When the saddest memory of my life returns, that moment when a nurse tapped me on the shoulder calling my name, and I woke to hear, “He’s gone,” comes calling when my head is on the pillow, and the tears fall, I need to pour out my pain somehow.
So I grabbed my laptop, and here I sit, propped up in bed, to look at his picture and cry. This is real life. The virile, strong, honest, trustworthy man I loved was brought to weakness by a disease called COPD. He had to breathe oxygen from a tank 24 hours a day, tethered to it like a dog on a leash. He wore a Breathe Rite strip to help keep his nostrils open enough to get the life support. Yet he smiled at me every time our eyes met.
He loved me. I loved him. And when God took him home removing his pain, I was left with an indescribable heartache. I said goodbye to him in a cold hospital room while he was drugged to keep him from feeling his organs shut down. I feel guilty that I couldn’t stay awake . . . guilty that I slept while he took his last breath.
And then I felt so alone. I was all alone in a hospital room, my heart the only one beating, my tears falling just as they are tonight with no one to hug me and tell me it was going to be all right.
Sometimes sleeping alone in this bed is unbearable. I listen for the sound of the oxygen machine, I reach across the bed to make sure he is still breathing, and I feel the empty space where he should be. It’s been 3 years, 79 days now. Sometimes I feel a touch on my back and I whisper his name. I wonder if he’s reaching out to me. Once I saw a white shadow in the dark room, a smoky silhouette against the door. I whispered his name and said, “I love you.” And then it was gone.
Sometimes my cat Templeton looks at me with the same intensity and I wonder if somehow he can see my soul.
I’m being brave and facing each day alone, learning how to live as half the person I used to be. I smile. I keep busy. I go on. I live. I sometimes journal when I can’t sleep. This is real life.