“official” date is June 7, the date my son found his body in our home, which was my house, and
where I still live) is the fact that I can never know for sure exactly when he died. (We've been able to narrow it down to somewhere around May 29, based on his Facebook activity, but that's at best an approximation. I could not have afforded to pay for an autopsy, and since it was clear it was natural causes, nothing triggered one as far as legal requirements went. The process of decomposition had proceeded far enough that I couldn't bring myself to ask for any sort of embalming; I told them to just go ahead and cremate him, so I never got to see the body. Maybe that's a good thing: I'll always remember him as alive, and not as a cold corpse, though the sad look on his face as I drove away that last time will never leave me.) I was not there, and he was alone when it happened, except for his last remaining elderly cat, (she’d actually been slowly failing for some time, was a big part of the reason my husband was not with me, and she is now gone as well) of the five he’d come to Oregon with, when he left New England, and specifically Connecticut, after the termination of his first marriage.
I noticed, over the course of the month of May, this year, a feeling of impending doom. I spoke of it to TrueBlueMajority, when I asked for this diary date, as a “death watch.” That’s how it felt to me, as though I were waiting at the bedside of a loved one who was dying, though in this case the death had already occurred. What I remember of that time leading up to his actual death, was the fear, the desperation of trying to contact him, communicate with him, with all efforts resulting in nothing, until the day my older son actually entered my house, with the key I’d given him, precisely for being able to keep tabs on things when I wasn’t there, to deal with emergencies in my absence, to find my husband’s body, slumped in his office chair, as if asleep, but obviously lifeless, and having been so for many days. I can remember saying to my son, “I thought of the worst case scenario, as a way of trying to cope with what might happen, but it wasn’t supposed to actually happen!” Or words very close to that.
It’s PTSD, of course. The experiences of the horrors of war, for those in the military who experience it, gave rise to the terminology, but “shell-shocked” soldiers (an “old” term for it, one of many that have evolved over the years) don’t own the experience, nor is war the only circumstance that gives rise to it, as I’m sure Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy survivors, among too many others, could tell you. Any earth-shakingly devastating event, as my husband’s death, in the way it occurred was, for me, can cause it. It’s a piece of why people who lived through it can tell you where they were and what they were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated, for example, or when the events of the infamous 9-11 took place, which irrevocably changed the lives of not just those who were immediately affected, but many who were at some distance, both physically and emotionally, from what happened.
As hard as any death of a loved one is, I can’t help but think and feel that when it happens so suddenly and shockingly as it did for me, it has its own special dimension of horror. It leaves a special mark, the way losing a child to a sudden, untimely death does for a parent. It shakes you to your deepest foundations and you are never the same again. It’s a watershed event. Life, forever after that, is measured and thought of in terms of “before” and “after” that event happened. That’s how my husband’s death is for me. A fundamental shift in the world, in how “life, the universe, and everything” is, and works. Who I am now is not the same as who I was before my husband died. I have been literally rebuilding myself and my life since then. And that
will be true until the day my own life ends.
That’s not to say that everything that happens after such an event is bad. Of course, even devastating events can open up possibilities for good things to happen, things that never could have happened if the watershed event hadn’t. There have been positive, as well as negative changes flowing out from my husband’s death. One of the biggest of those is the presence in my life, in a very different way than formerly, of the man I refer to here as my “growing ever dearer friend,” or GEDF. He was one of my husband’s best friends, and they shared the appreciation of vintage SAAB automobiles, cats and dealing with the vagaries of computers, among other things. I can’t say I knew him well, prior to my husband’s death, but he was one of my favorite of my husband’s friends, someone I always felt comfortable with. He is the one I asked to speak, at my husband’s memorial service, for the SAAB side of Andy’s life, which he did, in his own humorous, yet deeply felt, and completely inimitable way. He was someone I instinctively went to for comfort in the wake of Andy’s death, and he never let me down when I called upon him for that comfort.
I remember being a little surprised, but pleased, the first time he asked me out to dinner after Andy died. I’m not sure when I started to wonder if he was interested in me as maybe more than just giving comfort to the widow of one of his best friends, but over time it became clearer that the interest was there. We have now discovered each other as, and have grown to become very good friends in a way that would, and could never have happened if my husband hadn’t died. I cannot see this as anything but a good thing, though it has not always been easy. GEDF has emotional, and other kinds of scars of his own to contend with. I wouldn’t trade the experience of getting to know him the way I do now, though, for anything in this world.
I have felt all along that Andy’s spirit is and has been blessing this particular development in my and his friend’s lives. I can almost hear Andy saying that if he can’t be there to love and care for me in this life, he couldn’t leave me in better hands than those of his dear friend, a man who has a heart at least as big as my dear Andy’s was, an unexpected gift I cherish more than words can convey.
Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journey
and a special welcome to anyone new to The Grieving Room.
We meet every Monday evening.
Whether your loss is recent, or many years ago;
whether you've lost a person, or a pet;
or even if the person you're "mourning" is still alive,
("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time),
you can come to this diary and say whatever you need to say.
We can't solve each other's problems,
but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
Unlike a private journal
here, you know: your words are read by people who
have been through their own hell.
There's no need to pretty it up or tone it down..
It just is.