I've only seen my husband cry three times.
The first time was on our wedding day. In May of 2007, we traveled to Chicago with some friends. Our friends returned home and we stayed a couple extra days. With the help of a judge that we discovered on the internet and unbeknownst to any other soul on the planet, we said our vows on a warm, sunny beach in Downtown Chicago, the expansive skyline that I had grown to love so much from my college days in Chicago loomed behind us.
We met the judge, picked our spot (after booting out a couple of tourists) and promised each other a lifetime. Me, in my inexpensive white dress and my husband in his first-ever suit. As we made our promises, through my own tears, I made out the subtle hint of dampness resting at the edges of my new husband's watery eyes. Happy tears. Excited tears.
The second time I saw my husband cry was after the birth of our first son, the very next year. After a long, pitocin-induced, tiresome, and fruitless labor, the nurses wheeled me into the operating room for an emergency c-section. I screamed and cried in terror. I wished I could be anywhere else in the world. He held my hand, he told me it was going to be ok. He remained calm and strong.
To the soundtrack of Sting's greatest hits (not our selection, we had not prepared for a c-section afterall), my son was pulled from my swollen belly. He had been through a great deal of stress and they, almost immediately, rushed him to the corner of the room to be checked out. I did not see him, but I heard his strong cry. It was startling and nerve wracking. My first sensation of motherhood. My husband went to see Jacob, then returned to me to give a full report. "He's beautiful," he said to me. At first, the dark spots on his surgical mask were the only sign of his tears. Then I saw one, large and round, drop from his eyes and mark its own spot on the bright blue mask. Tears of joy. Tears of thankfulness. Tears of amazement.
Last night, we went to visit my mother-in-law for the last time. After an eight year battle with cancer, she was finally ready to go. The past couple weeks have been hard. Full of downs and more downs, knowing the end was approaching. My husband was somber but stoic. He shed no tears.
Last night, she lay as she had every other night. Eyes closed, head propped to the right side. The arch of her eyebrows framed her face. The oxygen machine groaned and compressed loudly. We held her warm, fragile hands. I noticed that her nails seemed extra long. Jon cried out, oblivious. Her eyes fluttered, then opened. The line of her mouth took form, but I could not tell if it was a smile. She gasped. She looked at us. I don't know for sure that she saw us, but I know she was expressing acknowledgement of our presence. Jacob first, then Ryan, each kissed her hand. "We are all here mom. We love you," came my husband's voice, cracking and heavy under the weight of unbearable grief. His eyes filled with tears that spilled from every corner of his eye. Tears of grief. Agony. Pain.
I tried to take it all in. Her touch, her appearance. But I could only think one unbearable, heart-wrenching thing: I was watching a son say goodbye to his mother for the very last time. Is there anything more harrowing? She closed her eyes again and made no more sounds. I clutched my own sons tighter as we left that evening.
She passed today. In the quiet of the early morning. The earth lost a beautiful soul. A wife, a mother, a grandmother. We miss her so much.