|Dory, Chester, and Willard|
We are so blessed to call you friend and to have known you for the short time we did. Though our time together was short in the world's eyes -- it felt more like dog years :), and we were thankful for every moment. Priceless memories. I remember our first visit to your room. Our friend, Dory, who worked on your floor, asked if we would visit you. "Willard rarely leaves his room, he doesn't get many visitors, and he really likes dogs," she said. "Of course," we said.
We were just going to visit one time. After all, retirement communities, memory-care floors, were not really MY comfort zone. Walking into your room for the first time is forever etched in my memory....I can still feel my uneasiness, and still see Chester climbing right up into your bed! I was mortified (he was NOT invited), you were thrilled, and Chester was a happy camper as he settled right in. You two knew far more than I did. And that was that. Our one time visit turned to once a month, twice a month, once-a-week. Thursdays with Willard.
During our visits you and Chester snuggled and spooned. I sat quietly in the chair. No words necessary. Just quiet. Full of meaning and love. There were a few jaw-dropping-surprise moments sprinkled in; when your memory returned for a bit, when you showed us the picture of your dog, Katey (from 1952). When we talked about the lightning storm from the night before. When we went for a stroll in the garden -- your first time outside in many years. You would only go because you could walk Chester and hold his leash.
Mostly, though, ....I remember sitting in the chair by your bedside enjoying you and Chester together. I remember the pictures in your room ~~ the watercolor painting of the little Baptist Church, the worn Bible on the shelf, the black and white photo of your Pennsylvania farm, the certificate of honor that hung over your bed from World War II. Bronze Star. Algerian Conflict. While you and Chester had your time, I would watch you two, and scan the room -- putting the pieces together of 'you', the man we had grown to love.
A few years ago, when our family moved, and journeyed from Pennsylvania to California, saying g'bye to you was ohsohard. I knew it was our earthly good-bye. (sigh) After moving, Chester and I mailed postcards and pictures to your bedside regularly. The last card arrived in your mailbox just 2 weeks ago, for your 97th birthday. From sea to shining sea, you were never forgotten, always remembered with love in our hearts.
Our lives are all the richer because of knowing you. Thank you for welcoming us into your heart, and Chester onto your soft and cozy red blanket.
The Hawaiians say it best "A hui hou" dear friend, until we meet again....
We love you, Chester and Diane
PS Dear readers....if you are new to Chester Tails, check past posts for stories and pictures of our dear friend, Willard.