-THESE ARE THE HANDS OF LEITH AND NANCY CUNNINGHAM AFTER 68 YEARS OF MARRIAGE-
One day as Nancy my lifelong marriage partner since she was 17 years old, lay smiling and happy now in her hospital bed in her old age of 85, in a room that we had made comfortable and homey for her to spend her remaining life in. She knew her days were numbered and had made the decision internally to make the best of things while she still could. I moved in close in the wheel chair I was sitting in and held her hand and was telling her how much I loved and cherished her as my long time loyal help mate and wife. I began singing her most favorite song to her which she never tired hearing it again and again one more time. Heather, our granddaughter being motivated and encouraged by the act, began taking pictures with her smart phone. She zeroed in close up and snapped the picture of our hands together, a classic that I will keep posted in an area where my glad and appreciative eyes will fall upon it often to help the healing as time goes on. I will draw strength from this as a reminder to always remember the closeness between us and the scripture in the Word of God that tells me that the wife He had given me was my greatest reward for all of my earthly toil.
Having celebrated our 68th wedding ceremony with close relatives and friends on November 10, 2019, we began then adding days to our already long event filled, mutually rewarding and happy marriage. A special loving marriage that continued on afterwards, to grow and develop even deeper bonds of love than ever before. Nancy, unbeknownst to herself had become my secret sweetheart when she was but 12 years old; I pointed her out to my older brother while she was jumping rope with a couple other girls in our little Village of Fife Lake, Michigan. I told my brother Glade that she would be the girl I was going to marry as my lifetime wife and soul mate. A plan of action began to formulate to see that it happened on schedule. Knowing that girls seemed to get all twitter pated seeing anyone in a uniform, I had decided to join the U S Army as soon as possible. At age 16 I joined the Army, but they caught on and sent me home.
As soon as I turned 17 I got my mother to sign the papers that allowed me to join the Army for real. The very first thing I did was to write to Nancy, now as a member of a uniformed branch of warriors serving our great nation of The United States of America. I was to have 14 weeks of basic training at Camp Funston Kansas, more than enough time to sweet talk her into going out with me when I came home on leave. God had given me an extra helping of tenacity, perseverance and confidence in myself to get the job done. And since I felt it was what God had meant for me all along anyway, my chances for failure were slim and none.
On my first leave home during September of 1949, we hit it off immediately and began an exclusive relationship. There were to be many peaks and valleys to be sure, but after our marriage Nancy never even one time threatened to pack a bag and go home to her mom and dad. From the start she became a homemaker that stayed home and nurtured our two kids, we reasoned then and still believe it to be more important to be a hands on parent that a child not be turned into a latch key kid that comes home to an empty house without any care or supervision, She was always there to kiss or bandage a wound, to dry tears and give aid and comfort in times of stress, Nancy was a rock that took on her responsibility whole-heartedly and kept a squeaky clean and orderly home. I was never once ashamed to bring company in unannounced to a shabby unkempt home, she managed her time in a most sufficient manner that allowed us to live in a clean and squared away dwelling.
Nancy stuck with me through the thick and thin of life and the self medication I had used to deal with the PTSD being dealt with that had been caused during my time spent in mortal combat against other human being like myself, fighting and dying in the killing fields, frozen mountains and stinking rice paddies of the Korean War. Nancy put up with a lot, but together we both bit the bullet and prevailed until death we would part. We never became rich in great worldly financial things, but we did become rich in building and maintaining a wonderful home to come home too every night or during the day. Turning the corner and coming into our driveway and the warm and comfortable home God had provided for us in using our own two hands and the strength He had given us to build and maintain it in excellent condition, never failed to give us both a warm and fuzzy feeling as one of us would reach over and hold onto the others hand, nothing else needed to be said.
When long term care became the only reasonable and sensible option available for Nancy to spend the rest of her days in, it became a no brainer for her. For my sake and the families she had realized immediately what had to be done. My part in it was seeing to it personally that we didn’t huddle in corners or in the hallway and talk in hushed tones. When someone tried Nancy would remind them of the fact, HEY, I’m over here, and she wanted and needed to be included in all conversation that concerned her final moments here on earth. She was fully aware that the total reason for her being there was to die in a timely fashion while being looked after by competent and caring attendants whom treated her with the utmost love, gentle care and affection possible. She had come to believe and accept the truth of God that eternal life was a gift of God to all of mankind bar none and according to His Word His gifts are irrevocable. God Himself cannot take them away.
Nancy, the love of my life when the need arose, cranked it up a few notches to stay strong for myself and the rest of our family as we would gather around her bed, hold her hand, and express our love and affection for her. She never even one time shed so much as a tear drop for her impending short physical future here among her loved ones. She very much appreciated her cozy little room and became acquainted with the lady that shared the room with her. She had a quality of life right up until the day before she passed into the spiritual realm. She was in good spirits most all of the time and really enjoyed having her family present until the pain became unbearable. Whenever I left the room she made me promise I would not be long, and if I was longer than she thought I should be, she would send someone after me, to hustle me back. Our special lifetime bond became stronger as each day passed.
It is with the deepest emotions within me that I would like everyone to know, understand and accept it at face value, of just how proud I am and how I feel about the wife, the help mate, the marriage partner that God gave me those many years ago. I haven’t always done right and Nancy has long ago forgiven me of my short comings. However in the grand finale of her final moments I made certain to do all that came to mind in saying my last good-by’s, by making things as comfortable and homey as possible. The wife that God gave me as my greatest reward for all of my earthly toil was made of the strongest character almost beyond belief. She stared down the ugly fear factor of death in the face and won. She didn’t weep, wail or cry out in anguish she knew where she was going and was ready. In this she is my hero, she stood strong and determined to the very end like a warrior, as brave and courageous, as a tried and tested great Indian war chief, and this was my wife of whom I will forever attach a great value of receiving such an awesome gift from God that has helped me be a better person, a better servant to both God and man. We commit her spirit back into your loving care Father. As we anxiously wait to once again find ourselves in the company of Nancy Jean (Woodworth) Cunningham in the hereafter, in the wonderful Kingdom of God that will fill the earth and in fact eventually the entire universe. We ask God to hasten that awesome and peaceful time.
Nancy and I became one on 11/10/1951 and made the ultimate commitment before God to remain husband and wife until death we would part. Nancy passed away from this present physical and earthly realm on January 27, 2020. She is not leaving home; she is going home to be absorbed back into Gods loving arms until the resurrections. We have fulfilled our commitment to God in our marriage vows and He has so richly blessed us along the way that we never tire or grow weary of giving Him the honor, respect, credit and the great thanksgiving that only He can and does give in abundance to His children. None of us are good enough to save neither ourselves nor bad enough that God will not save us all. He has a place in His Kingdom for every single person who has ever lived, or will ever live.
-THE LAST PHONE CALL-
Janurary 27, 2020 will go down in my memory bank as the most life changing day, and a time in my life that almost defies words with enough meaning to properly relate it onto my friends, relatives, and acquaintances, of the feelings that are beginning to surface and churn around way down in the deepest recesses of my being. Nancy’s Sister Linda called and told me the expected, she said that Nancy had just passed; she was no longer in this physical realm. The feeling of a great weight being lifted from me hit immediately, our prayers to God had been answered, He had taken her quickly and not allowed her to linger on needlessly as we had asked of Him. It was a moment that I needed time to reflect upon.
Because I can already imagine some times of remorse and sadness, while meeting or seeing a certain couple together while I sit alone, or witnessing a husband and wife meandering along a scenic trail in the woods holding hands and their loving look into each other’s eyes or the smiles of happiness at being together, or from hearing a certain song, smelling a certain smell, just their body language being displayed by being together. It will be a day and an unavoidable incident that will beyond any doubt change my life forever after, till the day that I die, and that is all OK with me, it is something I should expect happen after 68 years of marriage and closeness with the one that I loved and cherished as we together became as ONE.
It is to early now to know all of the feelings that will come about as time passes on or the effect they may have on me, It hasn’t even registered in its full extent in this moment as I sit here at my computer anticipating leaving a record that others having gone through a similar experience may be the only ones of us that can fully comprehend the emotional, mental anguish and spiritual implications that impact humanity when it happens in our own personal lives. It hasn’t hit me to the degree I know inside that is waiting around the next corner to attack with a vengeance when least expected. While I may be sitting in the same spot that I have always sit in, but the familiar, pleasant and relaxing image of seeing the love of my life Nancy sitting too, across the room where I have become accustomed to seeing her but she is no longer there.
Where my childhood sweetheart and lifelong marriage partner Nancy has sat smiling back at me, now instead sits an empty chair. A cold piece of furniture, it doesn’t move, it has no comforting value and serves only to remind me of the aloneness that exists in the room and surrounds me with the realization of the last words she uttered a couple days ago before she lost all of her ability to call me on her cell phone. She said, “I love you bunches and bunches daddy”. I instinctively knew that communications together would soon be closing down, just the thought caused a dreaded ad uncomfortable lump in my throat and an empty feeling in my chest, it would eventually happen in due time and even the thought of it caused a cold chill to run up my spine. My wonderful, dedicated, super loyal loving wife Nancy of 68 years passed this morning as I sit here alone tonight and face the dreaded reality that I knew would come. Help me deal with this God, and continue to be strong for my family. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen!
However taking all of this into a proper perspective from Nancy’s point of view I would like to extend the heartfelt gratitude of myself and all of my family to all of the staff, the ever so kind and loving attendants that made her final moments not only tolerable but fun and enjoyable and even gave her things that tickled her and caused her to smile and to laugh out loud on many occasions. Nancy loved them all and the little room she was in as if it was home. We thank and appreciate the Eden Center, Hospice, The National Cremation Society and the great professional care taken to ensure the greatest amount of dignity be openly shown and given at all times. From my own perspective, I cannot imagine any end of life experience that could have been any more acceptable and well organized to cause our family and friends to feel relaxed and thankful too that the last moments of our loved one will have a lot to do with the healing process that is to come.
Leith Cunningham and family