Home and Work

My daughter-in-law put it perfectly, in describing how she feels about my son. “He feels like home.” There’s an ease, a peace, a comfort, a closeness, a feeling of security, a friendship that lets you relax and be yourself. I understood what she meant because I had that with my husband, too. Never in all my years had I felt so comfortable with anyone. Never in all my years had there been anyone so dependable, someone I could trust my life to.

I have known good people all my life. Never have I known anyone as genuinely good as he. He became someone I admired, looked up to, wanted to be like. He became a role model for my sons — someone they wanted to emulate, to do business like.

I worked with him for twelve years in his computer networking and service company. I knew how he handled customers. I knew the brilliance, combined with an electrical engineering background, that allowed him to make anything work, to understand the big picture, to, when a network went down, be able to walk on site and in a very short time execute basic problem solving skills and locate the source of the breakdown and either fix it or call those responsible for the failed part. I don’t think his customers were ever without a network for more than a day, or a part of a day — even when one burned to the ground and when one was struck by lightning. He kept boxes of old computer parts, he kept an inventory, he kept components he could pull out and use permanently or temporarily to keep a customer up and running. He was there in an emergency. He was dependable. He was “home” to his customers, too. His four rules for life, which he told me right after I first met him, were “Show up, be on time, be fair, play by the rules.”

He was “home” to me. Two weeks ago today, I lost “home.”

I Was Right

I was right and now he knows it. I’ve always believed our loved ones can communicate to us from the other side and do so sometimes shortly after their passing. I’ve heard of it happening to people who are sane and solid. My sister, for example. When she was in college and doing her practice teaching, she stayed in the home of an old woman. One night she woke up and saw an old man in a rocking chair next to her bed, a pipe in his mouth. He looked at her, she looked at him, then she went back to sleep. A few weeks later the woman was going through the dresser in that bedroom and pulled out a pipe. This was my husband’s, she said. This was his room.

Then it happened to me. My next door neighbor died. His wife called me at 2 a.m. and I took the 9-1-1 call, attempted CPR, and drove his wife to the hospital for the pronouncement. He was my father’s age, had a daughter my age, had become almost like a father to me, and wouldn’t want me feeling the trauma over doing CPR and losing him anyway. Every night for a while at about the same time as his death, I’d be awakened by what felt like someone sitting down on my bed. I’d sit straight up. It wasn’t the dog. I didn’t see anyone. There was no explanation. I realized it was Hap. One night he told me to make sure his wife sent a graduation card to his granddaughter in Virginia. I felt like a fool, but I asked her if the girl was graduating and if she had sent a card. She thought it strange, but let me know she had mailed the card that day.

When I’d tell my husband about these things, he’d shake his head and roll his eyes. He’d also advise me not to tell anyone else, lest they’d think I was off my rocker. He was such a believer in logic.

Now he knows I am right. As he was passing and I was waiting in a different area of the hospital, I looked up at the lights on the ceiling and felt a warmth wrap around me. I’m going, he said. I’m going. I didn’t hear his voice, but I got the message. I had been shaking violently all over, all day. My son commented that I stopped. I’d told the surgeon I wanted to be there with my husband at the end; I wanted to see him one more time. The doctor rushed into the room and told me to come with him. We’re losing ground, he said. He ran down three flights of service stairs — paying no mind to the fact that I am 50-something and not in as good shape as he. He took my hand and led me into the OR, sat me down on a stool and pushed me up to the back of my husband’s head, where I was able to say some parting words, knowing my husband’s spirit was lingering there, and give one last kiss.

In the days since his death, I have felt him comfort me. In moments of deep grief and sobs, I have felt the pain lift and calm come. In agony over business decisions and how to handle this or that, I have heard him say, Don’t worry, do it this way, and it will work. I have felt him present and answering in the “big picture” judgments he always thought I couldn’t see.

And so in the end, not that it matters one bit, I get to say I was right.

Life and Not and Lilies

The house is quiet now. The kids have gone home — son, daughter-in-law, son, girlfriend. I couldn’t have made it without them the past week.

Besides silence, the house is filled with the sweet, sweet scent of lilies. I must do something about that before it overwhelms me.

I thought my husband had a stomach virus — or maybe salmonella — and went out for saltines and ginger ale. But that wasn’t it, and after teams of doctors and surgeons in two hospitals worked to save his life over a 39-hour period, he died one week ago of an aortic dissection, a catastrophic event.

And so…