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