He is grieving.
That he has something to grieve, he doesn't fully understand, is a miracle in and of itself. They, two people with intellectual disabilities, fell in love in the time of the institutions, in the time of sterilization, in the time of deep prejudice. It was a struggle, families were worried, support staff hesitant. After all, she had Down Syndrome. After all, he was clearly disabled. But they did marry. This Joseph took this Mary, and they wed.
Twenty years later, they still loved one another but her health was failing. She struggled against Alzheimer's to remember him. They struggled together to remain a family. They had proved themselves to all. They were known throughout town as a couple. As man and wife. As lover and friend. Their love, which brought fear when it was born, brought admiration when it was full grown. All knew them. All welcomed them. Every door that was opened to them, they opened. Every opportunity they had, they crafted. Every moment that they lived in freedom, they celebrated. They knew that they had won this life for themselves. Through her illness, they fought for that life with new vigour.
But new vigour was not enough.
Her death struck him like night strikes the day.
Now grief is a constant companion. But it is not alone. It has been joined by fear. Suddenly the comforting image that he had of her in heaven, under God's care, shifted. He grew fearful. He worries that she is lost on heaven's streets. That she is alone and wandering, looking for him, looking for any marker that points home. He worries that God is too busy for her, that God is with those more important, those somehow bigger than his little Mary. He imagines that heaven is full of people rushing by, knocking her this way, then that. He worries that even there, in the land of eternity, her difference is perhaps tolerated but is not welcome.
It is a trick of the hateful to put God's face on human prejudice. But it is also the temptation of the fearful. They lived a life that was full of joy, not because other's brought it to them, but because they brought it to each other. They lived a life of value, not because others saw their worth, but because they saw each other's worth. He saw woman, he saw wife, he saw lover, he saw friend. She saw man, she saw husband, she saw lover, she saw friend. They made heaven here, together. How could she have it there, then, alone.
So he mourns.
So he cries.
So his heart reaches to the sky, and beyond, to comfort her. To hold her in his prayers, waiting for God's gaze to come if it ever does.
So his soul reaches to the heaven's to find where she sits alone. To pass the time with her, waiting for others to slow and notice her there.
So he waits. Waits to see her again.
And this is love.
She, Mary, with the extra chromozone. He, Joseph with the missing piece. He needs comfort. He needs to be sure of God. He knows that heaven is real, he's just afraid that it isn't quite as beautiful as the one they made ...
(Joseph: thank your for permission to tell your story)