I know this is normal. I know that the images that bombard my mind in the early morning hours as I waken won’t always be as prominent. I know that. I get it.
In this month or so immediately after Handsome Husband’s death, there hasn’t been any one particular image that has caused emotional pain. I’ve been more like a chunk of pain-mind, body, spirit. It’s still like that-my entire body is nothing but pain-but moments of his death are suddenly standing out with clarity. Painful remembrances are front and center, in the waking hours, in the daytime hours, and when I try to sleep.
Upon waking, images of him on his deathbed surge into my mind in a rush. Remember the 2004 tsunami and the man on the beach as the massive wave towered over him, ready to consume him and he turned his back to it? Yeah, that pretty much describes my waking up, except there is no turning away because my own personal tsunami is just solidly there.
At what point, I wonder, did Handsome Husband ultimately lose his sense of consciousness and, well, being? As he lay in that bed, was there a final moment for him, looking at me, when he realized “This is the last moment I’ll see this woman”? Did he see me? Somewhere in him, even in the midst of all the drugs that were hopefully keeping the pain and panic at bay, did he quietly say goodbye to me and let me go so that he could divert his energy to dying?
I don’t try to have these thoughts and images. They just are there, without effort. The only effort involved is trying not to have these images and thoughts, because they are torturous. Did I say goodbye to him? Did I hold his hand and tell him it’s alright, I’m here with you til the end? I don’t remember. I know I told him I’d miss him. And I thanked him for being in my life all our years together and for loving me so well, and making my life joyful and that I’d always love him and I’d always remember him. I know I kissed him endlessly, saying goodbye without words, kissing him because I knew I wouldn’t be able to kiss him at all soon. He and I said our goodbyes with words spoken and not. He would miss us, he told me. He loved me so much he said. He had loved our life together, I meant everything to him. He loved our kids, he loved them desperately, but he loved me more than anything else because we’d shared our lives together since the kids left and I was his wife and he was my husband and he loved our life and he loved us.
What did he see, lying there in that bed? Did he look out the window one last time and see the mountains in the distance? Or were the drugs so powerful that he saw nothing? When did the man I love leave and the body that held his spirit continue for those final hours?
Our daughter Rachael-Grace read to him from “The Next Place” and he spoke to me right as she began. I remember that, telling me that he remembered me reading that to him earlier and that he loved “that book”. But I don’t remember if he was still there through all of the book. Maybe he left then, with the lovely images of what was in front of him and our love encircling him.
Front and center in my mind lately, as I waken, or throughout my day when I’m keeping busy and distracted because that’s what I’m supposed to do, is the image, with sound, of his breathing, as it traveled from his diaphragm to his chest to his throat to his mouth, growing shorter and more gaspy as it rose. I struggle not to remember the horror of watching this man who was my life, lose his life to suffocation. He was medicated, thank every god who ever existed in every religion. The dilaudid pump delivered pain relief to him every 1/2 hour and within that 1/2 hour, I gave an extra pump every 15 minutes. It was needed, I know. Pain and panic at not being able to breathe needed to be averted at every cost. I know, too, that it was that medication, that was making it easier for him throughout, that eventually stopped his strong heart.
Without taking his pulse, without knowing about respirations and timing and all that, without putting my hand to his heart to know, I knew his last breath. I knew it because I sensed his last breath. I knew because I had listened to his breathing for the last 24 years, as we walked together, as we made love, as we slept together, as we climbed mountains together, as he breathed for me and with me through difficult times. And, as soon as he took that last breath, not even one second after, he went white in a way that I’d never seen a human go white. Every part of his face went sheet white, including his lips. No more left. Gone.
At what point did this glorious, life-loving, chillaxin’, manwholovedme, leave? What was he seeing when he left? What was he feeling?
I hope what he saw, what he felt, even in a drug-induced oblivion, was what I set out to surround him with from the day I took him into the ER, there in Cathedral City, California. What I determined to do no matter what else was going on anywhere else, what he gave so much of, to me, to everyone in his life, what he deserved to receive, no holds barred.