On Sunday, my mother lost the love of her life. They fell in love in 1962 and rediscovered each other almost five decades later. Bookended between decades of separate marriages, careers, growing families, the death of children, divorce, the death of spouses and enduring sickness on opposite sides of the Atlantic, their relationship was full of love, laughter and adventures; something that will forever make me smile.
He wasn't my father, in fact he wasn't even someone that I knew that well but he was the man who held my mother's heart and because of that, this is a devastating loss. Theirs was a love story that read like something out of a novel: they met while my mother was spending a year traveling the world after graduating from college; he was the distant cousin of one of my mother's closest friends who looked her up during a short stint in Paris. They fell for each other madly, deeply and completely but their respective families balked at the match so they parted (these were the days before you went against your parents' wishes), married other people and built lives on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
They reconnected just a few years ago, after they'd both found themselves single again. A visit led to a new romance and though they knew that health reasons would mean that their time together would likely be limited, they embraced their chance with enviable gusto. Watching my mother blossom-- a woman who's endured more pain and loss than any one person should ever have to experience -- has been one of the greatest joys of my life. And knowing that she was getting a second chance at a relationship built on friendship and mutual respect made the reality of its fleeting length manageable for this overprotective daughter.
This morning, as I was prepping to fly to France for the funeral, I started to reflect on what their relationship meant to me and to the myriad of people who've contacted her to tell her how they've been touched by their romance. People have used different terms to express the impact but it all seems to boil down to this singular point: courage. They were strong to let themselves love as young people who knew that there was little chance they'd be able to end up together and they were resilient in being able to move on and build a life apart.They both endured awful losses in life and yet were so willing to hurt again when they rediscovered each other, knowing that they probably wouldn't have that much time. And always, they were excited to love; to grab what they could of a life together and enjoy it for as long as possible.
Rest in peace, Alain. Thank you for all the joy you gave my mother and for all the memories she'll have. Thank you for the good that you put out into the world and for the brief times we spent together. But most importantly, thank you for teaching me that there's always time for love; I will carry that with me for the rest of my life.