Saturday, May 21, 2016

#SOL16: Something's Eternal


Each day I find Rob's death hard to believe.  He is my home and so I find my body responds as if he is just away somewhere and will be coming home soon, after the weekend is over perhaps. Or he is out running errands, visiting a client, at the doctors, getting some coffee. His absence is earthly.

I think about us a year ago. What were we doing?  How odd it is now that Rob's death (in)forms my every breath that we did not know last April and May would be his last spring. 


Yesterday I came across three sets of text messages Rob and I exchanged on my iPad. I knew of the text messages from my phone, but I forgot about the ones on my iPad as I don't usually use it to text message. These messages chronicle our day-to-day lives from November, 2012 through to February 3, 2016. A little more than 3 years. On my phone I have other text messages between us and these end the day Rob came home on February 17. 

I started to read the messages from 2013 and realized I couldn't bear it. Instead I reread the last few messages we ever exchanged and marveled at how Rob was so in the world, so present. How could he decline in just a handful of day?  Below is an exchange from early on Valentine's Day and the 16th. (I am the blue with white print and Rob is the grey with black print.)


2.14.16 - 1st Part of the text message exchange.
2.14.16 2nd Part of the exchange

2.16.16- 1st part of text message

2.16.16 2nd part of message

2.16.16 -4th  part of message

2.16.16 - 3rd part of message

One thing that surprises me is that I too didn't think of his time as being imminently over. I was praying for a miracle. I don't think I remembered feeling that. I do know that by the time Rob came home I needed to learn from the Hospice caregivers to shift my attention from life saving to comfort. My friend Jane tells me that I called her to tell her that brisket was on sale at Kings the day before Rob came home. He had a hankering from brisket and I bought one to cook for him at home. 

It remains in the freezer. 

Rob came home on a Wednesday the 17th and by Friday the 19th he would eat half an egg sandwich in the morning and that would be the last meal he would ever eat.


For now, I can't go back to read our texts from the ordinary days before we knew Rob was dying. I'm not sure I will ever be ready for that.  Knowledge of the future corrupts the past. All of this reminds me of Act III from Thornton Wilder's Our Town. This act opens with the burial of Emily Webb. We watch as Emily takes her place among the dead and those who had attended her burial leave the cemetery. Now only the dead remain and the Stage Manager. Emily, as you might recall wants to return to the living. She is cautioned not to do this but she insists.  She wants to see just one day. Just one day.
STAGE MANAGER: And as you watch it, you see the thing they--down there--never know. You see the future. You know what's going to happen afterwards. 
EMILY: But is that--painful? Why?
Wilder doesn't let any of the characters answer Emily's question. How clever of him to make us all wait and to experience the why with Emily.  Emily selects her 12th birthday to step back into her former life. As predicted this step back in time is a mistake. A painful one. After witnessing the absence of intensity on the part of her mother and father she understands a truth that I too know now. 

 Emily tells us:

EMILY: I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another.  
She breaks down sobbing. 
The lights dim on the left hand of the stage. MRS. WEBB Disappears. 
I didn't realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed. Take me back - up the hill - to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look.  
Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners? Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking? and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths? and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.  
She looks to the stage manager and asks abruptly through her tears: 
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? - every, every minute?  
The saints and poets, maybe--they do some. 

At the very beginning of Act III of Our Town, the Stage Manager tells the audience, "There's something way down deep that's eternal about every human being." I liked to believe that my soul--that thing that is eternal in each of us--will (re)connect with Rob's soul. I want to believe that we will be reunited in/at another space-time. 
Something eternal. Yes. I saw what is eternal leave my husband's broken body as he exhaled his last breath that Tuesday afternoon in March. I know he stops somewhere waiting for me.

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