Handsome Husband died Sunday evening at 11:21 Pacific Time. It was a long process for him and much of it wasn’t pretty. In either sound or sight. Death seldom is, is it? Movies and TV keep it fairly clean-not unexpectedly. Who wants to tune into ugliness?
We don’t see, via any type of “entertainment” what cancer does to a body. How it bruises and mis-shapes the body of the man you love. How it bores holes at the base of the spine-a combination (of sorts) of a tumor and a bedsore. And all the dressings in the world won’t disguise the seepage of blood from it. Or the smell.
We don’t see the lymphedema build up in the body, swelling hands and feet to the degree that legs can no longer bend, and fingers seem to hang off a blob of dough. We don’t see the part where the body can no longer support the internal lymphedema and so it sweats its’ way through to the surface, ultimately soaking hospital gown and bedding. Continually. So that gown and bedding, including pillows, must be changed just as continually.
We don’t see the fingernails slowly bluing. Same with toes. Or spots coming to the surface to bloom on hands. Little red spots marching across the knuckles of the man you love.
We don’t see the breath slowly traveling up the body. Gut. Chest. Throat. Finally, mouth breathing. Each breath becoming more and more shallow. Accompanied by a horrific gurgling, gasping sound. Our daughter Rachael-Grace says she’ll never be able to listen to a coffee maker again, without remembering that sound.
I saw my Handsome Husband’s face slowly lose color as each breath became a gasp, with long seconds in between each breath. My breath was held in each time, waiting to see if he would breathe out again. And he did. Until he didn’t. It all happened at once. I watched his chest, watched his throat move to bring a breath up, watched his mouth move, instinctually wanting to inhale.
And then I watched as, within seconds, his entire face drained of color. I’ve read about that phenomena in books. The character’s face drains of color. And I’m here to tell you that such a thing is very possible. It was only seconds, maybe less even than that. As instantaneously as a switch being turned off, the color drained. He went stark white-lips included and believe me, I’ve never seen lips that white without makeup making them so. Ever. No color. None. It was almost frightening. And then he didn’t exhale. Color gone. Husband gone.
11:21 pm, California time. April 21, 2013. A clock, a time, a day, that slams into my heart space and will, I know, be seared into it for some time, as I go through the grieving process.