I listened as the minister explained that we were not gathered to mourn the loss of life, but rather to celebrate the life that had been so well lived.

And yet, tears flowed all around me. Perhaps some were bittersweetthe result of happy memories combined with the reality that the making of future memories was now impossible, cut short by a tragic accident. But my guess is most of those tears were just plain bitter, from the gutting sorrow that accompanies the sudden loss of a loved one. Because although a person’s entrance into Heaven is certainly something to be celebrated, in our limited human view, we tend to see only what’s right in front of us. And in this case, that was death. And loss. And circumstances that were anything but fair.

My husband and I sat beside each other, listening as loved ones shared beautiful stories of the deceased man’s life. We heard all about his big personality and endless sense of humoranecdotes from a never-boring life that made us laugh. Those closest to him recalled his love for people, his big heart, and how he used it to bless others. And we smiled.

I listened to story after story, my admiration growing for the man whose heart no longer beat. And my smile became wider as I recognized the legacy of simple goodness he’d left behind. With so many testimonies about the fullness of his life, tears had not yet filled my eyes.

Until his wife, in her new role as a widow, spoke words I won’t soon forget.

She described her late husband’s love of running, how he’d routinely jog through the neighborhood and return home in sweat-soaked clothes. She said, “He’d walk through the door smelly and sweaty, and with a grin on his face, he’d try to hug me. But I would never let him.”

After a long pause and with tears in her eyes, she ended her speech by saying, “I wish I would have.”

And finally, I cried.

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As I turned my attention toward my husband, I recalled all the times I’ve refused to let him love me. So many times I’ve turned away from his attempts to hug me, kiss me, or have sex. At times, my refusal to let him love me stems from an argument or hurt feelings. But most of the time it’s for more insignificant reasons. Like morning breathhis or mine. Or a sweaty bodyhis or mine. Sometimes it’s because of insecurities over my postpartum body. Or because I’m preoccupied, or maybe just tired.

I clasped my husband’s hand as I remembered how many times I’ve pushed him away when he’s tried to love me. How I’ve told him “maybe next time” or “maybe tomorrow” or sometimes even just an annoyed “stop” accompanied by an eye roll. And in those moments, I’ve never considered there might not be a next time or a tomorrow. That a sole attempt to love me might be the last attempt. Because there’s no telling what tomorrow has in store.

So often, that limited human view gets in my way.

I don’t see the possibility of a future without my husband. The idea that one day he might be gone seems too distant and vague to be real. Instead, I see only what’s right in front of me, which might be a body that’s sweaty from hard work or a face that could use a shave. But I’ve never considered the absence of that body or those eyes that still like to look at me.

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The widow who spoke at the funeral we attended had said goodbye to her husband before he went for a run. And she had no idea his sweaty body would never again walk through the door and request a hug from her. She had no idea he was about to die.

And if I’m being honest with myself, I have no idea when I’m going to lose my husband either. I hope it’s a long time from now. I hope it’s long after our kids are grown. I hope it’s after he’s gone bald and my hair becomes the color of snow. I hope it’s after our feet can’t do much more than shuffle. I hope it’s after our eyes become too weak to see each other’s flaws. I hope it’s a lifetime away.

But the truth is, a long future together isn’t guaranteed.

So, I’m going to let my husband love me while he still can. Even when I’m tired. Even when I’m crabby. And even when the circumstances aren’t perfect.

Because there’s no better time to let him love me than right now when our lungs still have breath in them and our hearts still beat for each other.

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Jenny Albers

Jenny Albers is a wife, mother, and writer.  She is the author of Courageously Expecting, a book that empathizes with and empowers women who are pregnant after loss. You can find Jenny on her blog, where she writes about pregnancy loss, motherhood, and faith. She never pretends to know it all, but rather seeks to encourage others with real (and not always pretty) stories of the hard, heart, and humorous parts of life. She's a work in progress, and while never all-knowing, she's (by the grace of God) always growing. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.