Three MonthsPosted: September 27, 2008
The calendar on the ledge above the coffee pot still says June 27. He tore off the previous day’s page when he got his first cup of coffee that morning. He was dying then, but he didn’t know it. June 27 was the last day he poured coffee in our kitchen and the last day he spent with me in the home we built together.
He had a head full of thick, black, curly hair — only a few strands of gray. He shouldn’t have died.
Right now, I would give anything in this world to have one of his hugs. He was the best hugger in the world. I could sink into him and stay there, and the world would melt away. I fell in love with him after just one hug. That, and his voice. It was deep and strong, yet soothing. I fell asleep many times listening to him during long conversations.
Aortic dissection is a catastrophic thing. His aortic artery ripped and tore apart from throat to groin and he bled and threw clots and vital organs were deprived of oxygen. The doctors said he had a five percent chance without divine intervention, and God didn’t save him.
I had two final seconds with him. He was in surgery and I was two stories up in a crowded waiting room focusing on the bright lights on the ceiling. All of a sudden a serene warmth enfolded me and I felt his presence and I heard his voice, though not out loud, saying urgently, “I’m going, I’m going.” He wanted to be the one to tell me.
A half hour later, his surgeon rushed in to get me. The doctors and nurses had asked me for thirty-something hours if I needed or wanted anything. I finally thought of something. “If my husband isn’t going to make it, I want to see him one last time.” I knew he’d be cremated and I’d never get to see or touch him again. The doctor granted my request. “We’re losing ground,” he said. “Come now.” He ran down the hall and down two flights of service stairs with me trying to keep up. He’d discouraged me at first, saying it was bloody and messy in the OR, and I probably didn’t want to be in there. “Yes,” I said. “I do want to go in there.” He took my hand and led me into the room. It was bright and there were red, yellow, and blue tubes like coiled wire that filled the room and people were standing around in scrubs and my husband was lying there covered in blue with a screen at his head and I decided not to look around, just to look down at the floor. The surgeon led me to a little round stool that I sat on, and he pushed me up to the back of my husband’s head, and I touched his hair and told him he was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Then I walked out of the hospital without him.
People told me I had to build a new life. I was offended. I hated to hear that. I hated them for saying it. I didn’t want to build a new life. The old one was just fine.
Lee Gutkind put it better when he signed a book: “Best wishes for happiness in your new world.”
It is a new world. I’m not happy in it yet — HAPPY is not in my vocabulary any more, it just doesn’t apply to life now, I mean, what is there to be happy about? — but I’m settling into the newness. It has been three months. I play and laugh with the dog, I work, I walk, I ride my bike, I mow the yard, I hang out with friends, I go to meetings and events, I write and edit, I drink a little wine, I’m getting used to the loneliness, the aloneness, the quiet, the void.
Four days ago on my six-in-the-morning walk, I looked up at the sky for the first time in three months. I’ve been looking down, struggling to make my legs move, focusing on getting the right foot forward, then the left. I know more about what aggregate looks like than the workers who lay it. I had forgotten what the lightening Prussian blue sky looked like. It was crisp, the air was cool, and there was a pearl sliver of moon low in the sky. It felt good to look up. It was somehow a turning point.