Eternal love: A Valentine’s story | Greg Asimakoupoulos

After 58 years of marriage, they were still holding hands as “til death do us part” became a reality.

My mom and dad had a most amazing marriage. They were sweethearts to the end. While Hollywood romances tend to be short-lived or simply scripted for the silver screen, my folks actually had the kind of relationship pictured in the movies.

Public demonstrations of affection were not considered a taboo to my parents. It was fairly easy to spot them sharing a kiss in a crowd. After 58 years of marriage, they were still holding hands as “til death do us part” became a reality.

When my dad died 15 years ago, my mom was lost. She was not accustomed to doing life on her own. Heck, she’d never learned how to fill her car with gas. Her Prince Charming always did it for her. He was there opening the door for her and warming her cup was the coffee was brewing. Dad doted on his darling wife with devotion.

I’m sure my parents helped to keep Hallmark profitable. They gave each other greeting cards on every imaginable occasion. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and Valentines Day. My dad always referred to my mom as sweetheart. And my mom always signed her cards with a kiss (imprinted with a fresh application of red lipstick).

For the 11 years my mom lived without my dad, she continued to pine for her soulmate. Although she learned to get by, she never ceased talking about the love of her life. He was her everything. It was “Edwin this” and “Edwin that.” Recently I read through her diary entries near to the time her earthly journey was drawing to a close. When her mind was clouded by dementia, my mom still wrote about my dad on most every page. Even in death they were one. And when my mom passed just a few months before the pandemic, death united them once and for all.

In advance of listing with a real estate agent, my brother and I dismantled the contents of the family home. Because our parents had been “collectors and savers,” Marc and I recognized we had to be ruthless when it came to disposing of stuff. Countless trips were made to the Senior Center and the Goodwill. But not everything was easy to donate.

One night in the midst of emptying closets and cupboards, I came upon a rubber banded stack of love letters. They were handwritten epistles my parents had written to each other during the six months of courtship from their first date until their wedding day. There was no way I was going to toss them.

I also found shoeboxes filled with Valentines, birthday cards and anniversary cards that spanned the entire length of their marriage. Once again, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. But what to do with them? I crammed them in a small container and placed it in the way back of my SUV. I figured I’d eventually know what to do.

As I was leaving Wenatchee for Mercer Island, I stopped at the cemetery to visit my mom and dad’s grave. It was a ritual I first embraced when my dad was laid to rest in 2008. Standing over their headstone, I made note of what I saw. In addition to a laminated photo and the engraved dates of their birth and death, there were four words. Eternal love. Eternal life. As devout Christians, they believed death was the doorway to eternal life. As devoted spouses, my dad and mom were a lasting example of eternal love.

And then the thought came to me: “Why not leave a pair of the greeting cards I’d salvaged on the grave?” And so I did. And so I do most every time I leave Wenatchee for home. I reach into the case of cards in the back my car and leave a pair of love notes on that granite slab.

Of course, I know the wind might carry the cards away. The rain might render the inscription each contains unreadable. But that’s okay. For as long as they remain on the grave, they are a tangible reminder for me (and for those who pass by) of the kind of marriage I attempt to emulate.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is a former chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.