We never talked about this part. Oh, of course we joked about it. “If I die before you, you will soon starve to death” or “If you die before me, who will open the jars?” But we never really TALKED about it and how it would be when one of us died. There was a part of me that hoped that we died together in a fiery crash on the Autobahn in Germany. How romantic would that be? Never mind the mess it would create for our sons, but at least we could have been together. We were always together. We worked to build something from nothing for 38 years and we pulled it off. We traveled the world and had breathtaking adventures together. We spent 24 hours of every day together and looking back, it was not enough, and I still want more. You were the exhale to my inhale. The completion of my sentence. My Crème Brulee after a romantic dinner. My first thought in the morning and the last in the evening. My other half. My completion. And now when I reach across to touch you in our bed, you are gone and each time my heart breaks again. I miss our conversations and sharing our most intimate and private thoughts. Where do I go with those now? I only trusted those with you.
“They” say that it will get better with time. Isn’t it odd that “they” are all the people who still have their spouses next to them in bed and that they do not have a clue what it is like to lose their life partner. I realize that people do not know what to say and that their intention is to try to say something to make me feel better. At least I used to think that, but as I live every day of my life listening to the platitudes, albeit well intentioned, I have come the see that they often are just saying something to make themselves feel less awkward and find a rapid way to close the conversation and extradite themselves from the moment. I get it and I do not take offense. Death is something we all avoid even thinking about and it generates such a veil of discomfort covering any time we must face it that people want to keep the veil on it, cover it up, ignore it, change the subject and make it go away. When you and I faced the death of your parents and my father, we did what we do best….we DO. We get into the “do” mode. We identified what needed to get done, we made a plan and we DID. We took control of the situation and problem solved. It was our silent gift to the other survivors so that they could grieve. We took that burden from them because it is what we DID. Then we grieved together and in private. It was personal for us and not for anyone else to invade. We talked and laughed and cried and shared stories both new ones and ones we had told a thousand times before. That did not matter. We were together sharing something so intimate—the death of someone we loved.
Now I am on the other side of that situation, but I am standing alone. I do not know how to do alone. With you, I was never alone. You did not stand next to me, you surrounded me. When you were there, I never felt scared or in danger because YOU were there. This, I think, is part of the reason that, during your illness, it never occurred that you might die. After all, it was YOU. You jumped out of airplanes, killed enemy combatants and never broke a fingernail. You got your foot crushed by a forklift, lost toes and did not take pain killer for 4 hours. You were invincible and indestructible. We got on the transplant list! All you needed were a couple of organs to be donated, a dozen hours in surgery, a few months to recuperate and we were on our way home. You could do this with one hand tied behind your back! No challenge too big. Since, as you always said, I saw the sunshine and you saw the clouds, I could not allow even a hint of the clouds into my thoughts about you surviving this. I had to know in my bones that you would get to the other side of this and that I would walk the entire trip with you holding your hand and whispering, “I love you, Baby” in your ear a thousand times a day. But you knew from the beginning that you would never get home alive. I believe that because you loved me, you never mentioned it to me. You told the others, but you never told me. Even in the end, you surrounded me.
Two days ago marked 9 months that you died. I should have written to you before this, but the majority of the time has been a blur. People react to death and grief in unique ways and each will travel their personal path. I had no point of reference and was unprepared for the tsunami of emotions that would hit me from different directions like shrapnel from a bomb. I was equally unprepared to discover that I had to do this alone. Oh, dear Lord, please do not make me do this alone! I don’t know how to do alone. I am not afraid of being alone, I just do not want to be without YOU. I do not want to do ALONE. In the end, I do not get a choice.
It has taken me 9 months to be clear headed enough to begin to write to you. Most of all, I need to tell you that I miss you so badly it hurts physically and that my love for you is stronger than ever. Maybe I am in denial, but I still caress your ashes and say the same thing to you over and over…I cannot believe you are gone and that you are never coming back. I hold you and rock you and kiss you and cry on you. It is the only way that I now have to touch you and I savor the moments. I miss you, my love.
I am beginning to think that I make some of the people around me uncomfortable and they have no idea how to deal with me. I do grief like I do everything else in my life….full of passion and full force out for all to see. I cannot do it any other way because this is me. You were OK with looking over at me during the playing of the LSU Alma Mater and see me tears streaming down my face. You completely understood why when standing on the cobblestones at the Palace of Versailles I wept. You never asked me to say the blessing for Christmas dinner because you knew I could never make it through without crying. You understood that is just what I do and that is how I do it and you embraced me through it. They do not. So now that 9 months have gone by, according to them, I should be over this and not so “hysterical”. Apparently, there is a grief expiration date and I am well past that date. According to them, they are willing to try to make me “better” but I am obviously not willing. News flash to family: I will NEVER stop grieving but I will stop trying to have you see my world my way. Do what you want, say what you want, assume what you want. I am to the point where all I have the energy to do is put my feet on the floor in the morning and realize that Larry is gone, and this is another day without him. There is no expectation on my part for you to have any appreciation for this. All I ask is that you allow me to be where I am in MY process and keep your judgements to yourself. I am doing this alone and all I ask is that you do not sabotage me in the name of “love”.
Tonight, I am emotionally exhausted. I have so much that I need to write to you and will continue soon. For now, know that every moment of every day I miss you and the last words that I say at night are “I love you, Baby”.