Columns
1:50 pm
Thu October 23, 2003

Portrait of a Divorce

Two good people. One bad relationship.

Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Paul's commentary.]

A few months ago, I told of a beautiful marriage. Sid and Betty. She, who was paralyzed with a stroke. He, who loved her enough to bring her out of her bed and onto to visit dozens of countries after she said she would never walk again.

Today, a portrait of a divorce. Just as beautiful, in its own strange way.

She works at a local hospital. He in a local business.

I met her on my hospital rounds. A good woman, concerned about the patients, always beaming. The kind of natural, positive energy that is contagious. The kind of woman that makes you feel good just being around her. We stop and talk as I make my rounds. We pray together. As I bring Holy Communion for the patients, I am able to share that with her, too, as we stand aside in a bustling corridor.

I knew she was divorced and while she never went into detail about her ex-husband, it was obvious something had gone terribly wrong. Acrimony. Sadness. Loss. It was all there. And yet, she was so wonderful. I could only assume he was not.

So there I was a couple weeks later, standing in a huge warehouse. I needed a dozen or so boxes that had to be just the right size to ship some items. And here was the floor manager I had finally gotten to see. Even though the receptionist warned me they were a wholesale house, not retail. And that a minimum order of two hundred and fifty dollars had to be placed for anything to leave that warehouse.

I told him of my need and he went from stack to stack and we finally found the perfect size. He pulled out a dozen, then a second dozen. "How much" was forming on my lips as he was already waving me off. "Just take them. Not a big deal," he said.

We talked some more. Our children, it turns out, had gone to the same school. One of his sons had died too young, in an accident. Although he was not a man to wear his emotions on his sleeve, there was that flicker that passes across a man's face that is unmistakable. A pain so deep it cannot be shown. There, with high stacks of packing materials towering above us, we talked a little while longer.

I mentioned that the items that were going into the boxes were a new curriculum kit and they probably should be shrink-wrapped. He led me to the shrink wrap machines and apologized that the automatic one wasn't working, but if I wanted to use the manual unit, I should. He did the first one himself. Again, he waved off any attempt at payment.

What a wonderful man. How generous. I had only known him for a few minutes and here he was, hardly the corporate executive, just a regular guy doing a very good turn.

Then it sunk in. The boy who had died. That great woman in the hospital had told me a similar story. I blurted out her name. Indeed. His ex-wife.

How could two people so good, so generous, so kind have NOT stayed together. But then I thought: it was that goodness, that generosity, that kindness that they saw in each other that brought them together in the first place.

And, then the winds of life buffeted them, took them off course, or -- I imagine put -- on different courses.

But each of them should know they were right in choosing each other so many years ago. That was not a mistake. For they have a common bond that something as painful as divorce does nothing to rend or to tarnish.

[An archive of Paul's transcripts is available at whqr.org/paulwilkes/archive.htm.]