HAP Posted March 9, 2013 Report Share Posted March 9, 2013 Dear friends, I have not been sick in the more than three years since Jane began the final descent into the arms of NET cancer—until this week. I didn’t feel right last Sunday and by Monday night a sore throat had announced something more nasty than a bit of stray pollen or dust had gotten through my immune system. But when the sore throat was gone Tuesday morning I thought my body had fought it off as it had the H1N1 flu that leveled Jane in 2009 and nearly killed her then. Wednesday morning I awoke with a hacking cough and a runny nose that screamed, “Gotcha.” I ran a mild fever Wednesday and Thursday that left me feeling weak and unfocussed but I reminded myself this was a normal cold—and that Jane had gone through far worse and I needed to be patient. “If she could spend 28 days chained to a hospital bed,” I reasoned, “I have no right to complain.” By this morning, I had had enough. The fever is gone but my nose is still chasing around the room and periodically I want to scream. I am a lousy patient, I’ve decided, and it is a good thing I live alone. Except for Jane’s voice in my head. That voice was chiding me this morning—and it made me angry. Not at her, of course, but at myself—until I figured out what was really bothering me. Since then, while the frustration remains, the anger has drained away. That is often what happens—what happened even before Jane got sick. The thing people don’t understand about the loss of a spouse to cancer—or to anything else—is that the death kills you both. The moment Jane’s body died, I died, too. The person I was no longer existed because so much of who I was depended on her existence—just as so much of the person she was depended on my existence. There is huge security in knowing someone always has your back—that if you fall, they will catch you. We cloak it all in metaphor and we talk about the importance of individual growth—but the truth is we become one more and more through every hour of a good marriage. We become attuned to each other not only in spirit but on the physical level as well. Only now have I begun to understand that the problem with my sleep comes not always from my dreams but from the absence of her heartbeat and her breathing—that the disquiet I sometimes feel during the day comes from the same source. Twenty-seven months after her death I still subconsciously seek the physical cues of her presence—like an amputee seeking the presence of a phantom limb. As widows and widowers we sometimes talk about the “new normal”--about the lives we lead now and how they are so much different than the lives we led before the illness or before the death. We do not know how to discuss, even with each other much of the time, the depth of our loss—the fact that we are as dead—at least for a time—as our spouse’s body. Jane and I had so deeply intertwined our lives that part of me is simply waiting to die—as though I have no right to exist now that she is gone. Every couple invents its own internal mythology over time. And that mythology looks ahead as well as back. Jane and I had a shared post-retirement vision: the writing and travelling we would do; the gardening and house projects we would undertake; and the slow decline of our mental and physical powers that would end in our deaths at most a year or so apart. Whoever was left behind would have no long wait before he or she returned home as well. Jane died at 56. In a few weeks I will be 61. I want to go home. But the work we began here is not done. Nor is the work I promised her I would do if she died. And the last three days I have looked at the enormity of those promises against the slender resources a half-living man can bring to bear. It is not enough. I do not want to be Lazarus. I pity him. I pity his family. What is it to have to die twice? What is it to have to mourn a spouse’s passing twice? To mourn a father’s and a brother’s? But a half-living man can work neither among the living nor the dead. So I must choose to find my way back from the Land of the Dead, however much I hate the thought of returning to life, however much less effort it would take to remain waiting for death. The Tao has a verse for this: Three in ten are followers of life; Three in ten are followers of death; Three in ten are passing through life to death. One in ten lives: In him, the rhinoceros can find no place to put his horn, The tiger, no place to put his claws. Tomorrow marks 27 months since Jane’s death. Tonight at 6:05 will mark 27 months since the last time her body was awake enough to communicate at all. She made me promise the Saturday before her surgery I would live no matter what happened. It is time I began to honor the true spirit of that promise. Peace, Harry Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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