From the Depths of my Soul~

 

My dearest love, my beloved husband.  D.

It’s 4 years since you and I drove to the ER at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs.  It is now 4 years since you and I began our final Happily Homeless travels, travels that began on a sunny May day in NJ in 2009, as you got into the UHaul truck with the few of our belongings that we’d kept after the sale of our home, and I got in our car, having just signed the papers and closed on our house, and we headed west to drop those few things into a storage unit in Indiana and visit with your mom for a few days.

And then we headed south and west and our adventures began.

We had our last 4 years together traveling the USA, hiking trails, climbing to the highest heights, discovering history at our National Parks, visiting family and friends, gazing upon views I only ever thought to see in books.  I pushed boundaries I never thought to push, and we fell more in Love each and every day, rejoicing in the times it was just us, far away from responsibility and distractions.  Just us.

Life and reality hit hard with your first cancer and shocked us and horrified us through all the surgeries you had to endure, but endure you did…we did…and we didn’t let it stop us.  You came through it and we continued on.  You were a cancer survivor.  I’d never met a cancer survivor before.  The big C was a disease that had already taken so many from me, and I cried when I realized you…my beloved husband…you were the one I got to keep.

Until this time 4 years ago, when I took you to the ER, your breath raspy, your body doubled over in pain, your face creased as it had never been before as you struggled to maintain some sense of self.  For the first time, though, you couldn’t hide it.  You couldn’t reassure me any longer.  I knew the truth of what was in front of us even before you did.

These 4 years of widowhood, my emotions wouldn’t allow me to write to you.  I haven’t been able to speak to you.  All I’ve been capable of saying, as I’d look up at a night sky glittering with stars, out on my own travels across the USA, is…I love you.  Find me.  I don’t know where you are.  You find me.

I still can’t speak to you, but I need to write to you.  I need to force my fingers to type words to you.  I need to vomit words of pain and grief that you, my beloved, are gone from me.  Have been gone from me for almost 4 years now.  Speak to you of my anguish and horror as I watched the cancer decimate your strong body, watched the drugs muddle your mind even though we tried as hard as we could to minimize those drugs, wanting you to be as present as possible.  You were insistent on that and I wanted to honor your wishes even as it added difficulties into a confusing time.

There are those who say that power shouldn’t be given to memories such as pour from my heart and mind and soul; memories that deepen grief and pain and loss, but I disagree.  The very few weeks we spent, 4 years ago now, as test upon test occurred, as I watched you lay in a hospital bed, as our kids gathered, as you and I found tumors exploding in every limb of your ailing body, as doctors spoke to us of cutting edge treatments that sounded impossible to me, because I knew…I knew…on that very first night in the hospital, your time on this earth was so limited that there was no time no time, to even attempt such treatments.  I watched as if outside my body as I spoke to the social worker, begging him to tell me how to tell you that we had no time.  How do I tell my husband, this man who is my life, that it is time for us to find a hospice, that we must prepare as best we can for the impossible and unbearable time of his death?  How do I tell him that there is no time for treatment without him thinking that I want him to die?

And then going into your room and telling you that I will do anything you want to do I will make it happen I have your back but I don’t think we have time and I think we need to find hospice. 

Gazing at your face, D, in those moments, as I stifled my sobs through the words I had to speak to you…the look on your face is sealed into my being forever.  A few very quiet ticks of the clock passed and then you took my hands in yours and you said okay.  And I sobbed more, and we spoke of the magnitude of this, and we began to realize that we were saying goodbye to us, and you said how you would miss us more than anything else in your world.

You signing the papers that would admit you into hospice, the ambulance ride, the 3 weeks of multiple hearts breaking as the cancer gnawed at your body and ate huge chunks of who you were, you staring into the mirror, a look of confusion in your eyes, striving to recognize the narrowed face and sharp nose of cancer staring back at you and me taking your face in my hands, gazing directly into your eyes and saying you have been my hero you will always be my hero…god, every fucking moment of horror and drugs and breathing machines and treatments and doing slow jogs through the family gardens to work off my shock and anger and despair and every other goddamn physical emotion roaring through my own body…and returning to your room and your side to offer you all the Love that was in my body and soul, all the Love that you’d given so freely and willingly to me in our 24 years together, your vow of Love that you spoke, the vows of Love that I spoke, on our wedding day that we lived and honored and grew, every day that we had together and apart.

How can I not honor and remember our final days as we stumbled through the halls of hospice and spoke words to one another that I can’t remember?  How can I not honor every painful and loving and sacred moment of those moments that lasted for 3 weeks and for eternity all at the same time?

These almost 4 years later I remember, and I honor those days and I honor you and me and us.

“I remember the night.  I remember the sound.  I remember the light, when the moon came ‘round.  The night flowers bloomed, the air so sweet.  I remember you. I remember me. “ (Sara Watkins)

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What Meds Don’t Do~

Here’s what I now know about medications and grief.  This isn’t all personal experience, at least as far as allopathic medications are concerned; this is what I’ve gathered from other widow/ers.  I speak only of the herbs/homeopathic remedies that I’ve employed to help me with my grief.

This St John’s Wort, widely used in Europe as a mood elevator, works for me in that it almost immediately dropped a gossamer veil between me and my grief.  I picture my grief now as the filter used in old-time movies to soften the features of the actors and actresses.  I know my grief is there but there is very clearly something keeping me from fully absorbing it.  And that is indeed the purpose of St John’s Wort so…mission accomplished on that.

What it doesn’t do is take away or remove everything else that companions the meat-cutter of grief.  There is no filter on the shattering loneliness.  The lost feelings of being someone’s someone.  The steady thrum of starvation from the lack of touch by the man I love.  The empty silence where all the words I want to speak fall not on deaf ears but no ears.  The shuddering absence of the energy that shimmered and shifted next to me through the years.  The hole in my soul.

I don’t believe that there is any medication or herb in the world that changes these realities.

Yes, I can find a group of people with whom to discuss issues.  And I do talk with people constantly in the course of my day. And my kids and friends call, and they give me hugs and I’m so thankful for that. And yes, I have grand-kids and I love them all dearly. And none of that makes up for/replaces what I had with Handsome Husband.

I crave his touch and my body starves, knowing I’ll never feel his hands on me again. I wonder how it would feel to have another man’s hands on me, feel another man’s arms around me, dance with another man, even as I realize it is my husband I desire, not just any man.  And I know that even if I invite another man into my life someday, Handsome Husband will always be my husband even should I fall in love (which I hope to do).  I’ll always be his widow because he was my husband and there is some strange beauty in that in this fucking weird new world without him.

These thoughts spin round and round in my heart these days and, contrary to how I appear, I’m really very confused.  Which is, I know, pretty well reflected in this particular piece of writing.

Really, all I know is that I miss my husband.  I miss Chuck.  I miss him in ways that can only be imagined in the nightmares that come in the deepest, darkest hours of sleep that waken you sweating and screaming and breathless with adrenalin.

Beat, thrum, throb, cut, slice goes my heart…

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Sludge-Pit~

I haven’t been completely honest with you.  For various reasons, many of which are laudable.  Here’s the thing. As I’ve trudged my way through this grief, as I continue to do so, I’ve kept in mind that a key component to keeping this grief from becoming toxic is honesty.  I’m not anything special with my grief-I just choose to write about it and you choose to read about it.  You respond or not, you like it or not, and from the numbers of emails I receive, you learn from it.  Some of you get angry about my honesty (hi, Amy Rogers!) and you think, merely because I’m honest about my lack of enthusiasm for life as a result of my grief, that I ought to just go kill myself.  (hi, Amy Rogers!)

Writing honestly can be a chancy thing.  Writing about emotions can be a tight-rope balancing act.  I don’t aim to hurt anyone, or “diss” anyone, but I do want to be honest about what can happen in the midst of grief.   *maybe I need to have a continual stream of disclaimers to accompany my words*

Anyhoo.  I’m getting off topic.

My grief went toxic this past year.  Not because I’m feeling it so strongly.  Nor is it because I’m doing a Retrospective of last year, re-living the moments Handsome Husband was in hospice.  It became toxic because I allowed a bunch of elephants to tap dance in the room and didn’t address them. I held it inside instead of writing it out, which is how I process life and emotions.  Words eat me up if I don’t write them down.

Here’s the thing.  I wrote a blog (which I re-read last night) a few months after my husband died about his decision to make his daughter his medical advocate and the conversation we’d have had if I questioned him about it.  I read several of my blogs last night and was reminded of the conversation he’d had with me just the day before she told me about his decision, in which he’d extracted a promise from me to remind him as needed about staying ahead of the pain, speaking to me with full confidence, knowing I had his back.  Now, yes, I second guess the decision that I made at the time in choosing not to question him about the medical advocacy.  Its done and gone now, I know that.  But I wonder how it would have played out, had I.

My entire focus, the very reason I lived, while he was in hospice, was to create an atmosphere of love for him.  Surround him and immerse him with all the love he’d given to me, to all of us.  I breathed that intention day and night and in between.

What toxified in me in this past year, what sent me to the floor early on with a major panic attack, sweat pouring off of me and breath suspended, was being told that all of that was for naught because so much of what I’d done for and with him had agitated him.  One of the hospice nurses, whom Handsome Husband loved, whom I’d trusted, apparently had many discussions with his daughter wherein he accused me of causing no end of agitation to my husband.   Mind you, he didn’t talk to me, who could have done something about it.  He didn’t, apparently, bring it up at staff meetings so that I could be supported and counseled by the staff.  He spoke to my step-daughter and I found this out from her only months later. At which point I sent for my husband’s records to verify these things and there is absolutely nothing of his accusations in the file. Nothing.  To the contrary, my and Handsome Husband’s positive and loving interactions were remarked upon and noted in the records.

The following are things I apparently did that were agitating my husband. I either wasn’t doing something that needed to be done, or what I was actively doing was upsetting him:

I was hysterical and should have been removed from my husband’s room. (I’m uncertain if this is how I was continually, or intermittently).  The only time I can think of that I was visibly upset and crying was when the nurse was instructing me how to change the tubing from the stationary oxygen tank to the mobile  one.  Tubes and dials were involved, all essential to my husband’s breathing abilities.  The reality of the reason for the oxygen tank hit me and it was too much for me and I freaked.  Yes, Handsome Husband was upset.  Not with me but for me.  I sat on his bed and he and I and the nurse talked it out.  The next day I learned how to do it and that was the end of it.  (oh, yes, I also cried quietly when he and I said goodbye and a few other times.  I’ll own up to that).

I didn’t want to spend money on new clothes for him.  (The edema, and resulting swelling, was so severe that almost daily, he needed the  next size up of clothes.  I shopped for him, so did our daughter, and I know his friend Mike got a few things).  Seriously.  I loved this man beyond distraction and I refused to buy spend money on him?

He never had clean clothes because nobody took care of his laundry (our daughter Rachael collected his laundry daily and did it and returned it to hospice.  He always had clean clothes).

The music I played for him agitated him.  (I played music for him that we’d danced to over the years, and music that we drove to in our travel years).  I’d also play it in the background when he and I would reminisce.

He was agitated when I said “our kids” and “Chuck’s daughter” in front of him.  Something he and I had both done for all of our 24 years.  (Only because “our” 3 were raised in our home and he was the only dad they had, and his daughter was raised by her mom).

I hadn’t advocated for him while he was in the hospital and they gave him too much medication (in an effort to control the pain).  So he didn’t trust me. Which is why he wanted her to be his medical advocate.

I’m not devastated by the things that were said, now that I have the clarity of time.  What does devastate me is that Handsome Husband believed these things to be true (if the nurse was correct, and I question that now) but nobody reassured him and nobody spoke to me so that I could reassure him.  That does disturb me greatly because it was un-necessary and I hate that my husband was emotionally in pain and nobody eased his mind.  It was uncaring to the extreme to allow such mental and emotional torture in a man who was dying.

None of it matters any longer but it has been a huge part of my struggle in the last year.  My attempts to contact the nurse in question resulted in a dead-end.  It was a volatile time and there are no answers for any of my questions.   And I know that I need to let it go and I am.

Words, both spoken and written, can get lost in translation.  Second-guessing is an exercise in futility.  But I do indeed wonder, by choosing to not clarify that very first change of medical advocacy bombshell with my husband while in hospice- did that create such a space for the misunderstanding and unknowing-ness of this nurse that it opened the door for the later accusations that so colored my grief?   Why didn’t the nurse return my phone call?  I only found these things out from my step-daughter, after his death.  What was going on that he was so unprofessional in speaking freely and negatively about me to my step-daughter but he never said a word to me and didn’t address such concerns to the staff at weekly team meetings?   I know I wasn’t thinking clearly or it would have registered, in a very non-emotional way, that, if my husband said those things, he was either high on drugs or in extreme pain.  There was no middle ground for him when he was in hospice.  So, I agonize that, because I stepped back and accepted these things as truth, did he feel abandoned by me and wonder why?  I knew at the time that it was completely contrary to who he was and what we’d agreed upon between us, but I didn’t want to cause him further agitation by addressing it.  He was dying, for god’s sake.

These thoughts have been a sludge pit of the worst kind.

He’s out of pain.  He knew how much I loved him.   And I need to let it rest.
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It’s in the Numbers~

Handsome Husband  loved numbers.  He would compile our miles traveled, tally up the military bases and hotels  we’d stayed,  the National Monuments visited-he loved those numbers.  Me, not so much.  My tally of anything is vague, mainly because I get more satisfaction with the pictures those numbers represent.

Except.

We stayed in Arizona for 3 months last winter.  He started getting noticeably sick.

It took us 1 month to travel from Arizona to southern California.  During that time we hiked twice.  At Red Rocks National Park, outside Vegas, we hiked 1 mile back into the rocks to view the petroglyphs. It went okay but he was tired.  We also walked around Manzanar Relocation camp, in California.  We’d come upon it unexpectedly and I’d always wanted to visit there.  So we did.  He was okay for that, though he was getting very thin.

At Death Valley, we hiked 1 mile back to Natural Bridge Canyon.  We met some other hikers and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Handsome Husband hiked an hour’s hike up Dante’s Ridge at Death Valley.  He was thrilled.  Excited to be there.  I stayed down below and, in a moment of creativity, decorated my side of the car with flower stickers across the dashboard.

We danced for maybe 4 minutes alongside the road in Death Valley on our last night there, as we drove back to Furnace Creek Ranch.  To Chicago’s “You’re My Inspiration”.   He wasn’t sure he had the strength for it.   He did.  It was magical.  I loved his arms around me.  It was our last dance.

We stayed at 3 military bases between Arizona and Cathedral City, California.   When we arrived at the Marine lodging, we parked under the overhang so he could check in for us.   He had to step off to the side of the building where there were some bushes so that he could throw up.  The pain was that bad.  We thought it was the die-off from the systemic fungal infection.  It makes me want to throw up, remembering back.   Knowing how much he concealed from me.  I knew most of it, but not the degree.   And I want to rage against my frustration at the not-knowing.  How could I not know?  Except that he didn’t want me to know.  He didn’t want to acknowledge the severity even to himself.

There were 14 steps up to our condo in Cathedral City.  He was able to carry a pillow and our camera up those steps.  Separately.  I struggled to carry everything else.  He felt so helpless watching me.  He apologized continually.  I hugged him and said it didn’t matter.  It was okay.  We’re a team.

He made 4 trips to the Yay Institute 3 hours away, seeking treatment for what we thought was his systemic fungal infection.  On the first visit, after reading the computer readout, Dr Yay told him he was a very sick man.  But no x-rays were taken that would have revealed the solid tumor of his left lung.

He made 5 trips to the chiropractor we found in Cathedral City, for what we thought was a pinched nerve.  The chiropractor told him the left side of his back had seized up into a solid block.  We now know that was the fucking tumor.

We made 1 trip to the Eisenhower Medical Center ER in Rancho Mirage.  He had 1 tumor in his left lung that completely destroyed said lung.  He had a smaller tumor in his right lung that collapsed the bottom 1/3 of that lung, rendering it ineffective.

He had 1 huge tumor in his pelvis that blocked his bowels and caused horrible pain.

He had 2 very large tumors externally on the inside of his thighs.

The tumors that destroyed the rest of his body were uncountable.

He died on April 21 in the year 2013.  At 11:21 pm.

I’ve traveled almost 3000 miles since he died.

It’s been 4 months since he died.  That’s longer than we were at the condo in Cathedral City where he died.  Yes, he died.  He didn’t pass.  He didn’t cross over.  He died.  Those words are important to me.  They make it what it is and doesn’t gentle it up.

Numbers.   He would have tallied everything exactly.  I’m working with rough numbers through all of these specs.

What I know definitively is that my 1 life was forever changed by loving him, and being loved by him, for 24 years.  23 of those years we were married.  The full 24 years were years of passion and happiness for both of us.

What cannot be numbered are the times my 1 heart has shattered and shredded and died, only to start beating again so that it can repeat the process, each beat of that heart relentlessly pounding out my new dance  rhythm.  Gone. Gone. Gone.  IMG_0056

Slap. And Slap Again~

It’s a slap in the face each morning and unceasingly throughout the day when I allow consciousness to be present. (whenever the auto pilot shuts down).  Handsome Husband is gone from my life.  Forever.  I’ll never see him again.  Ever.  We had 24 years of togetherness, 23 of those years married.  It’s over, done, gone.

I can console myself with the idea that I’ll see him again someday when I die, and maybe I will.  I don’t know.  Perhaps some essence of his spirit will greet me at the end.  Who knows?  Most of that type of thought is mere consolation for the living, I suspect.  I’ve read numerous books about end of life, seeing the light, other life experiences and I want to believe such things as much as anyone and possibly a part of me does believe it, but ultimately, who knows?  Each person has their own experience in death same as in life.

He’s in a better place, God needed another angel, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, blah, blah, blah.  So much noise.  I personally don’t believe God (in whatever way God is expressed by anyone), had anything to do with this.  The fact is, Handsome Husband got cancer again and it killed him.  Environmental factors, genetics, whatever.  It killed him and it didn’t kill him in a pretty way. He and I had spoken about end of life numerous times, and I know, had the choice of assistance in dying been available to him, he would have chosen it.  We’d spoken about the possibility of Alzheimer’s most frequently and he told me that if he got it, right before his own consciousness disappeared, while he was still able, he would leave.  Find a mountaintop and die there.  He didn’t want to suffer, or make his loved ones suffer, the nightmare.  The way he died with this fucking cancer wasn’t something he would have chosen either.  In the few days prior to his death, I thought about asking the medical staff if there was something that he could take to hasten his death.  The feedback was that he needed to see it through and there were emotional things etc blah, blah, blah that needed to happen.  So much noise.  I knew what his choice would have been.  Why don’t we allow people who are dying, with no hope of living any longer, to make their choices?

Death is a slap in the face in every way.  Grasping the finality of it is, I think, impossible for the human mind.  I’ve been driving each day on new roads, with Indiana as my goal, to pay my respects to his mom. New Mexico to Indiana.  A long trip.  His sister is with me and that makes it the tiniest bit manageable emotionally. But, honestly, every minute of every day sucks and is painful to me because he isn’t with me.  I don’t feel his spirit, or his energy, or any part of him.  He’s gone and I just need to deal with the fact that he will never sit next to me in our car again.  He’ll never touch me again or hold me in his strength again.

Death is a ripping away of one’s reality and it takes whatever time it takes to adjust to that starkness.  I hope I see my beloved husband again someday.  I hope that desperately, because this life without him is without meaning.  I’ll make meaning out of it eventually because that’s who I am and what I must do in order to have my own meaningful life.  I’m trying to think beyond this and do everything that I’m supposed to do.  I’ll create a life for myself because that is what I must do, out of his love for me and mine for him, if nothing else.

But there is nothing good about this, the same as there was nothing good about his death. It is black and  pain and empty and overwhelming and well, yes, it sucks the big one in every way.

There you have it.  My opinion on death and dying and living beyond the death of someone who was integral to my life.  You’re welcome.

Now, please.  Find something that will brighten your day, beyond this darkness.

The Conversation That Wasn’t~

An if he were alive conversation (a heated one), Handsome Husband and I would be having, upon me finding out he’d told his daughter, who is a lovely person but not his wife and this isn’t what we’d agreed upon numerous times, that he wanted her to be his medical advocate.  (Which, by the way, was never put in writing.)

Me:  What?

Him:  I just wanted to protect you.

Me:  Protect me from what?

Him:  I know you’re tired.  I’ve been dealing with so many health issues since my first cancer.  You’re tired of dealing with me dealing with all these issues.

Me:  What?

Him:  You’ve said so many times how you don’t want to deal with this any more.  How tired you are of talking about vitamins and nutrition and what I can and can’t eat, and cancer and fungal infections.

Me:  Yeah, I am.  So?

Him: The cancer is back.  I’m sick.  It’s going to be nothing but medical decisions from here on out.  I don’t want you to have to do that.

Me: Didn’t we sign papers years ago, after talking about this very thing, that you would do for me and I’d do for you?  Isn’t that what married people do?  Didn’t we talk about this very thing when you went into the hospital?  And when you came into hospice?  Didn’t we agree that I had your back, that I’d make sure you weren’t in pain, that your pain would be managed?

Him:  Yes, we did.

Me: Then what the fuck?

Him: I want to spare you. I want you to not have to worry about the medical stuff.  I want you to be able to just be here with me.

Me: Doesn’t being with you ALSO entail me making sure that you’re okay physically, in spite of the fucking cancer?

Him:  Yes.  And we did agree on it.  And I know you’ll make sure my pain is managed.  I didn’t, I don’t want you to be burdened with any decisions.

Me:  Burdened?  Are you fucking kidding me?  You’re my husband!  You have fucking cancer!  Yes, I’m tired of the whole damn thing!  But that doesn’t mean I’m quitting, for Christ’ sake!  It just means I’m tired of the whole damn thing!  So what?  Aren’t you tired of the whole fucking mess?  Aren’t you tired of our lives being taken over by this damn, fucking, cancer?

Him:  Yes. I’m tired of it all.  I want us back too. Just like you’ve said so many times.  Don’t you think I want our lives back?  But we’re not getting our lives back.  The cancer is back.  I’m in hospice.  I’m going to die. Soon.  And I wanted to spare you this part of it.  The medical part.  So I told my daughter I wanted her to help you.  Not take over.  Or at least that isn’t what I meant.  I meant that she should help you and talk with you if you were uncertain about things.

Me:  What she heard was that she was the one to make medical decisions for you.  I’m not even a part of it.  And that you wanted her to keep it a secret from me.

Him:  That’s not what I meant, clearly.

Me:  Well, not so clearly, evidently.  I’m your wife.  You and I are a team.  We’ve always been a team. I don’t care if I’m tired of the whole fucking thing.  I love you.  And I know you want to protect me, to shelter me from this.  But there is no hiding, no sheltering.  You need to clarify this with her.  Because what I’m feeling is I’m shut out of a major part of your life, and I know you don’t mean that to happen.

Him: Of course I’m not shutting you out.  I just want someone to support you in any decisions to be made, if I’m not able to make them myself.

Me:  Then you need to straighten this shit out, pronto.  Because it isn’t good and it’s not going to be good unless you do.  For my sake and her sake, never mind yours.  I love that you have always protected me, that you love me so much that you don’t want me to feel alone in this.  But seriously, you need to straighten this shit out.

Him: I’ll talk to her.

Me:  And what the hell did you mean when you told her to keep it a secret?

Him:  I didn’t want to make an issue of it.  I wanted her to quietly support you, offer you suggestions if there was something you didn’t understand.  You always tell me how it’s good to have two sets of ears when medical information is involved.  She could be a sounding board for you.

Me:  I get that.  That’s fine.  But that’s not what she heard.  So get that shit clearly stated to her.

Him:  I will.  Right away.

Me:  We’re good then.

Him:  All I know is that I love you more than life itself, more than any other person I’ve ever loved.  I want you with me.  I don’t want to leave you and I know I have to and I’m worried about you.

Me:  I know.  I know.  I know.  This is killing me, losing you. But do something, and do it fast because this is serious shit.

Him:  Come sit with me.  Be with me, next to me.  I love you.  You’ll never know how much I’ve loved you, and love you now.

Me:  I’ve always felt loved by you.  Which is why to get this shit settled now.  We don’t need this coming between us.

* This conversation was never had, except in my mind, in the days prior to his death and afterwards.  I went back and forth with my sister, once I was made aware of this, with friends-how do I handle this?  What did he say, how did he say it and what did she hear?  I didn’t want to further upset him, so I never spoke to him about it. He was on heavy medications, he wasn’t thinking clearly (though he appeared to be at times).  He was dying, for Christ’ sake.  So I never said anything to him out of concern that if he clarified things with his daughter there might very well be unpleasantness, which would lead to more discussion between he and I, and for fuck’s sake, he was dying!  So I sucked it up.  Not in an oh, I’ll just let it lie and be okay with it way but in a my husband is dying and I’ll be double-damned if I spend the last days of his life having these conversations way.

Which has, unfortunately, make a lot more of all of this suck big time, after his death.  I think it’s called complicated grief….

Unanswerable Questions~

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.

Nothin’ but love~521720_4633848285294_1629378181_n