A life lived well, a loss overcome, a love that remains

Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone.

-- C.S. Lewis

Love endures. Love returns. Love is magic.

I know because of stories such as this.

First of all, let me tell you that my wife's Uncle Ernie died last week. A good man, who lived a long life and was no doubt playing golf in heaven moments after his last breath on earth.

He was almost 90 and had been hurting for some time with a variety of ailments that all seemed to get worse after he fell and broke his hip Christmas Day.

"I'm ready to go," he said from his holiday hospital bed, "but you all keep praying me back."

And they certainly did.

Over the past three months, the good Lord has probably heard thousands of times from Merle -- Ernie's wife of more than six decades, from his three daughters, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, his church and an extended family that could and eventually did fill a church sanctuary at his funeral.

"We know you love him," they all would pray, "but we love him, too. Just let us keep him a little longer."

Oh, that we all could live a life like that, special to almost everyone we meet.

He died at home, going gently in his bed in the presence of his wife, daughters and his little dog Joy.

The arrangements had long been made, the family gathered, the funeral was large and joyous and his grandchildren offered flawless eulogies. There was the sadness every funeral has, but also the certainty that he was enjoying a glorious reward for a life well lived.

Now here is where the story gets interesting.

Years ago, Merle had given Ernie a monogrammed ring. It was a unique and beautiful bit of jewelry. Several months ago, Ernie lost the ring while out in the garden, no doubt fixing flowers for Merle.

They looked. They looked again. They rented a metal detector. But the ring remained missing. Merle bought a replacement, but she said it just didn't look as good as the first one.

The lost ring became a minor family fable, but few talked about it anymore, certainly not at the house where everyone returned after the funeral luncheon. The adults went inside to rest from the day's emotional toll, and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren went, as children do, outside to play.

That's what they were doing in the gardenia bed when one of them found a ring. The ring.

They couldn't wait to show their great-grandmother, who couldn't believe it.

Frankly no one could. But it's true.

She put it on her finger.

Later she told us, that night, her first night at home after burying her husband of 62 years, she would grasp the ring when she felt lonely.

There it was, the special gift bought by the wife, who gave it to her husband, who lost it tending flowers for her, only to have it found by their great-grandchildren so it could provide comfort on her darkest night.

Love endures. Love returns. Love is magic.

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