With the help of my daughters and family I muddled through the first year, although there are a good many things I don’t remember. It’s a blur of tears, depression and pain. I kept telling myself if I could get through the first year maybe things would be better. Maybe I would survive. What I didn’t really expect was a string of constant illnesses.
In the beginning I was sick, physically, mentally and emotionally. It was no surprise to end up so weak I could not get out of bed. In fact I didn’t much care one way or the other if I ever did. When you can’t eat, can’t sleep and you find no joy in life what else can you expect? Give it time, everyone said. So I did. Time was all I had, endless days and nights of misery so profound the only way I could talk about it was on this blog.
When the year mark passed I was disappointed. It meant nothing as far as how I felt, just another day on the calendar. There was no sense of accomplishment, no relief, simply another bleak year ahead of me.
I spent a good deal of time wondering how my life had become so mundane, so empty. I have people I love, people who love me, but nothing could take his place.
I know it sounds terrible, but no one could possibly understand my loss. No other woman on earth could have loved her husband more than I loved mine, so what did they know? How could they understand? We were unique, Bill and I. There was not another couple in the world so devoted to each other.
It’s very self-centered and totally unrealistic. Of course there are others who feel what I feel. There are others who know a pain so deep, so debilitating but like me they believe they are alone in their suffering and they are to a certain extent.
Part of that has to do with the intimacy only other couples like us share. It’s memories that you could talk about and many you never would. It’s the very private connection of living with a man who understands everything about you, the beautiful and the ugly, but loves you anyway. It’s having someone in your life you never have to hide from. You’re completely exposed in every possible way, yet it’s good, wonderful in fact, and it’s gone.
Over time I tried to pick myself up and dust myself off. It’s the way I was raised. No use crying over spilt milk. No point in feeling sorry for yourself. Buck up! Don’t be a baby. He’s gone and there’s not one damn thing you can do about it, so carry on and all that rot.
I prayed, a lot. I prayed for strength, courage and faith. I prayed for a day, an hour, a minute of peace, of respite from the misery that greets me each day the moment I open my eyes and remember he’s gone. I even prayed to die. God almost answered that one.
Basically I’m in reasonably good health; at least I was before Bill got sick. Things started going wacky for me shortly before he died. I started fainting.
The medical word is Syncope and there are many causes for it. Mine seems to be mainly caused by dehydration and at times malnutrition. It’s also caused by stress or sudden shock, that sort of thing. Some people faint at the sight of blood, etc.
Prior to Bill’s illness I’d never been in an ambulance in my life. Since then I’ve taken six rides. I am not impressed. They are expensive and embarrassing to me, not during of course, during I have no idea what’s going on because my blood pressure is 60/30 or 80/40, but after I’m a bit mortified. The fire departments have a name for people like that, frequent fliers. I do not want that name.
It galls me to a certain extent. My heart is good. Although I’m a smoker, my lungs are good and I pass every breathing test. I do have some autoimmune diseases that prevent my body from operating on full steam when I get an infection, but hey, we all have something. I could use new reading glasses as mine fall off my face but who knew when you lose weight that can happen?
In January I collapsed at home, passed out and hit my head and took a ride after my daughter was able to revive me. To be honest I was a little pissed but I can’t in good conscience expect her to stand there and let me die. It turned out I had the flu and was in the hospital for several days. The Social Worker said my obit would have said I died from complications of the flu.
After that I sort of vowed to take better care of myself. I tried, most of the time, but again I failed. I promised myself I would try to find some joy in life.
On February 19th I collapsed at the casino, another backwards ride to the hospital where they filled my up with all kinds of goody fluids and nutrients and sent me home. The very next night I took another ride after waking in the middle of the night horribly sick and passing out.
This was, by far, the worst. I had a gastro infection of some kind that turned into Sepsis. The illness is horrible, the medications are horrible and every single one makes you dizzy, something you already are. I didn’t take more than four or five steps in all the days I was in there.
My daughters never left my side. I wasn’t alone for minute and I’m so very grateful for that. I knew Sepsis was serious. No one could be that sick and want to live, but for some reason I did. I even took all my medications when I got home like a good girl even though I hated every single Leviquin pill and referred to Flagyl as ‘the F bomb’.
On Wednesday I dragged myself to the doctors for the ‘after hospital’ exam and was stunned when he told me he’d only given me a 50/50 chance of surviving.
Now I have to ask myself, why did I survive? How did I survive? What am I supposed to be doing? What do I still have to accomplish? I’m not a very good mother anymore, but do my children, grandchildren, sisters still need me?
In January when I went out I felt Bill near me. In fact I thought he’d come for me and I was filled with peace and joy, but he didn’t take me with him. In February I didn’t feel him at all, not for a moment. I’m thinking he might be a little pissed at me. Seriously, he could be a real haunt when I was writing and not eating.
So, I’m trying to be better. I drink a Boost every day, which has like 15grams of protein. I’m eating yogurt and oranges and applesauce. I’m drinking lots of water.
Everything else tastes weird, too salty, too sweet etc.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, you will not die just because you want to. You will live. It’s all about how you want to live. You can do what I did and hope to stop. You can give up, not care and suffer, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to die. It only means you will feel like crap on top of your grief.
I know eating is a hassle. I know all about staying up until you’re so exhausted you can barely make it to bed. I understand not sleeping once you get there, but you have to decide what kind of quality of life you want while you’re still here, while you’re waiting for your turn.
Personally, I’m opposed to feeling like shit. I realize now that what I want doesn’t really matter. I’m here. I could be here for ten minutes or twenty years. The choice is not mine, but I don’t want to do it like this. I don’t want to be too weak to go anywhere. I don’t want to be alone out here in the back of beyond watching it snow for five months of the year. I don’t want my children to worry their lives away over me, or be afraid to leave me alone. They have a life. They have families and lovers and I’m stealing their best years away from them. It’s selfish, depriving them of what I once had.
I’m going to sell this house and find another, somewhere with less snow, more people and closer to the hospital, just in case. Some place where it’s not a twelve mile trip for bread and milk.
I love you Bill and miss you every single second of every single day, but I have to rejoin the real world. Death will not come for me and I cannot live in limbo any longer. When you are ready, I’ll be waiting.
Oh, I gave my wedding rings to Jill and Billy. You probably already know they are getting married in July and I’m very happy about it. The rings don’t fit me anymore and I’m wearing the five diamond band you gave me. It’s to big too, but I bought a black diamond band to wear in front of it. It sort of symbolizes my life now. I hope you’re not upset, but she’d get them eventually anyway and I want someone to wear them who loves her husband like I love you.