My wife of 51 years passed away last Saturday after a long battle against multiple health issues.
We met in the musical theater. She was in it. I wanted to be on stage. I have a passable singing voice. Her contralto voice was powerful and perfectly pitched. She could hit the back seats without amplification. She traveled with some of Broadway’s biggest stars on the summer stock circuit, but ultimately chose another life — a life with me and our four children. When they were older I urged her to finish her college education while I kept house. I was glad to do so after all the sacrifices she made for me. She earned a master’s degree and became an excellent family counselor.
When I was in the Army at the start of our marriage, assigned to Armed Forces Radio in New York and holding a second civilian job to make ends meet, she would get up at 1 a.m. when I got home and fix me something to eat.
That kind of love and loyalty deserves something in return. When we had finally “made it” we traveled the world, meeting interesting people and visiting interesting places. Some people may have viewed us as dinosaurs. We believed marriage was for good and that attitude allows you to work out virtually any disagreements or problems. She used to tease me after a long forgotten argument, saying, “You’ll miss me when I’m gone.” She was right. I do.
Most newspaper obituaries of the non-famous summarize a life in two or three paragraphs. Ray’s life was worth more than that. She was generous with her time and money, always spending and sending as much as she was able to her children and grandchildren. I can say without embellishment I would not be the man I am today without her. God knew what He was doing when He put us together.
On the day of her passing, I posted this thought on my Facebook page:
“Men, love your wives. Don’t wait until they are about to be taken from you before you realize what they have contributed to your life. Love them now so you have no regrets at the end.
I am glad my wife as she prepares to meet her Savior has known of my love for her and how valuable she has been to me. Have you told yours that? Love today is seen as a feeling. But real love is a commitment, a covenant. That’s why most of us take marriage VOWS instead of make promises.”
Those who were fortunate enough to know Ray knew a strong woman where strength really counts. She knew who she was and wasn’t defined by the value system applied by the world, which regards fame, money and political power as supreme. To love and to be loved by someone like that for so long is a gift of great value.
A friend wrote me that Ray was “lucky” to have me. Since we met in the theater, I immediately thought of this song lyric from “Showboat,” one of our favorite musicals:
“In this sweet, improbable and unreal world
Finding you has given me my ideal world
Why do I love you? Why do you love me?
Why should there be two happy as we?
Can you see the why or wherefore?
I should be the one you care for
You’re a lucky boy, I am lucky too
All our dreams of joy seem to come true
Maybe that’s because you love me
Maybe that’s why I love you.”
Rest in peace, sweetheart. We shall meet again.
Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated op-ed columnist.