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Husband's last words still a comfort to her

There is not much romance in this 80-year-old lady's life, but it's a joy to my soul when I think of the three little words, 'I love you.' These were the last words I heard my dying husband speak.

He was quiet, a little shy, but a wonderful companion. Raising four children was a challenge for us, but also a great blessing, especially now as I observe their lives.

My husband encouraged our children to attend college and to live with honesty and integrity. We weren't wealthy, but we were well-provided for. Even though my husband has been gone for 25 years, I still see those provisions he made for me.

I remember the romantic times and the joys we shared. We had a good 35 years of marriage, and it's a thrill to my love-starved heart when I think of the last time I heard him say, 'I love you.'

Marshfield, Mo.

Daughter fondly remembers parents' romance

I was once told by an elderly woman that my parents were the most romantic couple she knew. After that comment, I started to watch my parents closer. I was in my early 40s at the time, and they were in their 80s. I guess I'd never paid attention before.

On Memorial Day that year, while they walked through the cemetery, I noticed how they waited for each other and how they held hands.

On Mother's Day, my father presented Mother with a bouquet of flowers that he'd taken the time and effort to pick. He was especially careful to make sure he had plenty of blue ones, knowing blue was her favorite color.

At our family's Fourth of July celebration, I noticed how they sat next to each other when we all sat down to eat. Mother made sure she saved a chair for him.

That Christmas, Dad asked me to go to the jewelry store with him. Both of my parents lived through the Great Depression, and jewelry of any kind was a luxury item. Mother's wedding ring had long gone by the wayside.

Dad had picked out a lovely wedding band and wanted my opinion before he surprised her with it. Thankfully, all four of their grown children got to share their special moment when Dad gave Mother her new ring.

Years later when I watched Mother at Dad's bedside, and she relayed to him all the wonderful things he had done for us, I couldn't help but remember all the romantic, loving times I had observed. There was a peace over all of us when Mother told him, 'God be with you till we meet again.' At that moment, Dad peacefully slipped away.

When Mother's time came three years later, we knew she was very sick and out of her head due to lack of oxygen. She turned to me one day and said, 'You know what day tomorrow is?' I was sure she wouldn't know, but she told me the date, then added, 'It's my anniversary.'

I looked at the calendar and realized she was right.

'He came to me and is waiting. That's how I know,' she said, referring to Dad.

At that moment, I called to my brothers and sister and told them, 'Mom is dying tomorrow on her anniversary.' And she did.

If you ask me, that is true romance.

Deep River, Iowa

Sincere gestures are romantic

The general consensus seems to be that romance is for the young. I disagree.

When I'm at the stove frying chicken and my husband comes into the kitchen, slides his arm around my shoulder and plants a soulful kiss on my flour-smudged cheek, that's romance.

When I've been cleaning the house all day and my husband comes in and takes the vacuum cleaner from me and says, 'You take a break. I'll finish this,' that's romance to this 40-year-old woman.

Once when I got a new dress, I waited to see if he would notice. He said, 'Honey, you're looking awfully pretty today. Is that a new dress?' That's romantic.

One day he came in from the field when I was about to go to town, and he found that the car had a flat tire. He told me he'd take care of it. Is that not romance?

Nothing will ever convince me that I don't have the most romantic husband in the world.

Scottsdale, Ariz.

Most Memorable Mother's Day

What is your most memorable Mother's Day and why? Maybe it was the year you were 8 and made your mother a special gift - something she swore she would never forget. For all you moms out there, maybe it was the year your kids went together and bought or made you a special gift.

Was it a year or two after the kids were grown and out on their own, and decided to surprise you by coming home for your special day? Could it have been the year your husband gave you a nice gift because the kids were too young to make anything for you?

Tell us about your most memorable Mother's Day. Send your letters (and photos) by March 12 to CAPPER'S, Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

Warm your family's hearts with comfort food

No matter what the latest taste trend or hot new celebrity-endorsed recipe, you can always count on a few classic home-style standards to make a comeback around this time every year. Typically known as 'comfort foods' for their ability to soothe and warm the soul, these familiar dishes not only taste delicious, but also make us feel warm and fuzzy all over - and are especially welcoming during the chill of the colder months.

Slow Cooker Savory Pot Roast

This savory dish warms the heart and soul, as well as the body.

3 pounds bottom round beef roast
1 pouch reduced-sodium onion soup and dip mix
1 jar (12 oz.) home-style beef gravy
2 beef bouillon cubes or 2 teaspoons beef granules
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
2 cups water
3 cups mixed vegetables, such as sliced carrots, cut green beans, diced red potatoes, peas and sliced celery

In a large skillet sprayed with nonstick spray, brown roast over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Combine soup mix, gravy, bouillon and diced tomatoes in a 5-quart slow cooker. Add water and stir well. Add roast and turn gently until well coated. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8 to 10 hours, turning roast occasionally.

Add mixed vegetables during the last 2 hours of cooking time, stirring occasionally. When vegetables are tender, remove roast and slice or shred as desired. Serve with vegetables and sauce. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Beef Stroganoff

This hearty meal only takes minutes to prepare.

1 pound sirloin steak (cut into thin strips) or 1 pound lean ground beef
2 cups (8 ounces) sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, sliced
¼ cup margarine or butter
Flour to thicken, optional
1 cup water
1 tablespoon beef-flavored granules or 3 bouillon cubes
½ cup sour cream
1 package (8 oz.) wide egg noodles, prepared according to package directions
Chopped parsley, optional

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook and stir steak, mushrooms and onion in margarine until steak is browned and vegetables are tender. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour to thicken, if desired; cook and stir for 1 minute.

Add water and bouillon; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in sour cream; heat through, but do not boil. Serve over hot noodles. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Shepherd's Pie

This traditional favorite is a meal in itself, and it's one your family is sure to love.

1 pound lean ground beef
1 jar (12 oz.) home-style beef gravy
1 package (10 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups prepared mashed potatoes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef until well-browned and thoroughly cooked through. Carefully drain fat and return beef to skillet on stovetop.

Stir in gravy and vegetables; bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.

While beef mixture is still in the skillet, spoon on the prepared mashed potatoes, forming 8 mounds. Sprinkle cheese over potatoes.

Continue to simmer mixture until potatoes are hot and cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Yields 4 to 6 servings.

Together with God:

If you have any doubts about what romance really is, you need only to spend 10 minutes with my brother Steve to understand. To him, romance is passion, the presence of love forcing a passionate response that cannot be contained. When he was in high school, Steve built shelves inside a large box, then wrapped the entire inside with colorful wrapping paper. He set small gifts on each of the shelves, closed the lid with a huge bow, and gave it to his girlfriend. That's romantic.

Wanting to give happiness to the person you love - and the way you present it - creates a romantic atmosphere. Candles, soft music, a quaint restaurant or a cozy corner by the fire, the setting is very important, but the sentiment is the same every time. Romance is the expression of a particular kind of love.

While women crave it, some men fear it, mostly because they fear they can't compare to the heroes in movies. That's just dream romance, though. It's not real. Even the average Joe can be romantic. Remember, she already thinks you're better than fudge brownies, so just relax and tell her how wonderful she is. Showing love to one another is the real passion of life. Give a hug and expand your heart muscles.

Father, thank You for all the love You give us and all the love You placed in us to give to others. Help us when we stumble over the words to remember that opening our hearts is as easy as allowing love to grow. Thank You for each new day we have to tell - and show - someone we love them. Amen.

- D. Susan Rutz

A letter from Kate:

I have always been a romantic. I don't like saying I'm a hopeless romantic, because I don't believe romance is hopeless. I prefer to be called an incurable romantic, because I will be a romantic until the day I die.

One of the sweetest romances I've ever observed was that of my parents. They were married for almost 62 years.

I had always loved hearing my mom tell about her courtship with Dad. It was one of those wartime romances: boy meets girl, boy joins the Army, girl follows boy to California where they are married, girl follows boy around from base to base until war breaks out and boy and girl are separated for two years while he's overseas.

My parents did their share of holding hands, kissing and saying 'I love you.' They were comfortable with each other, and their actions spoke of their love. They didn't just say 'I love you,' they lived it.

When my dad's health started to fail, my mom did her best to take care of him. As his wife, she felt like it was her responsibility. It wasn't until her health started to fail that she realized she would have to relinquish Dad's care to someone else.

As he lay dying, Mom cried and prayed over him, and it was her hand he was holding when he died.

I can only imagine how deep their love ran. It was an honor to not only witness their lifelong commitment to each other, but to be a product of it.

Kate Marchbanks