Til Death Do Us Part

Spring and Kate’s Yahrzeit Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Kate. Her yahrzeit this day.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Kate

I’ve learned something about this traditional phrase from Christian marriage ceremonies. It wasn’t in ours, btw. If the love is true and kind, embedded in both souls with memory, partnership over many years, the ancientrail of marriage lasts past death. Kate is the one I’m widowed to, a state similar to marriage in its bonds, but not in its physicality.

No, not an enmeshment that precludes living my own life, or, even having another relationship, but bonds forged in the heat of life together. The sadness of doggy deaths. The joy in puppies. In Joseph doing well. In Jon. In Ruth and Gabe.

Those afternoons in Andover when we would come in, hands dirty in spite of gloves, sweat dripping off faces smeared with Soil. The meals in which we ate our own heirloom Tomatoes, our own Beans with our Onions and Leeks. The Beets. Carrots. One year Broccoli. Drying our own Garlic. Picking our own Honeycrisp Apples, Currants, Pears, Blueberries, Cherries. Kate canning and drying. Spreading our own Honey on the bread.

Nights in St. Paul listening to Chamber Music. Other nights watching the actors at the Guthrie. Fancy meals and ordinary, fast meals eaten together over conversation.

That long, leisurely trek through a European spring in 1990. 1st class rail. Fine art. Italian food and coffee. Those Incan’s playing the pan pipes under our balcony at the Astoria in Vienna. The tartan factory in Inverness. Those two days in bed in the Caledonia in Edinburgh.

Living in the move as we left our Andover home for the Rocky Mountains. Where Kate felt like everyday was a vacation. The Mule Deer and Elk on our property. The driveway filled with four feet of Snow when we returned from Korea. This loft that she found for me. Which she rarely saw over the last three years or so of her life.

And the most intimate years. The years of caretaking, of decline, of struggle, and small joys. Still together. Still in love. Still a team. Often on the road to this doctor or that imaging center or an emergency room.

As William Faulkner famously said, “The past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.”

Kate carried all these moment with her in those last days and even on her last day, a year ago today. I carry them on. They are ours. A unique and precious lifetime of love and living. No one else’s. Never to be repeated. How can that kind of bond not continue even after death?

This morning I lit two yahrzeit candles, one for Kate and one, as I wrote before, for our marriage. They will burn for twenty-four hours. I imaged her smiling and laughing as I lit them, as she often was.

Death changes things. Irreversibly. And that’s the agony of it. No more making memories together. No more working together, enjoying a family meal, planning next year’s garden. No more napping together, sleeping next to each other, reassured by the slight rise and fall of the others breath. No more.

I do feel a strange joy today. A joy rooted in the rich life we had, a richness, a treasure that cannot be stolen by mortality. We did it. We lived our life together through sorrow and smiles, never leaving each other’s side, never abandoning the love we declared that March morning in St. Paul’s Landmark Center.


Here’s what I wrote for her obituary:

Joe and Seoah’s Wedding Quilt

Kate Olson has died. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a pediatrician, a gardener, lover and mother of dogs, a bee keeper, a quilter, a needleworker, a master cook, and crossword puzzle completer.

She was also Rachel since her early 30’s after her conversion to Judaism at Temple Israel in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kate died April 14th after a long illness, over three years, wore out her body.

Kate loved me (her husband) with a love that made me a better person and she told me my love for her made her a better person. No marriage can wish for more.

A tribute from a friend who got Kate right:

“She seemed fearless, walked to her own drummer and if she wanted to do something she damn well did it.”

As her long illness pushed past her body’s ability to cope, she chose to move to hospice care. Her choice. A brave one, someone said. Yes, it was brave, and yet it was typical.

I will miss her at a level and in a way no words can express. The joy she brought me will be a constant resource when times are tough. Again.





This entry was posted in Aging, Colorado, Dogs, Family, Feelings, Fourth Phase, Garden, Judaism, Memories, Minnesota, Mountains, Our Land and Home, permaculture, Plants, Shadow Mountain, The Move, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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