I start a new job tomorrow and I’m part terrified and part excited. It’s quite a change from my prior job, which is a good thing all around, but it’s still something completely unknown and new which can be a little intimidating. A part of me is scared I’m going to have a hard time handling everything while still mired in a grief that leaves me in tears at random times and in a black hole of despair at others. But then maybe it will be a good thing to have some purpose and structure in my day and tasks to accomplish. Not that I haven’t stayed busy but it’s been a lonely and somewhat shiftless kind of busy. Maybe this job is just what I need to find new hope in life. For tonight I’m just going to enjoy the peace and quiet and forget that a tomorrow exists.
I feel as if my life has been divided into two time periods: Before Brian’s death and After Brian’s death. Everything is still so fresh, including the pain, that it’s hard to imagine a time when I’ll be okay. I feel so not okay. I feel like a vase that has been thrown on the floor and is now in a million tiny pieces. A lot of the time I feel broken and worthless and alone.
One of the projects I’ve been working on to keep myself busy is beautifying my porch. Brian and I spent countless hours out there, him in particular since it was one of his favorite smoking spots, and I wanted to make it pretty since it’s mostly just been functional and somewhat cluttered in the past. I put up white lights all around the porch and hanging baskets of pink and white flowers. I got new green cushions for the bench since Charlie had run off and destroyed the original ones and put out a small table and plants. Its like my little oasis now and I like to sit out there and write. It makes my sad heart happy. I don’t really know what to believe in regarding an afterlife, and some days I have a hard time believing we’ll suddenly be granted happiness in some magical heaven, but I like to think of it as being all the places we loved here. I hope with all my heart we get to be together again and I like to imagine that our heaven will have a little porch where Brian and I will sit and listen to the robins sing in the pear tree and talk and laugh and hang out as long as we like.
There was this good moment today, at the tail-end of the day, when I took Biscuit outside to use the bathroom and I just stood on the sidewalk and breathed. The night sky was black but a waning, nearly full moon hung just above the Bradford Pear tree in the front yard and lit up the darkness. A slug slowly slid his way across the sidewalk and everywhere around me was the sound of frogs. The air seemed alive with the delicate chorus of creaks and peeps from the tree frogs and deep throated wheezes from the bullfrog across the street. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. I stood and listened to the creatures call back and forth to each other and felt some of the darkness around me lift just a little.
That slice of goodness gives me hope that I can make it to another happy moment. These brief interludes are like stepping stones leading me forward out of this dark valley. Some days they are close together and others they are far apart but they continue to come and I continue to collect them and cling to them and save them up.
In this quiet moment, when night has fallen and the world slumbers, I sit and just allow myself to feel whatever it is that I need to feel. I concentrate on just breathing since that is work enough for my broken heart. And I even allow myself to entertain the thought of giving up. It’s not a thought with any intention behind it, but more a desire to just cease existing; to not have to face this empty world. Healing is a slow process, I’m discovering, and nothing can rush it. There is no shortcut through this valley, just a steady inching forward one step at a time. The sad memories haunt me, sometimes even torment me, but I want to purposefully choose the good ones. I need to remember the special moments we shared and focus on our love and joy. I don’t want tragedy to define me but I do want it to shape me into a better person. I feel as if blinders I didn’t know I wore have been lifted from my eyes and I can suddenly see and feel other people’s pain in a way I never have before. I see suffering and hurt in a new light and experience a deeper, more real empathy than I’ve ever known before. This life is incredibly beautiful but it is also so so cruel and I don’t think any of us escape it unscathed. We are all broken in some way. Every day I meet people who have lost a child, a spouse, a marriage, health, a dream. Something. And I understand their hurt in a new way. I am still coming to terms with my own loss, I am still struggling to accept that this is my life now, but I have plenty of company on this road. I know I take comfort from those who have survived great loss and are now living joyfully once again. If they can do it, perhaps so can I.
We put each other through some hellish times in our 11 years together (but really, what couple hasn’t?) and yet despite the hurt and flaws and mistakes, I always felt at the heart of us was something special, something a lot of people never get to experience. We just fit together. We understood each other and craved each other. I only ever wanted to be near him. I only ever wanted his attention and love. I know he felt the same way about me and in one of the journals he kept for me he wrote about it.
“You are my best friend. You’re more than a best friend. You know me inside and out better than anyone I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t even know if I can describe what you are to me. My lover, my friend, my confidant. My everything. I feel like no matter how close I am to you it’s not close enough.”
I read those words and it’s hard to believe that he was taken from me. I need more time to be near him and love him and make up for past regrets. I just need more time. I struggle to breathe without him some days. It’s as if just existing takes every ounce of strength in me. I had this dream last night that he came back, briefly, and I had a chance to tell him how desperately I missed him. I told him that I keep his photo near my bed and I talk to him every night before I sleep and every morning when I wake. I asked him to forgive me for every unkind thing I ever said, for any time I lacked compassion, for any cruel thing I’ve ever done or failed to do for him. I had to talk fast because I didn’t know how much time we had. I don’t really know that he responded in my dream. And then I woke up and I steeled myself for another day. I heard a Nora Jones song on the radio today and she talked about feeling as empty as a drum. I feel that way these days, so empty. So devoid of happiness. I am trying to get through these difficult days so I can reach better ones ahead. I know he would want me to, and in fact even wrote once about how he hoped I would move on and be happy if something ever happened to him. It will take time and tenacity but though I might fall and fail time after time I’ll get it right one of these days. And even as I heal, I will always love him. Into eternity.
“And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.” – Emily Bronte
I hear crickets in the grass and my dog snoozes on my lap. It’s a quiet night, nearing midnight, and I sit here alone and think. Today, four weeks ago, I was glued to a hospital monitor watching my husband’s inter-cranial pressure climbing to dangerous levels. I held his hand and placed cool cloths on his forehead because it was the only thing I could do. His pain broke my heart. And, although I was afraid, I couldn’t fathom a time when he would cease to be in this world with me.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” he said to me. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
It was the last thing he told me.
Since then I’ve had some bad days, some terrible days and a few days where I felt some semblance of hope that life might still be worth living. I’ve had wonderful family and friends surround and support me. I’m slowly, slowly, picking myself back up and working my way towards a new life. Sometimes it’s a two steps forward, one step back process but I keep working at it because I want to be the best version of myself. I want to make Brian proud.
I have a Smirnoff screwdriver at my elbow and I’m attempting to do yoga. It might not be the most logical combination but my world has been turned upside down so I don’t even try to make sense. When this year began I sat down and wrote out my typical list of resolutions that included some home renovation projects, running goals, self-improvement stuff and all the other things I aspire to each year. Since then I’ve thrown out that whole list and narrowed it down to one:
2017 is all about survival. Last year I lived our greatest love story with my husband and this year I lived a tragedy. When January first rolled around I never imagined that a few short months later I would watch the love of my life take his final breaths and see his strong heart beating for the last time. It’s taken me three weeks to fully believe he is no longer in this world with me and that no amount of longing, wishing, hoping or dreaming will make him come back to me. I’ve wanted to scream his name over and over until I’m empty, but I only remain full. Full of an ocean of grief and loss and loneliness. Full of the greatest sorrow I’ve ever known. I still breathe even though he no longer does. It’s a travesty. When the surgeon came out to the waiting room and explained that my husband was on a ventilator, just a shell holding a beating heart, I felt as if I were dying with him. I remember placing my palm on his chest and feeling the steady rhythm of his heart but knowing that he was gone.
Three weeks later and I sit on my living room floor listening to The Greatest by Sia and drinking alone. I imagined my love and I would grow old together and have years of adventures ahead of us, not an abbreviated love story that ended at the best part. I had to plan my darling’s funeral and see my beautiful husband laid out in a casket, his strong hands still and lifeless. Those hands held me so gently and with such love, how could they be so cold now? None of this makes any sense. I no longer plan and dream for the future. I just live each day as it comes. I get up and I keep going and complete necessary tasks and do the things that need to be done. I quit my job and cleaned out my house. It took two weeks to work up the nerve to move back into our home and even now it feels so empty without my love here. I wish I had just one more chance to tell him how much I love him and how much he meant to me. I’m not sure he knew how much I needed him. I’m not sure I knew how much I needed him.
When we met 11 years ago I didn’t foresee the heartache ahead, but I’ve come to believe that we were meant to be together. We were meant to love and grow and learn together. I stayed by his side through all our struggles and he remained beside mine. We became the greatest friends and lovers and I’m grateful I was given a gift that some live their whole life and never receive. Maybe we loved each other too much for this world. Though I remain behind I long for him and hope for a day when we are together again. In the mean time I’ll have to learn to live again. One day at a time.