Hole in his heart

Jim Cain, Leoda Cain’s husband, sits on his side of the bed on the quilt his wife was planning to make before she died. He holds the “love (lady) bug” he bought her for Valentine’s Day. The bug’s place has always been on the bed.
Sandra Mudd

Hunched over, his mind racing inside its own little world, Jim Cain works in the rockfilled yard, meticulously tending to the willow weeds. The fenced-in yard showcases the art – an old grey-stone bird bath, a pioneer wagon wheel hub and a rock formation fountain to name a few.

This was his wife’s pet project.

“We did it together, but it was her idea, how to do things, where she wanted stuff.”

Jim takes a deep breath, then points out that every rock came from somewhere they had visited. Mostly together.

The dry creek bed weaves its way throughout the long rectangular yard from the back by the shed all the way to the front fence, where his two little dogs, eagerly wagging their tails and barking their hellos, wait to
greet the next visitor.

He finishes pulling the last weed, rises to his feet and walks up the stained wood steps onto the patio that he and his wife built. Inside the house, the atmosphere illuminates the presence of a woman’s touch. The freshly vacuumed carpet and strategically arraigned furniture in the living room off to the right of the entrance way, the spotless floor in the kitchen, and the yellow and blue daisy flower valance hanging in the window above the dinner table tell a story all their own of how the woman who lived here made this house a home, a home she once shared with her beloved husband Jim.

“There is nowhere I can go that I am not reminded of her,” he said.

Jim and Leoda would have been married for seven years this past January—a short time for some. But they were kindred spirits who instinctively knew they belonged together from the moment they met, as the wall hanging above their bedroom window testifies, “You had me from hello.”

They first met online in September 2009 through a senior connection site after her profile and picture caught Jim’s attention.

“I sent her an email and complemented her on her profile, but I told her she needed to learn how to smile more, that her picture looked like a librarian,” he recalls with a chuckle. Leoda responded that she was in fact “a very smiley person,” but she was preparing for a high school reunion and would be touch when she returned.

“I just figured, ‘Well, that’s the end of that.’” It wasn’t.

“A few weeks later, she came back into town and I got an email from her that said, ‘I’m back.’ We went on a very expensive date to a Village Inn on a Wednesday, where you got a free piece of pie with coffee,” he laughs heartily with a twinkle in his eye. “A few days later we went to lunch and both of us knew that we were just meant for each other.” They were married January 15, 2010. From that moment on, and even before, “there wasn’t much of anything that we didn’t do together,” from the landscaping in the garden, to the remodeling of the house, to the revamping of the front porch.

“We just enjoyed each other and what we were doing.”

Jim and Leoda had each lost previous spouses, and perhaps that shared emotional connection is part of what brought them so close together in such a short amount of time.

Jim and his first wife lived in Florida and divorced after 31 years of marriage, which is when he moved to Wyoming to be closer to his son. He lost his second wife, Norma Jean, in 2008 to cancer after 15 years together.

His third wife, Leoda, was killed in a car accident outside Glenrock last year. The criminal case against the woman accused of causing the accident, 18-yearold Cassandra Wickett, is pendingin state District Court.

Leoda and her first husband, Gene, were married for 45 years. They lived on a farm in Alaska before moving to Wyoming, settling in Bar Nunn. Gene died from an unfortunate saw blade accident while building furniture after developing peritonitis. She lost her second husband, Frank, after a year and a half of marriage to leukemia around the same time Jim had lost Norma Jean.

The time they had together After they married, Jim and Leoda would leave Wyoming at the start of winter to do work for RV camper programs. Introduced to the idea through a couple in their church who were also doing it, they would pick a spot somewhere in the states and work at campgrounds for the winter, spending the rest of their time as tourists. Jim maintained the grounds and Leoda was a face of the operation.

Together, in April 2015, they traded in their smaller fifth-wheel camper and bought the RV that still sits parked on the back of their property.

“That was going to be our last home away from home. We got to take the one trip in it.” The sadness fills his words. The one trip was to Yuma, Arizona. They left in November and came home the end of March 2016. Leoda was killed the end of August.

“That’s all the travel that trailer has had,” Jim shudders at the thought, before adding that they had a winter work camp scheduled in Texas. “I had to call and tell them what happened and that we wouldn’t be coming.’

He pauses as he dredges up another, happier thought. “My favorite memory with her was when we went on the World’s Longest Yard Sale.” The trek starts in Michigan and runs into Alabama, during which “you travel the whole highway and it’s nothing but yard sales for hundreds and hundreds of miles.

“That was the first thing we did and then we started doing the work camper program, wherever we took a notion that we thought we might want to spent the winter, starting the first week in November and not coming home until the middle of April. When we weren’t doing our duties at the RV park, we were out running around to yard sales, antique malls, auctions, estate sales, or just checking out the territory. We just enjoyed life together.”

Jim remembers their time in Florida as the best trip they have ever taken together in which he showed Leoda all the best parts, such as alligator alley and the Everglades. “She got to see everything that there is to see,” he notes with joy. “They were all memorable.”

When they weren’t traveling, Leoda spent her time quilting. She was a historian and an appraiser of quilts. An outgoing, adventurous soul, as Jim describes her, she loved to travel to different states to give lectures on quilts and quilt appraising.

“She was the type of person that never knew a stranger. People knew her and thought very highly of her.”

Her laugh was infectious. “I loved to hear her laugh,” he says with a shake in his voice as he reached up to wipe the tears from his eyes. “Whenever we would finish a meal together, I would always put my arms around her and give her a kiss. I told her, “This is for the cook.” He chuckles. “If I was a little bit slow, she would think, “Hmm. . . it must not have been too good this time, the cook doesn’t get a kiss?

“We just loved each other so much. If she was going to town to do something or if I was in town and we talked on the phone, we always ended with telling each other, “I love you.” I never got tired of telling her that.”

The most profound memory he has of her is of the time when he took her home after their second date. “I walked her to the door and she’s standing there in the doorway and I just leaned over and kissed her on the lips. She looked so . . .” his words trail off. “So many times I’ve wished I could have had a picture of that.

“She looked so surprised that I kissed her again. That was the beginning of a beautiful time together.”

Leoda saved every card he had ever bought her, a printed reminder of their love.

Then, there’s the oatmeal raisin cookies. Jim chokes back more tears as his senses take in the memory of those baking in the house.

And, he cherishes the last card she ever gave him. It begins with, “For My Love,” and ends with “For as long as I breathe, I love you.”

Coping with the loss

Jim gets through the day by finding things to do to keep his mind occupied and he manages pretty well, he insists. The double recliner in the living room reminds him of their “snuggle spot,” and when night falls the pain comes creeping back in.

“One of the worst things is having to go to bed alone. Several times I have woken up in the middle night dreaming something and I’ll think I’ve got to tell Leoda about that. I’ll sit right up. . . and of course I’ve got an empty bed.”

His meals these days consist of TV dinners and frozen pot pies. “I wish that every husband had to spend at least six weeks by themselves.

They would really come to appreciate how much that lady in their life does in the course of a day. They would never come home and say, “Honey, what’d you do all day,” he says with a
deep laugh.

He has thought about selling their home, where the decor used to change with the seasons (even if Leoda had to sit down and make new curtains to match), and he almost did.

But he can’t. “Not yet.”

“There is so much of her here.

“I was so blessed to have her in my life. There is a hole in my heart that is going to take a long time to heal, if it ever does.”


Glenrock Independent

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