Until Death Do Us Part

It is funny, I never really thought about the afterlife much until John got ill.  We were both raised Catholics but left the church when we got together since the church didn’t accept people that were divorced.  I think in the back of our minds we both believed in some sort of Heaven but we didn’t talk about it.

John was a very logical, smart man.  He was a Chartered Accountant (before his death they changed the name in Canada to Chartered Professional Accountant “CPA” and he hated that name).  He worked a great deal with lawyers and other professionals that valued his intelligence and his dedication to his career.  It was not a job to John but a way of life.  He was one of those people that never worked a day in his life because he loved what he did.

While John was dying he would comfort while he held me.  He kept telling me just to listen harder and he’d still be talking to me.  He spoke with such calmness, so sure that we would be together again that I would stop crying.

One day he was in the hospital being treated for a massive infection that the hospital gave him and he started looking at the door.  My daughter Amanda and I were with him at the time and I asked him what he was looking at.  He replied, “your dad is here … he’s waiting for me”.  Then a few minutes later he said that my dad had left and would be back later.  He didn’t remember saying this to me later.

Just before John passed away I had changed his clothes, made him comfortable with the PSW that came to help me.  He had been sedated for 10 days.  I went to sit in the other room for a few minutes to talk to my daughter Laura and there was a loud knock.  I went in to check on him, took his hand and he opened his eyes and died looking at me.

It has been over a year since he passed away and I know in my heart he is still with me and he’s waiting for me.  He has shown me this by me finding the Valentine’s day card, or the email that he sent me years ago.  Every once in awhile I catch a glimpse of him in the corner of my eye or I can smell him.  He is doing everything he can to let me know that he is waiting for me.  He also wants me to stop being sad and to live my life with joy and happiness in it.   I know this with every fiber of my being. When my life is over we will be together again.  Forever and all ways.

 

One Year — 365 Days — 8,760 Hours — 525,600 Minutes — 31,536,000 Seconds Later

It has been one year of heartbreak.  It has changed but it is still there.  My heart still searches for John in a crowd, still dreams he is alive and still hopes I will see him again.  I still feel so empty, even when I am with people.  Even when I laugh I am not truly happy.  It is like all happy emotions are played on the surface but not inside of me.

I couldn’t be home on the anniversary date so I went on a cruise with my daughter Amanda.  We headed south and visited the Bahamas, Grand Turk and the Dominican.  It was a perfect holiday.

My daughter is like sunshine to me.  She is beautiful, brilliant, funny, IMG_6510 creative and, in so many ways, just like her father.  This cruise was important to me because I feel like I have failed her.  I know I have disappointed her and I don’t know how to make it up to her.  This time away helped us reconnect.  We had a wonderful time together and I’m hoping we can continue building on that in the future and have a stronger bond again.

The other day I was crying and wanted so much to talk to John.  I heard this little voice in my heart ask “what would you say to him?”.  I thought I would tell him that I loved him … missed him but then realized he already knows that I love him and miss him. He always knew that.  Then I thought … no what it is that I want to hear is him telling me he loves me and misses me.  I needed reassurance that he was still here for me.  I stopped crying and decided to get back to work.  I was switching computers over (I bought a new one at Christmas and still wasn’t using it) and I went into an old email account.  I had lost all my emails from John when we closed our website and was sad about that loss.  But when I opened this old email up (hotmail) there was just one letter in the inbox.  And when I read it I knew John is still here with me.  Here is his email.

This is really weird.

I was just thinking last night about the differences between us. And about how much I love you.
You think you fail at things when, in fact, you are doing great things in life. 

You are the reason our kids have turned out well. You have spent the time with them when they needed it; unlike lots of mothers who do not pay attention and then their kids turn out to have all kinds of problems.

You have always been the one that backed me up. Now we are both getting older and like everyone else, things start to deteriorate, both physical and mental. But, that is just the way it is. It happens to everyone. 
I don’t know what to tell you about work. Maybe I rely on you too much. Everyone seems to do that to you. 

This is a tough time of the year. But we will get through it. 

I know the two of us don’t handle stress the same way. For me it is getting better because I feel that we are now at the stage where I believe we have already made it. 

We have done the right thing by our kids.  Adam still needs to work
things out, but he is certainly not a problem for us.  
Manda, Laura, Julie (and Emily) have all been put on a good path for their lives.

I think 99% of our clients like us. And that is why I feel okay about the relationships in the practice. The clients we like also like us, and understand when we have problems. And we do a damn good job for them.
I feel financially secure. If I died tomorrow, I know you guys would be okay. Not as well off as we will be in a few more years, but okay.

My only concern is you. I would like you to get to the stage that you are feeling okay too. I was hoping that this weekend would give you the break you need.

The thing is … It doesn’t matter. Pretty much any of these things can be fixed. If they can’t be fixed, we can handle the consequences. It will all be okay in the end. There are going to be things that come up all the time. That is life. 
The important thing is to get you to the stage that you feel the same way. 

I don’t know how to express this. The ups and downs happen. I look at them as challenges. But, in the end, that is all they are … We can handle any outcome. So how we get to the outcome doesn’t have to hurt us with the stress.

The one really important thing is that I love you. You are the best thing in my life. When I see you happy, I am happy. 

I wish I knew how to make you feel better. <Smiling> Just looking at you makes me feel better. Oops, there I go reverting to my character again .. This is not supposed to be about me.
One last try … Put this stuff out of your head. Relax. Go swimming. Go shopping with them. Enjoy the hotel. And while you are in Niagara Falls, think about our honeymoon. 

I really, really love you.

I know he is still with me.  I know in my heart he is waiting for me.  And I’m counting down the moments until I can be with him again.

 

Acceptance Speech

It has been 7 months now.  I’ve noticed that there has been a gradual shift in my emotions this month.  I realized I have accepted John’s death.  Before, in my heart, I was waiting for him to come home.  Now I have accepted he is gone from me.  He can’t talk to me, he can’t advise me, he can’t hold me, he is gone.   I still am overcome with grief throughout the day but it is almost like ripples on the ocean as opposed to large waves.  It is silly little things that trigger it.  I won $13 at bingo the other day and the first person I wanted to tell was John.  Then in the same instant I realized he is no longer with me.  It was a small ripple and not a wave.  I felt my breath catch but then could move forward.  Breathe in, breathe out and move on.

Super Strong

Grief is the strongest emotion I have ever felt.  It has taken over all my feelings of love and hope, erased all the joy and life out of me.  The only time I sleep is when I take a sleeping pill and it is a dreamless sleep.  A restless, dreamless sleep.

Over and over again I reach out for John and he is not there.  He is not there when I need him, he is not there when I need my hand held, he is not there when I am scared or tired, he is not there when I turn to show him something I discovered.  All that happens is that momentary joy turns to overwhelming sadness when I realize I don’t have him here to share it with.  He wasn’t here for the world series, he wasn’t here to see his Orioles get beaten my Blue Jays and he won’t be here for any more of the events in my life.

I am going to fight this though because that is what John would have wanted me to do.  While he was dying he held me and told me that I was strong enough to get through this.  He never was wrong before so why should he be wrong now?  I need to find that strength within me and beat this thing called “grief”.  I am still alive.

I’m not sure how to do this … how to defeat this overpowering thing called grief.  I want to smile again, really smile, when I hear Christmas songs or see a child playing in the surf.  I want to feel better and not spend my days curled up on my bed just staring out the window.  I know where I want to be but I have to figure out how to get there.

I need to be like a super hero … like Dr. Strange or Batman and take this loss and turn it into something positive.  John believed in me.  I need to believe in me.

Four Months and Counting

Four months have passed.  It doesn’t get any easier but it is different.  I don’t sob as much anymore.  I tear up but everything stays inside.  Once in awhile (like when I was at the doctor’s office) I break down and cry but generally I am able to contain it.

It is not that it hurts less.  It is just different.  I feel sad and empty inside.  I can’t even listen to music right now because it brings emotions to close to the surface.  It is easier for me to just stay numb and then I can deal with the day. I am trying to figure out a play list to walk to that makes me happy instead of upsetting me all over again.

In a week I leave for Florida.  I’m glad to be going because I need a change of scenery.  I’m tired of working on bookkeeping and year ends and I’m tired of working on the house.  I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.  I get one job done and another one appears.  I need some time for me.  I need to start taking care of myself.  I need to eat right, learn to relax and start walking again.  I spend too much time sitting at my desk working.  Time to stretch those legs!

Today, when I was having my tea, I could picture those last few moments with my husband.  I had heard a noise and came into the family room where his bed was located.  I took his hand, he opened his eyes and looked at me.  And he took his last breath.  I closed his eyes and held on to him for as long as I could before I called the nurse to come pronounce his death.

When the funeral home came they made the family go to the back yard.  They didn’t want us to see them take John out of the house.  I came back in after they transferred him to the guerney and watched silently while they wheeled him down the driveway to the hearse.  John was leaving the house for the last time. I still can picture this in my head so perfectly.

Now he is here in the house … in spirit .. with me.  I have decided that I want to live in the house until I die and I want to die in the same exact spot he did and I want to take that final journey out of the house the way he did.  And I know, that when I make that trip, he will be beside me holding my hand.

I love you John.  I miss you so much.  Words can’t even express how much.  Forever and all ways.

P.S.  After I wrote this I decided I needed to go out for some air.  I was standing near where John died when there was two distinct thuds from closeby.  My son’s girlfriend and I looked at each other thinking we both did something but we hadn’t.  This happened at exactly the time John passed away 4 months ago.  Proves to me he is still here with me.

Thankful

Today is my first Thanksgiving without my husband.  I’m having a very hard time finding anything to be thankful for even though I know in my heart I should be grateful for the life I have.

I still don’t sleep well.  I tend to wander the house at night.  I sleep a few hours in my bed, sleep a few hours in the living room and then a few hours in the family room. I’m most comfortable in the family room because I feel John is in there.  It is the room where he died.  I curl up on the sofa and pretend he is still there in his hospital bed.  I think I will do better when I return to Florida.  It is less stressful there for me.

My son Adam made his first Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, squash, steamed veggies and a yummy creme brulee for dessert.  My daughter Amanda came with her husband and we all enjoyed the meal.  Everyone seemed to avoid the topic of John but he was never far from us.  Tomorrow I’m going to another daughter’s house to celebrate again.  But this celebration is really difficult for me.  I know I have to be strong for them but it is really difficult.

A good friend of mine called today to tell me he was thinking of me.  He said that he knows it is hard experiencing “firsts” without John.  He’s right.  But I think I’m going to miss John every day of the rest of my life.

I have been thinking though that John would be upset with me if he knew I was still feeling this way.  John always wanted my happiness before his.  I’m going to work hard at being more social and getting my feet back on the ground. I spend too many days feeling lost and empty.  I don’t want my life to be wasted.  I still have time left to do some good in this world and make my mark.  I’m going to try and be more positive and find my way.

I have been working on clients year ends lately and I want to get them all finished so I can clear my mind when I go down south.  I don’t want to take work down there with me.  So for the next week I’m going to keep my nose to the grindstone and get it all done!

 

Lost

I hate it when people tell me they are sorry I lost my husband.  I didn’t lose him; he died.  He is gone.  It is not like I can find him under a cushion or in a closet somewhere.  He is not lost.  I am lost.  Not him.

I have been very busy this past month.  The main floor renovations are almost complete.  The rooms have been painted, the hardwood is laid, new furniture is in and it is looking good.  They will replace the gas fireplace this week and I have someone coming to hang the light fixture in my dining room.  We filled two dumpsters and a third one is almost full.  I think by Sunday the main floor of my house will be finished with the exception of the new windows.

A friend of mine hired me to help at his office while his bookkeeper was on vacation.  I worked for two weeks and really enjoyed it.  I bought some new “work” clothes and it felt good going out.  I really don’t think I was “needed” there but they certainly made me feel welcome.  It was a nice change of pace and for those hours I mostly concentrated on work and not John.  I could feel him with me in a very supportive way.

I still don’t sleep well.  I sleep on a tiny edge of my bed (on my husband’s side) and the rest of the bed is covered in clothes.  I’m going through his clothes and mine and donating bags and bags to Value Village.  Most of my clothes are dated and I have so many of them that I will never need to buy new ones again. But I can’t bear to get rid of John’s Hawaiian shirts and his Jimmy Buffet ones.  They are John.  I’ve been doing laundry and every dirty shirt of his that I find I cry into and try and smell him just one more time. I hold his shirts and try and feel him.  I miss him so very much.

I finally broke down and called my doctor on Friday to ask him for sleeping pills.  Surprise … surprise he is on holidays until the middle of October.  Is this a sign from John that I shouldn’t use sleeping pills?  I need more sleep though because when I’m tired I’m more emotional.  I went out today and bought some over the counter sleeping medication and I hope that it will help me get at least 7 hours sleep tonight.  With sleep I’ll heal.  I’ll get stronger every day.

Over the past three months I have thought a great deal about death.  I feel guilty that I am alive and John isn’t.  He should be here enjoying his retirement.  If there was any way we could have traded places I would have gladly done it for him.  He worked so hard his entire life that he deserved to spend some golden years.  He took such good care of me and the rest of the family that he truly deserved to be the one that lived.

I also understand how people can die of a broken heart.  I think of dying all the time now.  I  admit I thought of suicide.  I feel so alone and broken that death would be welcome but I have to wait until it is my time.  I never believed in an afterlife until John got ill.  One day in the hospital John was looking off into the distance.  I asked him what he was looking at and he looked at me with genuine surprise.  He answered that my dad was there.  I could see him smiling.  He nodded and then said my dad was leaving (to walk down the lane way) and he’d be back.  John didn’t remember telling my daughter and I this but we had many talks over the next weeks.  He told me that he knew there was something beyond the life that we have here.  He promised he would always be near me.  He told me that he would be the wind blowing past me, that I would feel him if I could quiet my mind.  I see him when I dream (which is very rare now).  Now I have to be strong and rebuild my life.  I need to be good so that when it is my time to die that I will be reunited with John.  We will spend eternity together.  I believe this with my whole heart.

So I have decided I’m going to start new tomorrow.  I’m going to eat better, sleep better, move more, listen to happy music and be productive.  I’m going to try and heal my heart, never forgetting John but working towards being a person that he would be proud of.  Then someday we will be together again and spend forever united.

Forever and all ways.

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