My friends Kit and Julian Caplan were married for 64 years. Kit died a few weeks ago, and today was the memorial service. I couldn’t stop the tears when I embraced Julian, who is a prince of a man if there ever was one.
The people who remembered Kit at the service mentioned what all of us knew — that Kit and Julian were the couple we all dream to be. They lived affectionately and harmoniously — there are no reports of a dark current running under their marriage. The only disparagement might have been that, as one of Kit’s brothers mentioned, their frequent bouts of public affection embarrassed their children sometimes.
Kit developed Alzheimer’s, and for the past several years Kit and Julian lived in Green Hill, a multi-level healthcare facility for older people. Julian couldn’t bear to be without Kit, so he moved in with her as she declined. Julian said that the staff and the other patients there appreciated their frequent kisses, “And we were delighted to oblige.”
As Kit’s memory eroded, she lost connection with most things, but her children noted in their eulogies that she never lost her connection with Julian. She would say, “You’re cute. We ought to get married.”
So Julian decided they should renew their wedding vows, and the minister Charlie Ortman, conducted what he called “the most unusual wedding I’ve ever seen.” Charlie remembered, “Kit may not have been aware of exactly what was happening, but she knew very obviously and very warmly that it had something to do with her and the man she loved.”
So, as I have written again and again, our love lives never end, even when our mind abandons us and our body gives way. The day before Kit’s memorial service I was in the nursing home where my aunt is now living. There was a very old man splayed out asleep in a wheelchair, his head canted sharply to one side, his mouth open. In a wheelchair parallel to him, but facing in the other direction sat a very old woman. Her hand was resting on his arm. Who knows what memories and what devotion led her to keep watch over this wreck of a man, her beloved.