Current mood: sad
Nope, I’d answer. S
he’d then say, “put it to bed. It will be better in the morning.” She was right, mostly.
But this one, I don’t think I can put to bed. “It” will be just as bad tomorrow as it is today. Or maybe not. Time will tell I suppose.
Today marks 11 months since my husband died of pancreatic cancer. At the time of this writing it is exactly 11 months and 11 hours, 31 minutes since Mike died. A good friend of mine recently asked if I’d get to the point where I wouldn’t mark Mike’s death in months. I wondered if he really meant do I think I’ll ever get to a point in time where Mike’s death won’t be so monumental in my life. I don’t think so. Mike’s death was huge for many, many, many reasons. Not just the obvious ones either.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer. They always mark the day. It does not seem to matter if it’s been one year or ten, there are always tears and there is always pain. We all know death is a part of our life cycle; we also know that people die suddenly…but there are a variety of things, reasons, sickness and events that can take a person’s life suddenly. However, pancreatic cancer has a special impact on the people remaining alive. We have to watch this evil thing coursing through our loved ones body and we have to acknowledge and accept somehow that we cannot do a thing about it.
It occurred to me today that Mike never said goodbye to me.
I pondered that after I let that sink in. I wondered if that’s part of my problem…my problem being “not getting over this” according to people who haven’t gone through this. There’s a certain feeling of unfinished business left behind when there is no good bye. But I said goodbye. To Mike. Though I don’t think now, in retrospect I believed it or meant it.
11 months ago I walked into his ICU room. I had bad news to deliver. Mike was heavily sedated and had not responded to me in about 2 or 3 days. He had stopped fidgeting and moving around and was fighting a fever. The “professionals” were still attending to him, doing everything they could to prolong his life, but it was for my benefit, not Mike’s…as I learned from some Doogey Howser looking doctors. I walked up to him and grabbed his left hand and then said in his ear, “Mike, the doctors say you are not getting better. They tell me that they are keeping you alive using drugs and machines.
I know this isn’t what you wanted so, I’m here to tell you that if you’re tired, if you want to go then it’s ok with me. I’ve talked to Gabrielle and Austin and Ryan and they don’t want you to suffer any longer. So, baby, if you’re tired, it’s ok to let go now. We’ll be ok. If you still want to fight, fight! But if not, go ahead and go now. The doctors will adjust your medicine to make sure that you won’t feel any pain and I’m here and won’t leave just like you asked. So it’s ok to go now if you want to.”
Mike suddenly gripped my hand so hard, so tight and so specific that I had to tell him to lighten up, it hurt. I wonder to this day what that grip meant. You see, Mike would walk by me, or we’d be in a situation where he couldn’t necessarily hug me, but he’d hug me by gripping my hand, squeeze and then let go. This time he gripped but didn’t let go until I asked him to.
The doctors and/or nurses came in and gave him some more sedation, some other meds, adjusted this and that machine and then the waiting began.
I had been told that it could take an hour, or it could take five days or more depending on how strong Mike’s heart was. So we began our vigil. Our death watch. Our escorting of Mike into heaven. 11 months ago today.
“Our” being, me, Gabrielle our daughter, Teresa and Tom our friend, Ryan my stepson that is currently suing me, my brother and our very good friend Robert. Austin our middle son was in transit. He is enlisted in the military and had just returned from serving his time in Iraq. His commanding officer would not allow Austin to leave in time to be with his dad while he died. Austin did arrive later that night….much later. But I had spoken to Austin and he told me not to wait for him. That he did not want dad to suffer any longer waiting for him to arrive. That he was ok because “dad and I got to talk when I was home last and we said everything we needed to say.”
So…….I held Mike’s left hand, Gabrielle sat on his right and we started the count down to Mike’s death. I spoke to Mike without stopping. I told him how much I loved him, what a great dad he was, how proud we were to have had him in our lives and how grateful we were for him. I told him that he had made me happy, that he had been a good husband and that I was forever a better person for the time we had shared. All during this vigil I never stopped expecting a miracle. I fully expected God himself to come down with angels and bright shining light and create such a lovely atmosphere in that sterile ICU room that we’d all be in a state of awe. I believed that so fully that while I was talking to Mike I reached behind him and lifted the blind and looked up to the sky fully expecting to see the signs that God was coming as we, and so many people around the world had petitioned Him to do.
As I spoke to Mike I realized that I was exhausted. To the bone marrow exhausted. It had been a long, hard battle for three long hard exhausting months. I had been fighting the doctors, the insurance company, the statistics, Mike’s acceptance of death, my in-laws apathy, my own ignorance, my fear, Mike’s fear, Gabrielle and Austin’s fear……the fear of death…..Mike had told me often in the past two months that he felt as thought he “lte me down…” Let me down? Let me down because he is going to die and not stay around and protect me from life, and the nastiness of people in life…like he promised me. Letting me down. I had no answer to those statements of his as I thought he had rocks in his head. He wasn’t letting me down I thought, his body has betrayed him, that’s all.
As I watched the monitors–which were still attached– register that Mike’s heart started to beat slower I realized that Mike no longer needed those stupid leg pumps, he no longer needed to be restrained from pulling out his respirator so I abruptly threw off that stupidity thing white sheet covering him and took off those leg pumps. And took off the restraints. I did it in anger. And no one stopped me.
It was time to have Mike comfortable at the very least.
As I said above, I was exhausted. So I finally sat down. I wasn’t aware of it, nor did I know that I was doing it, but while I sat I stopped talking. But I wasn’t quiet. No. Mike didn’t like quiet. He wanted, needed to hear my voice. So I sang. I am not a natural singer…but I sang…rather I sang but mostly hummed a certain song. I didn’t know I’d done all that until days later when someone mentioned that I was humming….they asked what was the song I was humming. It was Oh Holy Night. A song that at struck me solid and in the chest while Mike was in UCLA. Oh Holy Night….a christmas song traditionally, but a song that sprung into my head while Mike was sick….and a song that sprung into my head while Mike was dying.
I made sure that all the mourners that came to Mike’s funeral sang O Holy Night to him, one last time.
I have much more to say, but I wonder what is the point?
His absence is great.
My loneliness is tremendous
My pain is greater than all of that.
Do I continue on?…writing about my pain so you, dear reader can get a glimpse of what it is like to live on after a horrendous experience. So you dear reader can hi-jack on my pain thinking that if you know by reading you can prevent the experience?
As I drive to work, struck in traffic I look around. I see people in their cars, women putting on their makeup, guys shaving, people eating their egg mcmuffin’s and people yapping on their cell phone. I feel isolated in many ways. I feel offset.
I feel as though my fellow commuters are much luckier than me. They don’t have to pretend that the sun is shiny when it just glares. They don’t have to pretend that the chicken is tasty when it really just sticks in the throat. They don’t have to pretend that they have someone waiting for them at home because they do. And they don’t have to pretend to “get over” the most painful experience of their lives………….in silence.
You tell me….