I said a few words, this morning, at the end of Pam’s funeral service. My plan was to share some thoughts with all the folks who were kind enough to come and to say goodbye to the wonderful woman we all love. I wanted them to know what was on my mind — and now I want all of you who have been kind enough to join us on this journey to know what’s on my mind as well. You’re welcome to read on if you’re interested in learning the perspective of Pam’s grieving husband:
Statistics tell us that fifty per cent of all marriages end in divorce; so that means that fifty per cent end in death. The ones that end in death, I suppose, are the successful ones. Our marriage, Pam’s and mine, is one of the successful ones and the only explanation I can give you is that we’ve been showered, each and every day, with the grace of God. God was the third partner in our union. God was the ‘other man’ and God was the ‘other woman’.
Two souls, as broken as mine and Pam’s were when we met, aren’t usually a good bet to stay together as long as we did. You need to know, though, that it’s not for nothing that our marriage lasted. It’s not for nothing that our marriage remained a loving union until the very end. Pam and I worked at it. We worked at it together. As Pam said numerous times, to anyone who happened to be around: “I don’t believe in divorce; I believe in torture.” Funny, right? Pam was the funniest woman I ever knew — and that includes the comedy diva — sorry Stephanie. The secret behind Pam’s wonderful sense of humor was that she told the simple truth, just as it is. If she said she believed in torture, you better believe she did!
Other people have said it, but for me it’s 100% true. I fell in love with Pam the day I met her. I was certain, sure to the bottom of my heart, that she was and always will be my one and only love. She was my one and only love when I met her, and she’s my one and only love now. It was God who brought us together and, whether we liked it or not, He was going to keep us together.
We met at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain way back in May of 1989. Our mutual friend Joan set us up — and I became aware, on that afternoon, of a feeling I had never had before. I know now what that feeling was. It was destiny. By the time Pam and I said goodbye to each other, on that first magical day, I had her phone number. I kept the number right beside my telephone for the longest time, but I didn’t call. You know how men are. We never call. Five weeks came and five weeks went and still I didn’t call. Hey, by that time in my life, I was thirty-four, I knew one or two things. I knew that if you gave a woman the impression that you’re too eager she’ll figure you’re desperate and run — and in those lonely years before I met Pam I’d sent a long list of women running.
It was Joan who set us up and it was Joan who got us to start dating. She called me one day to say that Pam had broken her ankle on a 4th of July visit to Walden Pond.
“Call her,” Joan insisted, “it will cheer her up.”
So it was that Pam hobbled through four months of courtship and anyone could tell I really liked her because not once, but twice I took her to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox — premium seats, Roger Clemens on the mound. I was willing to knock myself out showing her a good time; and when I figured I’d wined her and dined her enough I “popped the question.” If I’d thought about the possibility of rejection I would never have found the courage to ask her — fortunately, I didn’t think about it.
Well, other than sitting right behind the 35 yard line of the Orange Bowl on that rainy Miami afternoon of November 23, 1984 and watching Doug Flutie heave his famous last second, game winning touchdown pass to Gerard Phelan, the most amazing thing I ever saw with my own eyes was Pam agreeing to be my wife. I remember how happy she was once we became engaged — and not because I was going to be her husband. It was, as she put it, because “I won’t have to pretend I like baseball anymore.”
I’ve heard people scoff at bridal couples who spend piles and piles of money on their wedding when, if they kept things very simple, they’d be able to save enough money to put a down payment on a nice house. A big wedding is a complete waste of money; that’s what a lot of folks think. My response to them is, “Why bother to live at all?” Life isn’t a house, or a big bank account, or tickets to the Stanley Cup (not that I’d turn them down if you offered them to me.) Life is a blow-out. Life is family and friends. Life is celebration. I knew it, and Pam knew it too.
Hospitality is where it’s at. Hospitality is where Pam and I are at. We lived to entertain — well, actually, we lived to sit on a Carribean beach in March, drinking Pina Colada’s — but other than that we lived to entertain. The virtue both of us most valued most was generosity.
We went through our marriage living by these precepts: Open up the doors and invite the fiddlers in. Praise God with dancing. Praise God with revelry. Praise God with joy. Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, with the harp and lyre, with timbrel and dancing. Praise God with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with the strings and pipe.
I suppose the most memorable blow-out Pam and I ever organized was the celebration we arranged for Angelique’s High School Graduation. Many of you were there — and I’ve heard many of you tell me what a fabulous time you had. If you weren’t one of the fortunate ones who were there, you’ll get some idea the time we had when I tell you that, right after our little shindig, the entire Bradford family was permanenty banished from the Belmont Women’s Club. It made us proud!
Our goal, as a couple, was to testify to God’s love by putting joy into other folk’s lives — but we also appreciated the hospitality of others. I remember, back in 2007, that Pam and I , along with Angelique, joined the Lexington Catholic Community’s annual mission to Honduras. It was an eye-opener for both of us. Never had we seen such poverty. Never had I seen Pam shed so many tears over the agony of other people’s deprivation and suffering. One day, during this consciousness altering trip, we set out to survey the rural Honduran hilltops and meet with the really poor folks. Trouble was, it had been raining and the path up the hill was as slippery as ice. That was the day we learned the Spanish word ‘lodo’. It means mud, but it’s much worse than that. Honduran mud is slick and our little truck couldn’t make it up the hill so we had to hoof it. Imagine Pam climbing half a mile up a steep hillside! It just didn’t happen. Now, imagine Pam riding her slender derriere down thirty feet of Central American ‘lodo’. That’s what happened
When we realized we couldn’t proceed, we took refuge in one of the little huts the Hondurans call home. Talk about the Ugly American! We were so thick with mud we were unrecognizable. But we were given a heartfelt welcome into a poor Honduran woman’s home — and while we were muddying up her chairs, she came to us with cups of hot Honduran coffee and little Honduran pastries. Neither of us had ever been more royally received and that Honuran woman became our mentor — our ideal of hospitality.
OK, where was I … oh yeah, Pam agreed to marry me, and while we were having the fun of planning our reception and we learned some things about each other. We each learned that the other was more than willing to spend ‘down payment’ money on our wedding reception. And we learned that we both wanted to spend whatever we had left after the wedding on a Carribean honeymoon. We were, as they say, ‘on the same page’. Our shared goal was to make certain our little display of joy would be one where people were completely comforatable, one where they had lots of fun, and one they would remember for a long, long time. I wanted all that, but I alse wanted it to be meaningful.
Well, there were a lot of folks at our wedding, and many of you are here today and I’m kind of thinking you remember the special effort I made to promise Pam I was in it for the long haul. By that time, I’d come to know Pam pretty well, and I knew that what she wanted most from me was an assurance I was going to stick around until “death do us part”. I certainly wanted to give her that assurance, so in the presence of everyone, I poured my heart out, promising Pam I would love her no matter what. I would love her “All the Way”. I made that promise and I was determined to keep it. I promised I’d always be with her — and I kept my promise.
Pam wanted me to show her I was going to be with her because that was what she most needed to know; but after she got sick, the focus of her concern turned around one hundred and eighty degrees. She wanted to know if Angelique was going to continue to be the happy and successful person she’s always been once she was forced to go through life without her mother. Her thoughts were with Liqa; but even more they were with me. “How” she wondered, “could the absent minded man I’m married to ever find a way to get by on his own?” Turns out, though, that I’m not as helpless as she feared I was, and during the fourteen months she was sick I’m pretty sure I convinced her that I really could, to use her words, “step up”.
Pam knows now that I meant it when I said I’d be her husband over the long haul. I poured out my heart out to her on our wedding day and made a special effort to get her to believe me when I told her I would never leave her. I promised her, and I kept my promise. Now I’m going to make you another promise, Pam, in the presence of all these people who are with you at your funeral and I’m going to pour my heart out, trying to get you to trust me when I tell you that I’m really and truly going to figure out a way to get along without you.
And that’s a promise I intend to keep.