Starting Over

I knew he was dying.  I just did not expect him to die that day, that Wednesday.  He was supposed to come home on Thursday, yet there I stood next to the hospital bed watching my soul mate struggle through the last few minutes of his life.

I understood what it was like to lose a husband; I watched my first husband die twenty years earlier.  While we all know that life ends, maybe even feel it in our cells, we march through our days as though every moment is expendable like a piece of paper that we crumple and toss in the trash.  We forget moments are irretrievable.  I wish my husband and I had watched less TV.

When he was diagnosed with leukemia, the doctors thought he would live another five or six years, but his cancer cells were smart and became immune to the chemo.  Our hopes dashed, we picked ourselves up, prepared for the next drug, and started over.  The new chemo was less effective than the first.

He became unconscious before the doctor realized the disease had taken an abrupt turn.  I had no chance to say goodbye, but I would not have known how.  Saying “I love you” and saying “Goodbye” feel so different.  One phrase opens a person’s heart; the other closes a door.  Standing there, holding his hand, touching his arm, kissing his forehead, I felt myself letting him go, that sense you have when you set your own clutching emotions aside concerned that your loved one suffer no more.

When my first husband died, I had three months to feel the unwinding in my heart.  When my second husband died, I had thirty minutes.  It was as though my heart was on speed dial to Heaven.

I drove home, found myself walking around the house, shaking my head, and asking myself, “What just happened?”

Over time, I reviewed the previous year in my mind until I found comfort knowing I had done everything possible to help the man I loved – arranged for quality care, encouraged friends and family to visit, listened to his fears about dying, and supported his beliefs about death.  I comforted him when he was in pain, and laughed with him when he needed to smile.

Now, I find myself starting over with a simple understanding: new starts are easier with no regrets.

© 2012 Jeanette Reese

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17 Responses to Starting Over

  1. Jason E. Hansen Sr. says:

    I have many beautiful things to say to both of you. I will never get the chance to tell him, when I was unable to do for myself taking the chance that I would see him again. Now for the woman that had touched my heart during one visit, has been part of my family even before I was born, had the best husband possible, that I highly looked up too. There is so many things that I need to say to you while I still can. But it can’t be summed up in one conversation. I will never know what those exact words will ever say, so i will leave it with this note for now. I love and miss you and hope to see you sooner than later, or should I hope i get to see you again.
    this is not goodbye but, “Hello until next time…………. Thank you for reading………..

    Libby, Mt.

  2. Maddy says:

    Sweet and succinct !

  3. Annette Gilzene says:

    I especially liked the last sentence in this really touching piece about starting over. “….new starts are easier with no regrets.” Dr. C. was a giant with a gentle heart. I am so blessed and honored to have had him in my life for over fifteen years. He was a mentor, a friend, and one of the most caring, kind individuals I have ever known. I am only sorry that I did not get to see him before he died. However, Jeanette, you can rest assured that you are daily in my thoughts and prayers. Great job on this article.

  4. Bill Harris says:

    I am certain Bob was as courageous in passing into the next life as he was in embracing this life. He certainly never let any grass grow under his feet as he moved through this life. Our relationship was one that stayed alive because we made it seem like it was just yesterday that we had seen each other even though it might have been a couple of years. His courage and conviction never gave me doubt that he always said what he meant and meant what he said. He was a real American patriot and a temendous advocate of American entrepreneurism… he had no time for trivial matters but all the time in the world for family and friends. You’ve heard the expression… “boy I’ll bet that will leave a mark!” Well he left his mark on so many of us who knew him well that it will be a long time before he or the marks he left are forgotten.

    • Jeanette says:

      All true. And he was very courageous in passing into the next life as you so eloquently worded it. Something else to write about in my memoir …

  5. Cathy Martinez says:

    each word brings emotion … beautifully written and a beautiful tribute to a beautiful love that you shared. Bless you. cv

  6. Cara LaGreen says:

    Your article is so beautifully written. For people that have lost a husband I am sure it helps and for people that haven’t it makes us realize that we should go hug our husbands tighter rather than nag them about the toilet seat.(though gavin stopped leaving it up a long time ago, after I fell in at 3 in the morning) 🙂 You make this article relatable to anyone. I often wonder how you have survived losing two husbands. I mean one is bad enough let alone two. Its just not fair. But your words in this article today are so inspiring. I bet it was hard but I so thank you for sharing them. It reminds me that we are only here a short time and we need to cherish each moment, enjoy the lady bugs(or lady birds as gavin calls them) and follow our dreams.

  7. Ailyn Timmons says:

    Jeanette, your article is so touching. I felt it really hard! I know how it feels to loose a love one, especially those who are closer to your heart. Just like me when I lost my Mom, until now i still can’t believe that she’s gone! But I know she’s in better place now. Same thing with Bob, He’s in better place now too. It’s too bad we didn’t get the chance to see him and say our goodbyes . We’re so sorry again for your loss. Our prayers and thoughts are with you always. Love Ailyn And Family…

  8. joyce reese says:

    To know Bob was to love him. He just “fit in” everywhere. I DO know what it is like to lose a husband, and there is nothing that makes it lighter……but the memories, of which I have many. I have many memories being with you and Bob, Jeanette. Those kids of his must love you for all you have done! You are such an excellent writer, with such feelings! I love them all. I even love you!

  9. linder says:

    So sorry to hear about your husband. I didn’t know him , but from all I have read he seems to have been a special person.
    Your article was so thoughtful and you were able to express so poignantly your feelings about your love for him and his death.
    I am realizing how tenious life is and since my hubby turned 75 how fleeting the days are that we have together. I try not to get upset about the small unimportant things that happen in our lives …….[like the tiolet seat]
    Thank you for writing your article . It helps people to realize what life and love is all about

  10. William Gall says:

    Life passes so quickly, yet allows each of us time to live, love, and find ourselves. Feeling a connection with family, friends, and God, is the best we can ask for, but being remembered by your husbands family and friends, is the true sign of success.


    William Gall
    Operations Manager
    Turner International Middle East, Qatar

  11. Hanna Hill says:

    Dear Jeanette

    Only yesterday I found your story in the AARP Bulletin. I did not bother with the writer, just started reading. But as soon as I got to the part that you lost your first husband 20 years ago, I knew it was you and then looked at the name of the writer.

    We have not spoken for almost 20 years but, obviously, the calm, reserved way that you told me that your husband was dying left an impression on me. I was younger then, of course, and mortality of a loved one existed in the far distance.

    But now, as both my spouse and I are getting older this idea, of losing each other, sometimes appears very real.

    I just hope that when the time come, that I will be able to handle the last hour, or minutes, with as much love and grace and courage as you have.

    Wishing you to continue to cherish the love and memories that have provided you with the ability to help the rest of us cope with losing a loved one.

  12. Kenda says:

    Thank-you for sharing the most intimate and devastating time of your life…….seeing your most precious love one slip away.
    I am certain when others read your story they to will find strength to go on and start over……….Many Blessings…..

  13. Kenneth Gier says:

    Life, emotions, simple and complex struggles , though i never had a wife or partner die, ifelt i was dead for many years, Most, all women i partnered with didnt stay long, they just didnt understand or maybe i didnt understand, Many years counseling, guidance, and i had so much anger, and one day , ina walmart of all places, walmart i dispise, anyway i met this enchanting lady. she introduced to our father and son. I mean i read the bible from one end to the other, though i thought id fallen for kathleen just alittle fate i began to open up and not blame myself for all my issues come about and walk in my mind a more positive attitude. Gone through two marriages that i killed by slowly choking them . Now ive two boys the’re growin so fast. These guys really turned my life around. Their mother took the house and them away from me , and well after two yrs, i woke up, took her to court got full custody and have been on the road together. I guess id call them my soul mates. With this id say im startingover , stronger will, better insight, tougher moments., better graditude for life, I truly feel for your loses, may you startover stronger may you find happiness again. thanks for listening,

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