Those words hit me like a freight train. I’m not his widow.
I’m not allowed to feel that kind of sadness that swallows one whole and depletes one of the ability to exist and perform. But I feel it.
I was standing there, beside him when he took his last breath. His eyes focused, lingered, and closed one last time. I stepped back, because his wife was in the next room. She would want to be close to him. I stepped back out of the way. His heart kept beating, she leaned over and hugged him close. I’d only held his hand.
The kind of love one friend feels for another isn’t always romantic.
He was sitting behind a desk when I walked into the Spring Green office in Denver Tech Center. CMP was a mortgage company that held the loan on my house. He was the broker. There were two men there that day, Bill Clarke and Rob Robinson, and my husband of seven years (yes, I said *two men* and my husband wasn’t one of them, by his own choices). We laughed, worked through the paper work and Rob invited us to join him for lunch at a diner across the drive. We had sourdough, pastrami and mustard pannini and iced tea. I remember the texture of the table.
My husband held my hand, rubbed my shoulder and talked about farming.
Rob, Bill and I joined forces that day and opened a brokerage firm that would ultimately be the basis of our friendship, and my financial salvation when my marriage crashed two years later. My daughter said it best the morning after my husband left, “He’s been walking out for eleven years, he finally took his clothes…”
Those next few years were a struggle. But we survived. We thrived under the watchful eye of my business partners, who reached out to my four children and offered encouragement. Bill and his wife became constant friends, always supporting, encouraging, sharing. Rob became my confidant. He share those moments when the rest of the world was fast asleep. He listened. He laughed. He cried. He reminded me frequently that I gave the best hugs in the whole wide world, and told me every single time I saw him what a gorgeous woman I was.
One night, during the late summer, it was so hot I couldn’t sleep and I went outside with my phone to sit on the deck. Rob called, “I can’t sleep. Are you awake?” We talked for hours. He shared his dreams, I shared mine. We shared our thoughts about the future, about what my kids were doing, how life was treating each of us, and then we shared how we felt about our friendship.
He was my best friend. I loved him as much as I had ever loved, and I trusted him. He gave my children more than any other man had ever given them, including their father… Not things, but support, instruction, love, his blessing. Things that mattered to children. He cared.
As the night cooled, the hours passed and it was near the wee hours of the morning, Rob yawned on the phone and I said, “I should let you get some rest.” He held on a moment longer, whispering sweet words, reminding me how much he loved and cared about me and that he would always be there for me.
Sitting in the middle of the picnic table on my deck, I looked up and watched as a mountain lion strolled down the street, taking each step purposefully without hesitation, I whispered, “There’s a mountain lion walking down the street.” And Rob said, “Jan, you need to get inside.”
I waited and watched. The mountain lion kept walking. He stopped at the corner, looked both ways and then moved toward the west and out of sight.
I stepped off the table and went inside, as I closed the door, I heard the mountain lion scream. The chilling sound of life ending and the realization that the circle continues.
A few weeks later, Rob called to tell me he was getting married to a wonderful woman he had known from church. I’d met her once, when I attended church with him, while visiting my daughter in college. She was extraordinary. A delightful woman who suited him well, who loved him with her whole heart, a woman he loved completely.
Our friendship grew to include her. She brightened his world and inspired him, a benefit to me. I gained so much from her insight and wisdom. I grew to love her as a friend.
Rob never stopped being there for my children. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he shared the news with us, came to visit and see my new grandbabies. He came to visit when my mom had cancer, while I cared for her. He was there for us whenever we needed him, and he called if he needed us. We were there for him too.
As he slipped away from this world, I was there. But I wasn’t his widow.
No, that privilege was saved for the woman he gave his name. I was ‘just a friend’.
That’s what happened.
The day he left this world, as I drove home from his place, I called a girlfriend to share the sadness that threatened to overwhelm my heart. She’s a good friend, and I know she didn’t mean to hurt me. But… her words…
Through my tears, I relayed the message and she said, “Yeah, you’ll miss him. But he was just a friend… It’s not like you’re his widow, or something…”
No. I’m not his widow. That honor is saved for a dear woman I consider my friend.