I sometimes find myself standing in the hallway or the kitchen, wondering... what should I be doing? Is there someone I should call? Should I be alone or with someone? These periods of utter aloneness... feeling despondent... happen intermittently... magnifying her absence. There are a hundred enlarged photos of her throughout the house. I can smile, remembering the joy we shared in that moment, that day, that event, and then, tearfully, shuddering, think... It no longer is... She no longer is....
I'll put on music, sit at the computer and write to her asking for help. So many times in the two years she's been gone, help has come. A phone call... email or text... a knock at the door... a thought in my mind of something purposeful to do... the thought of my many blessings.
Yes, she is physically gone, but I keep her alive in my thoughts, especially in my actions that can be meaningful, if I act like she did, the world's greatest listener. Is this God's plan for me? I can't say I agree with how He brought me to where I am, but I can be with people, share who I am, what I'm capable of...
Valentine's Day, 2014 was the day Laura was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer... Advanced... Inoperable... Incurable... She was dying after being with me for 60 years... 56 years of a beautiful marriage. No longer would I have the most trusted person in my life to help me, guide me, correct me, be my moral compass, make plans with... to comfort and to love me.
I laid in the hospital bed and gently held her.... I placed my hand on her chest where the disease and infection were killing her. I prayed, "Please, Holy Spirit, take it away". On those last mornings in the hospital, sitting at her bedside in the dull gray light of dawn, listening to her measured breathing as she slept... hoping for a miracle... even then her warmth enveloped me. A wish... A change... Any sign of a reversal of the disease... Make her smile... Make her talk... Make her laugh... Please, God... Make her mine again... But God, in His mercy, ended the pain she so bravely suffered. He selected the prettiest flower in His garden and brought her home.... I still miss her..... I still cry..... She was wonderful….
The months passed as I tried to accept the unacceptable.... To acknowledge the impossible... to come to terms with the fact that nothing will ever be right again... for her, death was the death of "us"... and when she died... "we" died, too... I tried not to be angry but there were words that angered me... Cancer.... There was a time that I would grit my teeth if I had to say it... or hear it... Cancer took from me the most precious thing I ever knew... shattering our dream... our wish... of which the poet Robert Browning wrote, "Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be."
"You'll find someone else," they said. It's unimaginable anyone could mean as much to me, care as much for me, as my gracious lady. I could not replace my wife any more than I could replace my parents... And... "You will find a new normal." I don't want a new normal. I love the old normal.
There were horrible nights when I laid awake going over the many hours spent with her in the hospital in those last three weeks, haunting me as I relived her struggle to survive. My career as a police officer was spent protecting people, yet I could not protect the one I loved and cherished the most. The prayer in the cancer patient's workbook ran over and over in my mind:
If we could have a lifetime wish
A dream that would come true,
We'd pray to God with all our hearts
For yesterday and you.
A thousand words can't bring you back
We know because we tried...
Neither will a thousand tears
We know because we cried...
You left behind our broken hearts
And happy memories too...
But we never wanted memories
We only wanted you....
The beautiful dream that was my life evaporated the day Laura was diagnosed with lung cancer. Five months later I was alone for the first time in more than half of a century... I had no idea that anything could hurt this badly.
Reality is a stern taskmaster. Making decisions alone is no fun. Having no backup, that one person who knows you better than anyone else leaves never ending doubt. I, who thought I was so strong, can be as helpless as a puppy. There are a few people that I open up to. They reassure me in my weak moments. They chide me in my foolishness. I have received so much help from family and friends that I am obligated to not let it go to waste. It was time for me to get serious about why I'm here. God guided me to a Beginning Experience, a Grief Resolution Weekend Workshop where I ultimately became a facilitator. The BE program and the beautiful people that make it work have helped me grow and maintain my sanity as I struggle on without my Life Long Love.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. It may be a long tunnel, with hard days. I have been there, and they are ever present. I remember driving into the church parking lot to attend evening mass during Advent Season. There were merry children accompanying their parents, delighted that Christmas was just days away. A celebration was in the air... But, not for me... I wasn't ready… I wasn't comfortable... I didn't want to be in a happy place... I left and drove slowly home fighting back tears... A raw, heartbreaking meltdown that happens to all of us.
There are days of relief, an awakening, where life does have meaning. Our job, what we owe to ourselves, is to give it our very best effort. To live. To be. Our faith is so very important. When things are just too tough... rest... And pray.... God is listening… Waiting for us to be close to Him… That may be His master plan for all of us.
Prayer, faith in God that leads me, not pushing but allowing me to feel His warmth, has gently encouraged me not to let the pain and loss I'm suffering destroy me. And, in it's place, I feel loved. God is like the air. I can breathe Him within me and feel Him all around me.
No, I can't say goodbye. I'm using my memory and using the many things we learned together to make her proud of me. I'm trying my best to be here for our family, our friends, our community. Am I optimistic? I want to be but the days sometimes are just too hard, and I have to rest. I know that there is still life that needs to be lived. I pray that I live it well, caring for myself and others. I want to do it willingly... lovingly... hopefully… and, if possible... joyfully.
Trusting in the words of Saint Justin Martyr I believe; "The greatest grace God can give someone is to send Him a trial he cannot bear with his own powers - and then sustain him with His grace so he may endure to the end and be saved."
Story submitted by Robert