Created on Wednesday, 08 August 2012 09:17
Written by Mike Martin
All these years after her death, Dan's grief for Becky's loss was still palpable.
His voice would crack when he spoke about her; his bright eyes would drift and go gray.
He couldn't imagine life without Rebecca Anne, not when he first met her; not when he started to lose her; and certainly not when she finally passed away.
Patient and observant as he was, Dan didn't just start talking about Becky when he learned my story.
As I look back now, I can tell that he waited, for the right moment to share what became one of the most important stories I heard about what it's like to cope with love and loss.
It unfolded over a few months. Dan would ask how my wife was doing, adding his cheers and encouragement -- in his sonorous voice -- with each new milestone I'd relate. The cancer hadn't spread, I told him. They had caught it early. My wife was starting chemotherapy. She probably wouldn't need a mastectomy. Everything, it turned out, turned out just fine.
Sometimes Dan would squeeze my arm. Once, we even hugged.
The Ellis Fischel Cancer Center became another connection. A great Ellis team led our family's care. Becky was treated there, too, and all these years later Dan was still thanking God and good fortune for the care she received.
Gradually, as he knew I was up to it, Dan started telling me about how hard he and Becky both fought breast cancer, about how his love for her only grew, even as he knew he was going to lose her.
In her last days, Becky the life force was thin and frail, and Dan Olsen had to face a future he had planned with her, entirely without her.
On hearing his story over these chance encounters and promises that one day, we'd have coffee or a beer and really, just really, talk, I was able to answer a question I would still be asking had it not been for Dan.
Should I, heaven forbid, ever have to -- Would I, could I, ever get over the loss of the love of my life?
But I could go on, and I would live. And if I could be anything like Dan Olsen, I could do it all with dignity and grace.