Today, “buddy benches” for 10 elementary schools in York County, VA were dedicated at my late wife’s school, Mt Vernon Elementary. The teachers in the 3rd grade got the ball rolling, the counselors across the county picked it up and the school administration scored. Former teachers, counselors, staff and parents attended the ceremony with our family. The benches are a place for a child to sit and signal to all others the need for a friend. My Nellie did that pairing of little hearts in the classroom, lunch room and playground.
In her last full year Nellie paired a significantly challenged girl with the two coolest girls, the princesses, of her grade. She asked the cool kids to be a friend – and she followed up. She was as happy for the lessons learned in lovingkindness for the popular children as the blessings of friendship and value for the struggling child. She knew the girls went to church and told them to pray about doing what is right and good. Consequently, the benches are the most fitting tribute possible for my Nellie’s work.
In my remarks I reminded the counselors, teachers, administrators and staff of the “Sisterhood” how Nellie held their burdens and joys as their own. I asked the kids if they loved Summer vacation. I responded to their cheers with how much Mrs. Bowden did too. And, she would not want to leave the pool on such hot days to come back to work. But, on the first day she came home with the biggest grin and said, “I love those children!” I said, again, how much she loved each one of them, knowing them by name, working for them and praying for them.
We, her family, are deeply grateful for the Principal – Mrs. Lugo – and everyone who made the ceremony so special for us. It was very emotional for all of us. We are deeply touched, humbled, and honored.
We remain deeply, profoundly touched, humbled, honored and blessed to have loved the ‘Mom’ of our family. We miss her. It’s been a year.
I visited her grave on Sunday. I started crying as soon as I passed the Post Chapel and got inside the stone walls of Arlington National Cemetery. I wept and wept more when I stood before her stone. Reading her sweet name, saying it out loud, flooded me with memory upon memory, feelings chasing fleeting feelings, and joy swirling with such sorrow.
I caressed the smooth stone. Cold as death. Hard as the emptiness of not being here. Unforgiving as all time without her.
I looked at the view. I imagined a day when my family will come to put my body down by hers. I smiled to myself. I’ll never see the view from that perspective. I’ll be gone. Alive in another place. Like Nellie. Hopefully with Nellie – even if we aren’t married in Heaven – and close enough to see her respond to my love.
I prayed, of course. It’s like breathing for me to share life with the Lord through the indwelling Holy Ghost. I thanked Him for her. I told Him the obvious – how sad it is to live without her. How much I miss her. How awful her loss is for us all. And, of course I love, worship and praise You, Lord Jesus Christ.
I know it’s the way of the world that we live and die. The Lord giveth and taketh away. Praise be the name of the Lord. But, I had no idea – even after the deaths of beloved parents – what it is like to lose your wife who is the desire of your heart for your whole adult life and you hers. No clue. Not an iota.
Now it’s been one year. One awful year.
So, we must live. Live as well as we can. Live with as much courage as we can muster and joy we can share.
Here we are. One small branch of our Clans. The grown-ups smiling as best we can – with hearts broken for Nellie Katherine Kyle Bowden.
God is good all the time. No matter what. NO MATTER WHAT.