I remember the night my husband passed and I felt the pain for the first time. I had been feeling pain in my heart prior as I watched him slowly succumb to the disease, but it was bearable. Bearable in the slightest sense of the term, but I was able to keep moving. When he left me though, I was stunned with pain. I felt as if I was simultaneously getting ripped apart from my core and hit by a train. December 8th will forever be the most devastating day of my life.
I want to talk about it.
I returned from dinner with my parents and the nurse met me at the front desk. My husband and I, and our dogs, were living at the hospice house in his final days. I remember my heart racing and my limbs feeling cold. I know she tried to be as relaxed as possible, but I could see it in her eyes that something was different. “I need to talk to you.” That ominous phrase, in my life, has proven to always be a precursor to anything bad. I quiver when I hear that phrase.
“OK, is everything alright?” I asked though I was barely able to get the words out. My breathing quickened.
“I just need you to know that I have noticed a change in your husband.” At this point we had reached the room and she walked me over to his bed. Her brow furrowed and tears swelled in my eyes.
“He’s getting closer. We are seeing the signs.”
I can tell you right now, no matter how prepared you think you are, no matter how long you and your spouse have been living with the understanding that their cancer is terminal and they will pass away in the near future, you will never actually be prepared when the healthcare professionals around you confirm that your spouse is dying. I was quickly wiping away tears and stood up straighter as though I was trying to strengthen my wrenching soul with my spine.
“It is difficult to tell with younger people because we know their hearts are stronger, but I think it may either be tonight or tomorrow.”
It being my husband leaving me for the rest of my life. It being me torn away from my person. It being the end. The end of everything of our life together in the physical world.
So I responded, riddled with anxiety, and shaking at that point, “OK.”
“I’m so sorry,” she responded, “call us if you need us.” I thanked the nurse and she left the room. I realized I had to quickly wrap my mind around all of this. Instead of sleeping on the window bench as I had been, I moved the recliner chair up close to his bed. That night, I sat vigil by his bedside, waiting for the worst pain of my life.
I allowed myself to sleep in 10 minute increments only because I remembered someone once mentioning to me that spouses usually don’t want the other to see them pass, so they wait until the other isn’t paying attention. I didn’t want Chris to hold on longer than he had to because, while I couldn’t bear the thought of him leaving me, I also couldn’t bear for him to suffer any longer. So I allowed those increments of sleep just in case. When I was awake, I kept repeating myself to him. “I love you, my love. I will be OK, you may go in peace, love. Don’t be afraid to go.”
I tried to stay as calm as possible. I know he knew I wasn’t actually going to be OK, but I had hoped me trying to reassure him would make him feel a little better. “I want you to know that I forgive you for anything and I pray you forgive me.” Even though he couldn’t speak, I could see his eyes squint and I knew he was saying yes. That is one of the most important things I said to him before he left. I thank God I remembered to say it. Forgiving for everything was just a way of saying “I love you” in a deeper form. That’s how God loves us. That’s how he calls us to love each other too. We forgive each other because we love each other in the deepest way.
I was praying throughout the night too. I begged God to take him peacefully. For him to feel no fear, no pain, no stress of any kind. I prayed and prayed… Blaze jumped up in my lap and I hugged him close as we sat there by Chris’ bed. He relaxed me as I pet his back and we sat there for a little while. Then it happened.
Chris’ breathing quickened and then slowed, and then he gasped for air a few times. I sensed it was time and got up off the chair. I was trembling and I couldn’t control my tears, but I kept my voice as calm as I possibly could and said my last words to him, “I love you. I will be OK. Go in peace, love. Go in peace.”
And he went. He took his last breath and his soul slipped from his body.
I was numb at first. I knew there was some importance to knowing a patient’s time of death, so the part of my brain that was logical and rational made me immediately tremble down the hallway to the front desk to alert the nurses. I could have pressed the call button, but something made me think that would be too alarming and just not peaceful enough in my husband’s sacred moment. When I got to the desk, they knew. I didn’t even get the words out of my mouth entirely. All I could say was, “I think. I think.” They ran down the hall and I followed, still numb. When we entered the room, one nurse had me sit by her on the window bench as the other examined him. I was shaking as we sat. When the nurse finished her examination and nodded to us solemnly, that was it. It must have just been that my brain needed the confirmation, because I lost all control once she did confirm that my husband was gone. I remember bits and pieces now. I remember screaming. I screamed and sobbed so deeply that my whole body, down to my individual cells was responding to the pain. The tearing. Tearing of my soul as I felt the pull and the spreading distance away from my body. The distance of him from me.
I remember thrashing about on the floor and then getting up and throwing myself on his body. I then laid there for the rest of the time before my parents arrived.
I really can’t properly describe the pain. My words simply don’t suffice in construing exactly how it feels. I still feel the pain. Every moment I think of a fond memory…
My husband is gone and it hurts. It rattles me to my core. I want to thank him though for allowing me to be a witness to his new birth. I remember whispering, “Happy birthday, love. It’s your birthday.” When I was laying and sobbing over his lifeless body. My priest reminded me of that prior. “It is a death of this life and a birth into eternal life.” Those words gave me hope. My husband allowed for me to experience the most intimate, incredible thing a lover can do for the other in that circumstance. I am eternally grateful to him. Not everyone can say they were able to help their spouse transition into the next life. While death is ugly, the transition into eternal life is beautiful. Referencing my second post, God healed my husband.
While I am stuck here with the pain of his loss, I am at peace knowing he is no longer suffering.
I’ll be seeing you, love.