One year ago at this time, the nightmare of coughing and pain in the lower back and trying to figure out what was going on took us into the hospital and then hospice, as cancer was diagnosed and Handsome Husband and I realized this was the end and time moved faster than it ever did and yet slowed to a crawl.
We (me and our kids) documented every moment of that time, in the words we wrote and in pictures we took Yes, the pictures are incredibly intimate and, both then and now, they can send pain coursing through you. I know that. I knew that at the time. How could they not?
But look closely at the pictures and see the pictures in the words. Do you feel the love that coursed through us as we took those pictures of one another as we took him walkabout through the hospital corridors, or sat with him or tended to him? Yes, death was approaching but the real happening was love and that fairly glowed.
We had friends and family all around the country, texts and phone calls coming in faster than I could respond and my voice mail would fill up and we knew everyone wanted, needed, to be a part of this ongoing final time and I was okay with that. We didn’t hide anything. We weren’t going to hide death. It would have been so easy to do that.
Our culture tells us to be positive and upbeat and look at the bigger picture and be happy. Illness and death are uncomfortable and mostly we like to shuttle all of it into the hospital behind closed doors and once death happens, family members are given a few weeks, maybe a couple of months and then just please get on with it. Most certainly don’t talk about the death, especially while it’s happening. Don’t show me your grief afterwards. Come on, be positive!
When my husband went into the hospital, and then into hospice, yes, it was horrifying, it was ugly in so many ways, it was every word you can imagine and it was beautiful because of the love and we weren’t going to hide it away. It made some people uncomfortable and they didn’t need to look. But it was life and our grief that is still so raw is life and I wanted to shine a light on, well….life.
My heart and my mind are re-living those moments of last year, as are our kids and all who loved him and so yes, I’m sharing again those words and pictures in a retrospective on our face book page. No, it isn’t healing for me to do so. It’s simply the video that is playing in my mind as I go about my day. Many of you lived through that time with us. In the past year as I’ve been on the road on my own, I’ve met hundreds of people and you know the overview of our story but not the intricacies of it and the real beauty of it and not the real-ness of the end of it.
Death is as much a part of life as birth and both are sacred times and I refuse to hide from pain as much as I hope that someday again I’ll seek joy. Every moment of the final travels of me and my husband as Happily Homeless were real-life moments. Each day, on our face book page, I’ll introduce you to our kids, who brought their gifts of love to their dad and to me, and the friends of AA and the military who came across country to have time with him and pay their respects and say goodbye and our kids’ friends who brought love to support us. And you’ll gain more understanding of the intensity of my Odyssey of Love.
That time was worth noting. It is worth noting. Once upon a time Handsome Husband and I had a love story. It continued until his final breath and I still carry it in my heart. His days in hospice were filled not just with cancer and pain but with so much love. I determined to surround him with it, immerse him in it and so fill him with it that it would be bigger and brighter than the cancer and it wasn’t done perfectly but it was done and he felt it.