you turned me down. I don’t know who was more shocked that day. You, when I asked for your hand in marriage – or me, when you actually said yes.”
Catherine sighed at her husband’s modesty.
“We have known a lot of couples who did not get to spend this many years together. I am so thankful that we are still together.”
He hesitated for a second and then reached out and touched her locket. He tried not to talk about their son too much because he knew how upsetting it was for her, but tonight he couldn’t help it.
“I would give anything if Josh were still alive. I’m sure he would’ve given you grandchildren to love. I can hardly bear to think about you holding them on your lap while you read to them, taking them for walks in the park and all the hugs and kisses they would have given you.”
Edward stopped because it was just too painful to think about.
After a few moments, he took her hand in his and said, “I don’t think you’ve ever understood how much you mean to me.” They looked into each other’s eyes just as they had for the last six decades. “If anything ever happened to you, I don’t think I could go on – and I wouldn’t want to go on.”
Edward studied her face, and he could tell she was getting tired. “You better get some sleep now, Darling. I just wanted to wish you Happy Anniversary one more time. Sweet dreams, Catherine. I love you with all my heart.”
As Edward gave her a gentle goodnight kiss on the forehead, he was unaware of the two women standing in the hall outside the door listening.
The trainee looked at the nurse quizzically and said, “I didn’t realize that Mr. Griffin was still married.”
The head nurse shook her head, and in a soft whisper, she said, “He’s not. Catherine Griffin died twelve years ago, but as Mr. Griffin’s dementia progressed he began to see her each night. I’ve worked here for three years, and in his world, every day is their anniversary.”
In shock, the trainee put her hand to her mouth. “Oh my God, that is heartbreaking. The way he talked about her seemed so real.”
The nurse smiled at the trainee. “At this point in his life, it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not. It’s real to him, and that is what’s important.”
Slowly the two women continued down the hallway of the large memory care facility, leaving Edward Griffin to dream about spending his days with his beautiful Catherine by his side.