Last words. . .
I'm nine months out from the death of my wife; well, in two more days. These months started out crawling...or, as she would have said, they moved slower than molasses going uphill in January. That was the first two or three months. After that, things took a turn, and time sped up drastically.
I married my Laurie on June 10, 2005. We had been a couple since December 9, 2003, and we'd been friends for a year or two before that. In all, we had 14 and a half years of couplehood, and our 13th wedding anniversary would have come up in June of 2018. But she died.
The last conversational thing she said to me was, "I sure do love these f****ng ocean waters," referencing the blue coconut drink from Sonic. It was a normal comment for her to make. Then I helped her get into her hospital bed, lifting her legs up. It hurt her, and I apologized for the pain, then told her I was only aiming to help. She said she knew.
Here's where I blank out for the night. EVERY OTHER NIGHT, I would kiss her and say, "I love you, Babe." She'd say, "I love you, too, Babe." I don't remember that happening that night, even though we did that every single night. It drives me crazy that I don't remember the last kiss or the last "I love yous."
Discovering her death. . .
In the morning, I saw that she had leaned over to the left, and her upper half slumped off the bed. That was not unusual. She often fell asleep with the head of the bed up, even if I nagged her a hundred times to lower it and sleep, because she kept falling asleep and leaning over and over again. So it didn't startle me to see her like that. I literally thought, "Aw, man. Her back and neck are going to be so sore today." I called out, "Babe, wake up! We gotta get you back on the bed, and you'll be sore as hell today!" She didn't respond. I was still flat on my bed, with my back hurting, so I called out more loudly, "Laurice!" She didn't respond, and that WAS unusual. That usually startled her awake, when I could get her to wake up any other way.
There was still no response. At this point, I got really scared. I briefly thought, "Is this 'the day'?!!!" When you have a chronically ill spouse, as I did, thoughts like that occur, ugly as it is to admit it. I guess fear filled me with adrenaline, because I shot up out of my hospital bed and jumped over to her. I shook her by the arm, up near her shoulder. No response. I shook her again, and I was really panicking, because she still didn't answer or move or anything. For some reason, my next move was to smack her on the back with the palm of my hand. I guess I thought maybe I could kickstart her heart, if that was what was wrong. I can't really say for sure. I just know I did that.
That's when I freaked out all the way and yelled for our daughter. Thank God we shared an apartment with our daughter and son-in-law!!! I had to call for her twice before she knew I called, but she came in quickly and asked what was going on. I think I told her I couldn't wake her mother up, but I can't swear to what I really said. She bolted over to her mother's side, yelling, "Noooo. Mama! Mama! Mama!" She just kept crying and yelling "Mama." It tore my heart to shreds to hear that.
We tried picking her up, and my legs buckled under me, so I had to flip myself backwards on to my own bed, to keep from falling on top of my wife. Our daughter and son-in-law were frantically trying to lift her back up on to the bed, and that's when we saw my wife's purplish face. That's when I knew for sure.
After they called 911 and were told to get Mom down on to the floor, if they couldn't get her back in bed, we waited in the room for the paramedics to arrive. Tiffany kept crying, and I think my mind turned into a giant cotton ball, because I don't really remember much except in short bursts, after that. I know that before the paramedics got there, I lay down on the floor next to Laurie, putting my arm around her, kissing her, and telling her I was so, so sorry. "I'm so sorry, Babe. I'm so sorry."
The paramedics said that when the Medical Examiner got there, we'd have to leave the room while they checked her. I knew what that meant. They had to make sure I didn't kill her. I didn't, so I wasn't worried about the outcome, but I did hate being told to leave my dead wife with total strangers, just after I discovered her dead body.
So we went out to the living room, and the only things I could think of were calling our other daughter, who lived 1500 miles away, and then calling my mother, to ask her to come up to me that day. I couldn't seem to dial my phone to call my daughter, so her sister dialed her phone for me, then handed me the phone. I asked her if her husband was there with her. She said yes, and I told her to get him in the room with her right now. She was getting scared. I could tell by her voice. I asked, "Do you already know what's going on?" She said, "I think I might." I don't know how I actually told her her mother was dead. I don't think I said it like that. I THINK I said when I went to wake her up, she wouldn't wake up, and that her Mom was gone now. I could be making that up, for all I know. What I'm not making up is her reaction. She cried and cried and cried, and it tore me up. Hearing your children cry over the death of their other parent is AWFUL.
We arranged for the younger daughter to come to us before the cremation. It was an emotional visit, especially because we'd managed to go ten whole years without seeing each other, so my daughter only had memories of her mother, in person, from 10 years before. We always thought we had time, you know? It was difficult to plan a trip for a handicapped person to travel so far, and then money never seemed to cooperate, and we just kept thinking, "We'll get it done."
After the last viewing of my wife's body, we went to have ice cream at a Braum's store across the street from the funeral home. Laurie had always told me that she wanted an ice cream social instead of a funeral, so that seemed perfectly fitting to all of us.
The aftermath. . .
So the months rolled on, at first agonizingly slow. The kids and I moved to my hometown. I moved in with my mother, for the first time in 25 years. We found my daughter and son-in-law a rental home nearby. It's hard sometimes. Time has already started easing things to some degree, but it still gets like the first month sometimes - those moments where it feels like something punches me in the chest and literally takes my breath away. The grief slams in so hard, in those times, and God, I miss my wife.
I keep trying to convince myself that there are plenty of reasons to stick around and just not die. My mind knows all the reasons, too well. My heart feels as though what I always thought of as the color of my life is just leaking out, bit by bit. I have a cold streak that I didn't have before. I feel absolutely nothing, some days. Often, I wish I would die, so I could be with the love of my life again. It's an overwhelming urge to want to be together.
I won't kill myself, so there's no need to worry about that. I don't fear death now, at all. If it happens, that's fine. I'll be happy and with my wife again, among other family members. If I live, that's fine, too....well, kind of. I love the people here. I never would have thought I'd love anyone so much that I'd be willing to leave my mother and my children and grandchildren behind, just so I could be with her again. I thought I could find inspiration to move on with my life.
Instead, it's a blank calendar. There are some tentative pencil marks, where I've tried to write in new plans, new goals. Then I just think, "Now what?!!! Is this even worth it?!!!!" I still feel like my head is stuffed with cotton. I can't remember things for more than a few minutes at a time, often. I don't leave the house any more than I have to. I don't even want to.
Maybe good things still lie ahead. In fact, I know they do. They have already come to pass since May, when Laurie died. There has been laughter and love, and it was all genuine and enjoyable. But when it goes way...when it's over...the hollowness comes back. The color is leaking, and I don't even want to find a way to cork the hole up. I just know I have to. It's what I need to do. Eventually, maybe I will want to, too.