Walking alone out into the parking lot the night he died, I stumbled to the ground as I tried to find my car in the dark. From my throat came wailing sounds like a wild animal. I sobbed so hard I felt that my flesh had ripped open, and that if I looked down, I would find that my guts had spilled out of a gaping hole in my abdomen. My anguish was raw, primal and fierce. It shocked me.
I crept slowly home in my car back to an empty house. Why didn’t I have someone waiting? What was I thinking – because there he was – everywhere. The cozy bed I had made for him in the living room with his special blanket scrunched up at the foot of the sheets. His tiger towel on the bathroom door. His leather shaving kit. The paper graphs on the table he had created to record his fevers and declining weight. Eight bottles of blueberry juice lined up on the shelf, because for a while that was all he wanted to drink. The precision high-speed thermometer that he loved. A barf bucket on the floor. His clothes folded carefully on the bookshelf.
I was his designated health care person and am a nurse, so when he got sick he moved to my home so I could care for him. Without question… I was in. I took a leave of absence from my job so my attention would not be divided. My love did not come with conditions; I was going to be at his side for however long it would take for him to get his health back. He had an enormous support team ready to leap into action, waiting in the wings. He wasn’t supposed to die. Living life without him was not on the plan.
A few days after he passed I realized I needed to leave for a while. It was too painful to be where he had been. For the past three days I have been resting at a friend’s vacant cabin overlooking the redwoods on the Mendocino coast – trying to find my way in the midst of what has felt to be crippling grief. It is peaceful here, and in the stillness, I can find him. It is said that when one calms the mind and stops churning the oars, blessings and clarity come. I feel him in this quietude and when I really listen, I believe he continues to tend to my heart and the hearts of all the people he loved. Today I feel less pummeled by the tsunami waves of despair. The sea is not as rough, and I did not cry all day. I am starting to return phone calls. His many other devoted friends are beginning to create a memorial celebration. Life is again stirring.
Last night I curled up on my bed and watched the lunar eclipse play out its magnificent drama above the tips of the forest outside my window. I thought of him as I watched the bright, vibrant fullness of the moon diminish, like it was being nibbled away by a mouse, until it was suddenly gone – only to be reborn again into a glowing reddish-orange orb of light.
He always loved to read my blog stories, particularly those about birth and death. During his sickness he demanded complete transparency in my reports that were broadcasted on the Caring Bridge website. “Don’t sugar coat this! Write everything.” So, write I will try and continue to do, to ground myself, and with the intention that through the telling of his story, his death will continue to bring benefit to others.