I was 16 and he was 30 but nothing could stop our love – Part 3

Names: Emel & Alpay

Status: Married

Been together since: 1968

(This touching love story spans over 4 decades so we have divided it into 3 parts. Click for part 1 and part 2.)

On the road to recovery…

It was now 2005. By nature, Alpay was always full of life and bursting with energy. At work,  they used to always consult him first before making any decisions. With the factory and his job now gone he had started to get increasingly restless at home.

After careful consideration, we decided to move. If we had a garden it would keep him busy. We intended to move to Kemalpasa where the rental rates were very reasonable.

A friend of mine had heard about our plans. She lived in Cesmealti, a pretty little coastal town a short drive away from Izmir. Apparently, this couple that she was friends with had a house there and they were looking for good tenants. She had passed our number onto them and had neglected telling us.

One day we received a phone call.  The voice on the other end of the line was saying, “Hello! We heard you were looking for a house to rent.”

I was puzzled. “I’m sorry who is this?” I asked.

They explained who they were. The story was that they had experienced a troubled relationship with their previous tenants. When our common friend had recommended us they had gotten a very good feeling about it. Both the husband and the wife would call us separately insisting that we drop by to view the place.

I was familiar with that area and I knew that the rents there were really quite high. Unfortunately, our financial situation was pretty desolate at the time.

One day they called my son too. Meanwhile, Alpay’s routine check-up date was approaching. What we normally did was to head out in the morning to give a blood sample and collect the test results in the evening.

The hospital was actually not too far away from Cesmealti. We figured it would make sense to go give blood then head out to Cesmealti, have lunch in one of the quaint fish restaurants there, drop by to see the house, politely tell them we were not interested, pick up the test results and come back home.

Meanwhile, my husband still had no idea about our financial situation. I told him we were going to go for seafood and have a look at a house there then return.

We got all our errands done and reached the house by noon. The villa was perched on top of a mountain, surrounded by towering pine trees with a full view of the sea – it was simply stunning.

Cenk, my husband and I got out of the car. We started walking. First we were greeted by two turtles. The weather was slightly chilly so I turned around and headed back to the car to get Alpay his cardigan. By the time I got back to join them, Cenk was already shaking the landlord’s hand saying, “We’re here to rent your house.”

I looked at Cenk in shock. He signaled me to not say anything.

The landlord said, “But your mother hasn’t even seen it yet…”

“My mother already knows this place. She has friends in this complex, we’re always back-and-forth,” Cenk responded.

The landlord was still saying, “Well, let your mother have a look around,” but his hands were already handing the keys to my son. Me? I was still standing there in shock.

I took a look around and saw that Alpay was still in the garden playing with turtles. A black cat had now joined them and he was stroking it. Every time I managed to catch Cenk’s gaze my eyes were screaming for an explanation but he kept shushing me saying, “It’s okay.”

“What do you mean ‘it’s okay’?”

“Just wait mom, I’ll tell you.”

I still had no idea what happened. It made absolutely no sense… What is this child of mine thinking? How? Why?

Next thing I know, we’re heading home with the keys in our bag. As in we’ve just rented this house!

The test results were ready so we picked them up on our way home. We dropped Alpay home and left again with the excuse of going grocery shopping

The second we were alone I asked Cenk, “What in the world is going on?!”

He said. “Mom, had you heard, you would have also done the same thing!”

“Heard what?” I said.

“Mom, you’d gone back to the car to get dad his cardigan. Dad was ahead of me. First, he saw two turtles. Then this little black kitten came and joined us. I heard dad say, ‘Oh, dear God.’ He then turned and looked at the trees, then at the sea and said, “This place would add life to my life.”

End of story.

He said, “Would you have been able to say ‘no’ after that?”

“You’re right,” I said. “So how are we going to manage?”

“We’ll sell the house, that’s how. Health and happiness are the most important things, aren’t they? We’ll have another house again one day.”

“Ok then son,” I said, “Let’s do this.”

And consequently, we moved to Cesmealti. My son paid for six months’ rent upfront. That house really did end up bringing us immense joy.

The cats, the turtles, everything was so wonderful. It was the first time in my life that I was living in a villa. I have always been terrified of cockroaches. My husband had warned the caretakers there to not tell me anything if they saw any bugs around. We always looked out for each other like that and it was pure pleasure living in there.

Emel and Alpay still happily in love after 40 years of marriage
“I heard dad say, ‘Oh, dear God.’ He then turned and looked at the trees, then at the sea and said, ‘This place would add life to my life.’ “

We had meanwhile decided to buy another home. Assistance was reaching us from all directions. The manager at our bank, Mr. Yusuf, was a wonderful man. We told him all that we had been through and he helped us immeasurably.

He advised us to keep the cash that we had aside just in case we needed it for treatment one day. “I will pull some strings personally and arrange a mortgage for your son,” he said. And that’s how we were able to buy a modest apartment in Izmir.

I have said many prayers for Mr. Yusuf because that advice really was a blessed one as we really did end up needing that cash.

Unfortunately, six months later my husband got very sick again. The cancer came back with a vengeance.

Liquid radiation therapy and us…

We started treatment again.

There was a new method that they were using to treat cancer. Alpay was going to be the fifth person in Turkey to avail of what they called ‘liquid radiation’. The doctor had told us that getting this new treatment would allow him to live without any issues. This boosted our enthusiasm tremendously.

We got hold of the other four people that had been treated. As expected, financially they were all very comfortable. Our main concern was whether this treatment really worked or not. It seemed to be very effective as they all had achieved great results and were living healthy lives.

There was a problem though, national insurance, unfortunately, did not cover it. Our doctor explained that it was such a new treatment that it was not on their books.

I asked Cenk, “What must we do now my child?”

“We will pay it mom. We have no other choice.”

But I still had my mind on national insurance.

“Truth be told, I’m very shy by nature but God has always given me the strength when I needed it.”

Truth be told, I’m very shy by nature but God has always given me the strength when I needed it. I decided I would go to the national insurance department and speak to them.

I put all his reports together.

I learned how to get everywhere I needed to go.

The doctors, physicians, medical companies, the people in charge in the insurance department, nuclear medicine departments – I learned them all.

I would say, “Pray for me,” and leave the house.

I always paid special attention to what I was wearing.

I wore jackets and trousers, I had my files in my hands, the prayers of my loved ones behind me and with the power of God in my heart doors started opening.

People were listening to me. I was able to get my message through.

This was a very specialized type of treatment. The medical kits would be flown in on a jet from Germany. It seemed easier to transports organs.

There was only one professor in Turkey who could do this and he was in Ankara. He also needed to be flown in. After his arrival, he would have to train two doctors here. Of course, all of this translated into additional expense.

If insurance accepted to cover it, they would bear it the costs. Otherwise, we would have to pay. Even if it covered just the medicine our load would have lessened considerably. I would have been satisfied even with just that as this was the last of our savings. We had nothing left to sell anymore…

In the worst case scenario, even if it wasn’t approved in time for us, I was hoping that other people would be able to benefit from it.

But I made it!

It took a month and a half.

Meetings, documents, files, reports…

Then the approval arrived from the Ministry of Health in Ankara – I had managed to get insurance to cover it! This is how I opened that door for us and many people were indeed able to benefit from this treatment after us.

There was a young man called Mehmet who worked in the medical company. He had also put a lot of effort into this. I bumped into him last year. “Oh, my sister,” he said, “let me give you a hug!” So we hugged.

“So many people have been using this treatment and it is all thanks to you,” he said.

That part had been very important to me. Plus, they had also trained people here so they didn’t need to fly the doctor in from Ankara anymore.

Now the jets would bring in the medication, our dear Mehmet would rush to the airport and bring it into the hospital. The system was as efficient as clockwork.

Our treatment costs were thus partly paid for by insurance. We made up for the rest ourselves. We saved Alpay. He lived a very healthy life. We went for his checkups regularly and the results were always good. Once in a while, if something small popped up we would have a small operation or a single chemotherapy session and he would get better. Apart from that our lives were very good.

‘ “So many people have been using this treatment and it is all thanks to you” ‘

He did his gardening, we traveled together, we went on long walks.

We love entertaining so we always had guests over, treating them to a feast.

Life went on as normal, nobody knew any differently.

We gave him a very happy life.

Our family is growing with love…

My sister lives in Istanbul and her daughter had a best friend called Nil whom she had met when they were studying piano together in the conservatoire during their elementary years.

Nil had become a part of their family and my sister always used to say, “I have 2 daughters,” but somehow I had never managed to meet her during my trips to Istanbul.

That was until one day years later when my sister was coming to visit to me and said, “Can I bring my other daughter Nil along too?”

It was May when we met our Nil.

Although she had been quite a successful pianist who had graduated from the conservatoire, she had always been more interested in TV and had studied two years in the department of television. She had gone on to build her career on that too.

She had worked for one of the best TV production companies in Istanbul but was on a break at that time. After a brief stay in their summerhouse in Bodrum she was to resume work in Istanbul.

But first they had a meeting they had to attend with my sister in Izmir. They came to stay with me and were my guests for three days.

This is how Cenk and Nil met.

When Cenk heard that Nil was also interested in TV production he said, “Hey, why don’t you join me on this shoot I’m working on.”

They spent the next two days going to the shoot together.

On the third day, Nil’s father came and joined us for lunch then took her away to their summerhouse in Bodrum.

After they left my son came to me and said, “Mom, I have to tell you something. Nil and I have decided to get married.”

They had suddenly fallen deeply, madly in love with each other. Their souls, hearts, habits, lives were of the same essence. They had found everything they were looking for in each other. They also have a 13 year age difference. I guess this is in our genes, it’s very interesting.

She had come to see us in May. We had a pre-engagement ceremony on the 29th of June. They got engaged in January and married in September the following year.

Due to all the things he had to go through in this life, my son had matured early. He had learned right from wrong and acquired a deep sense of responsibility when he was still quite young. His foundation when it came to commitment was already quite strong and he just continued to build upon that. He anchored his heart into a very healthy, deep, beautiful relationship.

My daughter-in-law’s family is an amazing one. They are very modest, mature and loving family.

Both of our families have the same outlook. We are all here for our children.

Truth be told, I'm very shy by nature but God has always given me the strength when I needed it
“Life went on as normal, nobody knew any differently.”

We wanted my daughter-in-law as well as her family to see the house in Izmir. Since we got it for a really good price it needed a lot of renovation. We started fixing it up after they decided to live there.

Their life stories are actually quite similar. Nil’s parents had also divorced when she was 12 and her father had gotten remarried. But they were all still in touch with each other and lived in the same area in Istanbul.

Unfortunately, just before they got married Alpay was ill again. He needed a small operation followed with chemo and radiotherapy. The doctor’s orders were for him to get some rest.

Nil’s family was incredibly supportive. They waited until everything was back to normal and then we had our wedding.

We had actually assumed that since Alpay’s whole body had changed his character would also change. However, that was not the case. Rest was essential for his well-being but he just would not sit still. He was constantly working on the garden and he refused to let anyone help him.

The doctor said, “His body is slowly starting to let go.” Chemotherapy has a way aging the body rapidly.

I realized we needed to change something. “Son, if we stay here your father is going to wear himself out. Let’s move somewhere easier to navigate.”

So we moved to another house with a smaller garden in Cesmealti. Our next four years there were equally happy.

Every month we would go get his routine check-ups done. Problems were now showing up increasingly frequently so we were constantly at the hospital. We had to have a few more operations, including prostate. It was a regular thing for us now to stay at the hospital a few weeks then come back home again.

Saying that, he still wouldn’t sit still. I would regularly hear his voice, “Love, I’m making coffee. Would you like one too?” He would cook us special meals and surprise us with them.

The pace slows down…

But he got slower and weaker. I noticed that coming down the stairs he would now take only one step at a time.

Cenk and Nil would always drive us when it was time for his monthly check-up. It was time to go again but he kept delaying us saying, “We’ll go next week.” When the week was over he would sweet talk us yet again into going the week after. He managed to delay us for a whole month.

He seemed to constantly manage to talk his way out of  way it and he was so charming that we hadn’t been able to turn him down. We had a family friend whom he would always listen to. I said, “Can you please have a chat with Alpay – he refuses to go for his check-up.”

They had a talk.

Our friend admitted months later that Alpay had said to him, “I know I’m living on borrowed time. I know that this time I won’t be able to come back home.”

He finally agreed to go.

We went to the hospital.

They wouldn’t let him leave.

We stayed there for two months.

Just like he said, he wasn’t able to come back home.

The truth emerged later that he had discovered another tumor but hadn’t told us. We had a surgeon that we used to go to. Alpay said, “Let’s go there first and get this removed. Then we’ll go to the hospital.”

When we reached there he asked for a wheelchair. This was the first time he did that. He had held himself together himself up until that point.

The examination revealed that the cancer had now spread everywhere. They refused to let him go and he was admitted into hospital. Thank God his last days were not bad. Although should have been in pain, he wasn’t.

We were running all over the place chasing doctors, chasing painkillers but he was just fine. There was a caretaker that was assigned to him. She would always say, “I have never seen a patient like this sister Emel, he radiates peace.”

All the doctors and nurses in the hospital always treated us with utmost consideration, love and respect. They gave us the most comfortable rooms and were especially meticulous when it came to hygiene.

At the end of the first month Alpay became very weak. They started to feed him with tubes. He wasn’t able to speak comfortably by then but even in that state when I asked him how the food was he would always gesture that it was great. To him everything was great, even in this state.

Then he started to hallucinate. He kept saying, “It’s beautiful everywhere… the trees are green and blue… beautiful! Spring is here.” Next, he was in apple orchard saying, “Let’s pick these apples.”

He was really finding it very hard to speak now. Writing was how he managed to communicate. One day he wrote down all the names of the doctors and nurses that had helped him in Ege Hospital.

“Would you like me to ask them to drop by?” I asked and he nodded.

I invited all the doctors over that week and they all showed up. One by one he thanked each one of them and bid them farewell. He had already prepared us the week before.

The doctors told us to start our final preparations. Again, hand-in-hand as a family, we started the final procedures. We made decisions together, we finalized the details about his final resting place.

His final days were beautiful. All his children, his grandchildren, everybody was there.

Alpay couldn’t talk anymore but his beautiful blue eyes were still sparkling. They were conveying his love and gratitude. He kept smiling. It was a very peaceful goodbye. Until his last minute here he did his best to not upset us.

That was the weekend. On Sunday I sent everyone home. Now it was just myself and my daughter Aysen. We agreed that the others would drop by on Monday so we could go home, shower and come back.

“…he still wouldn’t sit still. I would regularly hear his voice, “Love, I’m making coffee. Would you like one too?” He would cook us special meals and surprise us with them.”

I guess I felt it coming too. I had given away everything in his room. Now, we only had our handbags. And we could just pick those up and leave.

 

On Monday he was sleeping quite comfortably. We would give him oxygen once in a while. It was time for the doctors to do their daily rounds. When they were in the room I would usually wait near the door. For some reason that day they took longer than usual. As they were leaving they instructed me to turn off the oxygen in 15 minutes.

Every day Aysen and I would have a coffee and read the papers at the hospital. Aysen had gone downstairs to buy them. Apparently, on her way back she had realized that she had forgotten to get the newspapers and had had to turn around again. So it had taken her longer to come back to our room.

And so with God’s divine intervention Alpay and I were left on our own, it was just the two of us in the room.

Fifteen minutes passed. I removed his mask. As I was doing this I felt that his pillow was a little too steep and I was rearranging it so his neck wouldn’t ache. When I put my hand under the pillow he opened his eyes. He made a gesture with his eyes. I thought he was trying to tell me something so I leaned very close to him.

He looked deep into my eyes. Then he closed his eyes.

I said , “Love? Love…” but he wasn’t moving anymore. A single tear ran down his cheek. I just stared at him frozen. There were no more breaths coming. That had been his last breath.

It started with love and affection and ended with love and affection.

As we were preparing him for his final journey we saw that our caretaker, who loved him so, had brought him a bed sheet with pink roses on it. She also had no idea where the sheet came from but she said it was the last one left in the cupboard. We wrapped Alpay in that beautiful sheet with the pink roses. Everybody was asking us if we had brought it along especially for this.

Cenk and the others came to the hospital immediately but there were people who didn’t live in Izmir who also wanted to attend the funeral. They agreed that it would be best to bury him in two days.

I couldn’t deny them this or speak up but the truth was that the thought of those big drawers in morgues had always terrified me. Thinking of him in that drawer was suffocating me. But then I saw the place they call the morgue. They were lots of individual rooms that looked like cabins. All of them had windows and were brightly lit. I had never seen anything like it before. People were just wheeled in on a stretcher into the assigned room. I was so incredibly grateful.

I lost my husband on the 1st of July  2013 and the funeral was set for the 3rd. It was the middle of summer and incredibly hot.

We were waiting for the municipality hearse to come and transport him. I was very worried about them sending one of the older green vehicles that were open around the sides.

Then I saw it coming from a distance… it was the green vehicle and it was indeed open… My heart sank and I was even more saddened. I wished from the depths of my heart that it had been one of the newer cars that were closed and air conditioned. It was such a long trip from the hospital to the cemetery…

As I had all these thoughts swirling in my head there was some confusion. One of the people in charge came to me and said, “We’re really sorry but we have an urgent situation at hand. You’re in no big hurry anyway. There will be another vehicle coming to collect you.” They hastily handed me the documents and were gone. We really did have a lot of time as we had arrived so early that day.

A little while later we saw a car approaching. It was one the new, sparkling white vehicles that were closed.

I felt completely immersed in gratitude yet again – all my prayers had been answered. All of this was the outcome of the love and affection that we had for each other.

When we reached at the cemetery for the funeral, I saw that despite the scorching heat my siblings had arrived from Istanbul, our relatives from Bursa and all our friends and loved ones from Izmir were there too… They were all standing waiting for us. Hand-in-hand with my children, my grandchildren and all our friends we stood strong drawing our strength from each other. We laid him down into his final resting place.

I dreamt of Alpay once. In my dream it was after the funeral. We were all gathered together to eat as is tradition after funerals. I was preparing for the meal in the kitchen and the whole place was covered with food that everybody had brought, including all the complimentary food the municipality sends.

I looked out of the window and Alpay was standing there smiling at me. He looked like his earlier, healthy self. I said, “Goodness, you haven’t died!” and I was absolutely over the moon. I went running upstairs to tell the children, “Kids, your father hasn’t died! He’s back and he’s doing great! He looks as young as when we first met.” As I was saying this the other thought in my head was, ‘God, so many people brought so much food – what will I tell the neighbors now?’ It was a beautiful dream.

Once again God gave me strength. I carried out the prayer service personally for the next seven days.

Healing through art…

It was impossible for me to live in our house. Everywhere I looked I saw him. Every time I approached the stairs I found it hard to breathe, I was so devastated. I said, “I just can’t live here…” Plus, for the first time in my life I was going to live on my own.

I can hardly recall those days, I was in so much pain. But apparently I was telling everyone I did not want to leave that area and that I needed another house around there.

Well, here is how I found the my new home.

A friend of mine said, “Emel, the flat above us was vacant for three years. The owners finally decided to put it up for rent but a nurse moved in only eight months ago. Oh, how I wish it was available – it was perfect for you.”

Apparently I said, “Kismet*,” I don’t remember.

A few days later that same friend came to me and said, “Emel, I have great news! That nurse just got engaged and she’s moving out. Come have a look, let’s rent it if you like it.”

I said, “I don’t have to see it. It’s got four walls, it’s got a roof and it’s close to you, let’s just book it.”

And so my accommodation issue got resolved. This was also a precious gift, a big blessing from God to me.

My children and I put our heads together and minimized all my furniture. Apart from a few pieces that Alpay and I had bought together, we gave everything away and I moved into my new flat.

And just like that I ended up in a new home.

When I was completing Alpay’s final paperwork, I was chitchatting with the lady who works at the insurance department. She had just been transferred to Cesmealti and was looking for a place to rent. I immediately took her to our old house and she ended up renting it.

My children stayed with me for a week.

But it was now time for everyone to go back to their regular lives. I told them that I was fine, that I had adjusted and sent everyone home.

I was scared of the dark so in the beginning I would sleep with all the lights on and torches placed everywhere. It happened more than once where my children drove all the way from Izmir and showed up at my doorstep way past midnight because my voice didn’t quite sound right to them.

Getting used to living alone is really tough if you’ve never done it before but I’m slowly getting used to it.

Then little by little, everything that I had buried within me over the years started to resurface. Sadness overwhelmed me. I tried but I just could not get out of it so I finally went to see a doctor. Medication is something I have never liked resorting to and I knew that this kind of medicine had especially addictive qualities and would make me worse, not better. The doctor listened as I explained all of this to him.

“Then you must adopt a hobby,” he told me. I said, “I’m not exactly the sewing-knitting type…”  He insisted, “You absolutely need a find an interest.”

As I was wondering what in the world I should take up a friend of mine dropped by to see me. She had just joined an amateur choir that sang classical Turkish music.

“You’re coming too!” she said.

No matter how many times I told her I couldn’t sing she refused to listen.

“Our teacher is amazing! You’re definitely coming.” She was adamant.

It seemed I had no other choice so I accepted. I also told our teacher that I had personal reasons for joining and that I was looking to heal myself.

And that’s how I started. We have a very strong, loving bond with all of my friends at the choir and our teacher. That hobby, that love is what healed me.

What advice would you give to someone looking for love?

Let them look into their hearts and into their eyes because the heart will always feel it and the eyes will always be talking.

What advice do you have for couples going through a hard time?

Never lose your love or your respect.

One thing I have learnt about love is…

It can conquer everything.

* ‘Kismet’ can be translated to mean ‘This is God’s will’ and in Turkish it is used to express that whether something happens or not, it is as per God’s will.

(Interview & write-up by Bianca)

Read the first part  and second part of this story.

 

 

Read about our previous couple Anita & David.

 

 

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Couples with an age difference

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