Richard Lomax, a character in the novel The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher

I discovered this thought while browsing through the book during one Christmas visit to my inlaws’
home early in my marriage. It has resonated ever since. In the novel, Richard was a British soldier
who was part of the D-Day invasion. As almost always happens in fiction and too often in life, he
never came home. Yet the memory of the love he briefly shared with a lonely young woman
sustained her through a lifetime of joys and difficulties, a life as another man’s wife, then mother
to that man’s children. All that remained of Richard was what lived in her.

My life has changed in more ways than could have been imagined since I first picked up that book.
I had married the man who was my first and last boyfriend, and my best friend before that. I never
saw it coming that I would have a head injury while a medical resident, that I would have to find
out who I was if not a doctor, not the woman who had had voluminous life plans. Jeff stood by me
after the injury without a sign of hesitation, and it was his strength that kept me going when I
wasn’t sure why I should keep going.

Our niece was born to my sister-in-law before we married, and our nephew followed a few years
later. As they grew, they were the models in both of our hearts for the children we hoped to have.
Life brought something different. Joseph was born when they were reaching their teens, excelling
at school and growing as kind people. In the fifteen years since Joseph’s birth, we have gone
through literally hundreds of doctors’ appointments to try to understand and address his complex
medical problems. At the same time we have laughed at his sense of humor, delighted in his
politeness, and tried to manage his new teenager’s penchant for turning the volume to maximum
on the TV and saying “Maybe tomorrow” when we tell him it is time to dress, sit down for dinner,
or do anything else that he doesn’t fancy.

Our niece Rebecca was married when Joseph was ten and we had begun to realize he would not
grow up to go to college, work, or get married, let alone give us the possibility of grandchildren to
indulge some day. Her wedding was our closest experience to being the parents of a bride, and it
was a wonderful, positive, poignant experience.

At the reception, we were seated with our nephew and his girlfriend. It was our first chance to meet
her. I saw her patience with Joseph, who hauled two extra chairs into the reception room so his
two stuffed Care Bears could have seats of their own. You always want people to be happy in their
choices; I didn’t know if Jonathan and Christina were right for each other, but I hoped they would
be, given the affection, laughter, respect, and gentleness they shared with us that evening.

Now five years have gone by, and we get ready to watch Jonathan and Christina take the vows that
will finalize the relationship we have been privileged to watch grow. It is a great joy to know that
love and commitment will support them through wonderful times, and yes, the difficulties that will
inevitably come. It will be our last wedding, but in a way we will share the pride of being the parents
of both bride and groom. Joseph is our child, but we have been part of two other children who grew,
developed, and came into adulthood with dignity and purpose. Part of us remains in them. Who
knows, with all the experiences we have in life, how many people hold pieces of us forever?

Some people say love makes everything easy. It doesn’t. Sometimes life is very, very hard. Yet,
love makes things bearable. Love brings strength, hope. Love outlasts everything else, even death.
Love is never lost.