As I slowly come to accept Bill’s death, the loss of his presence in my life, I find I am still tormented by two words, words I spoke.
There are so very many things that have happened in the last year I can’t remember, important things, events that should have left a lasting impression, yet I can’t recall any of the details.
The flip side is that I recall in nearly perfect detail everything that happened the day Bill died. It’s like watching a movie over and over in my mind, praying the ending will be different. I’m still mesmerized by the beauty of the day, the color of the sky, the sounds of the birds outside at the feeders, the sense of peace we felt as we sat at the table having our coffee.
For the first time in a very long time we were looking ahead, planning for a future we hadn’t been sure we had.
I won’t bore you with a moment by moment version of what happened that day. I’m pretty sure I’ve already done that, probably several times as I’ve poured my heart out on this blog. I’ve relived that day so many times I could probably recite every conversation, like a book you’ve read so many times you know it by heart.
It has gotten better. When I wake in the morning and see the empty side of the bed I think of him, of course I do, how can I not? Late in the night before I fall asleep I’m conscious of the solitude of my room, our room. I miss him, everything about him, but I know it’s not going away and I’ve come to find ways to get through it.
I have a pillow I hug and this might sound odd but a little stuffed animal I call Toby. It’s a Border Collie, black and white and I won him at bingo. My daughter asked for him and normally I would have given him over in a second, but for some strange reason I said no. Soon Toby was sleeping on Bill’s pillows. He has really soft dark fur/hair and in my sleep I reach over and stroke him. I find it comforting. I always touched Bill in the night. We always touched each other. Our bed is memory foam, so a lot of the time neither of us could sense the movement of the other. A simple pat, the touch of a hand assured him I was beside him. I slept with my hand on his pillow. I could stroke his hair and feel the movement if he got up.
Anyway, once again I’ve strayed from the point of this post. I wanted to talk about Health Care Proxies.
Most of us have them. Hospital’s make that a priority. Who is going to make your health care decisions if you’re unable to? We sign away, appointing our husband, wife, child, sister, friend, whoever we trust and it does imply trust. What we don’t think about is the responsibility we’re putting on our loved ones.
Chances are if they find themselves in the position to make your decisions something catastrophic has happened. If they love you, and most likely you would choose someone who does, they will be under an enormous amount of stress. They may be in shock as I was, or running on auto-pilot, again as I was.
Things happened very quickly for us. In fact when I received the death certificate and noted the time I death I couldn’t believe it. I was convinced it was wrong, by several hours. Such a horrific and monumental event could not have occurred in that short amount of time.
That was when I began to question my judgement. That was when those two little words began to torment me.
Rationally I know I did the right thing. I knew he was gone when I watched the light fade from his eyes, yet several things stick in my mind.
“We have some heart activity. It’s not enough to sustain life.”
Would it have been if I’d said ‘keep working on him’? Was there yet another miracle around the corner but I didn’t have the faith to wait for it? Why didn’t I bring someone into that room with me?
I know it was my responsibility. I was the only one who could make the decision, but I’ve second guessed myself a million times. Did I give up to early?
That day he was in Trauma Room 1, the same room my dad was in when he had the massive stroke that took his life. I was alone with Bill as I was with my dad, but for Bill I didn’t have to be. There was a room across the hall filled with my children, his family, and my family. I could have called someone else in and asked, “What should I do?”
But I didn’t. Instead I asked the doctor, “What is the outcome of this?” I watched them working on him, heard the no pulse, no pulse, no pulse over and over. I touched him. He felt cold. He did not squeeze my hand. I looked into his eyes. They were empty. Not like my dad’s. He looked at me as I stroked his head and sang to him, lying through my teeth about how everything was going to be all right when the doctor had already told me he wasn’t going to survive.
Had Bill shown any sign of life, had there been any flicker of hope in my heart I might have answered differently. When that doctor sadly shook his head in answer to my question I felt I had no choice. Could I in good conscience stand there and continue to watch them torture his body and do nothing? Would I want that if it were me? If they managed to keep him alive, would he have any quality of life, this man who’d already been through so much pain losing much more than just his leg, but his independence as well?
“Then stop,” I whispered.
Those two little words, two tiny little words will haunt me for the rest of my life.
There are times I know with absolute certainty I did the right thing, but there are times the ‘what if’ game torments me. There are even times I wonder if I said those words for me, because I couldn’t stand one more moment of seeing him like that. Did I say them because his heart had stopped beating or because mine was shattering? Was it me being strong or me being weak at the most crucial moment of my life?
I’ll never know. I realize that now. I do know that had Bill eventually woken up on a ventilator unable to talk and being kept alive with machines he would have looked at me with accusing eyes. That would have been a blow neither of us would have recovered from, but I will always wonder if I could have done something differently.
Maybe if I’d asked for his heart doctor to be called in and he said there was no hope I would feel differently, but ER doctors don’t know you. They don’t know how incredibly important your presence is to those around you. They see an older man, already missing one leg with the other one in peril. They see a man with an artificial aortic valve, COPD and vascular disease.
They don’t see the husband, father, brother, uncle and friend who’s death is going to create a tremendous void that nothing will ever fill. They don’t see the dozens of lives that will never be the same. They are medical personnel, looking at the situation from a purely medical perspective. They deal with death every day.
We do not. For us it is a crushing blow, an extremely painful event from which we may or may not recover, if it’s possible to recover from such a loss.
I may change my health care proxy. Right now it is my oldest daughter. I know in my heart she loves me and will make the best decision, but I think at the very least I should add someone else. That way she will not have to carry the burden alone. If the worst happens and she has to make a life or death decision at least she will have someone to discuss it with, someone she must discuss it with. It will not fall on her shoulders alone and maybe she would not spend the rest of her life second guessing herself. One can only hope.
So, this will be my last post of 2017. I feel a little better for having written my thoughts down. If there are other widows out there feeling what I’m feeling, wondering if the choices you made were the right ones, know that you are not alone. You are not crazy and while you may not have the outlet I have by being able to post on this blog, others share your uncertainty, your regrets and your pain.
When I pray I do not ask God to help me ‘get through this’ for I don’t believe we are ever ‘though’, as in done. I thank him for having had a man like Bill in my life for so many years and I ask for strength, courage and faith to ‘carry on’, for that’s all I can do, all any of us can do.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous year in 2018. If you’re celebrating I hope you have a good time. Be safe.
This page is now my blog/journal about Widowhood. I'm not qualified to give advice. I'm new at this. I don't want to be qualified. I don't want to be a widow, but no one asked me. These are my thoughts, fears and feelings. Please don't equate them as anything but that.