Monday, December 19, 2016

#SOL16: A Gift

from my art journal  (Nov., 2016)

Out here in the perimeter there are no stars              
                                                 - The Doors




I.

About three days before Rob died, he no longer was very present in what had been our life. He would resurface one time during those last days when friends came to visit, but he was no longer connected to me. I realize that now.

As he edged closer to death, he did so alone.

He spent his last 20 days preparing himself for his death. It was solitary in so many ways and I--at best--was privy to only a small part of that process.  We all enter and leave alone.

II.

Even now, months later, I still feel the sudden sick drop of my stomach when I think of Rob's last minutes alive.  I know that I held his right hand between both of mine and I think I spoke with him. More than likely I kept repeating something reassuring. Perhaps I told him how loved he was. How it was okay to let go and find peace.  Honestly, I cannot recall what words I spoke or if I spoke any words aloud or not. All the while, Devon sat on the other side of the bed, his father's left hand tucked between his two hands.  Beyond us were others: Jane and Robyn, my brother, Brendan. Perhaps others as well I can't recall.  I know that no one but Rob and Devon were in my field of sight.

What memory remains with a cutting clarity is how my son would not let go of his father's hand for nearly thirty minutes after Rob died. He just laid against his father's body and cried. Our son had just turned 17 a month earlier. I recall as I gathered all the medical supplies that were throughout the main floor of our home that I was worrying about how I might help Devon be able to leave his father's body.  I said nothing and found patience and Devon eased himself from what had been his dad.  We talked quietly about how quickly Rob was gone from the room, leaving behind the body that had been his for so long, but no more.

III.

When the man you love dies in front of you, the body you have know so long, so intimately reveals itself at death to be not the man at all. The man is gone even though the body remains. And so quickly that body begins to collapse in on itself--loosened jaw, sunken cheeks. It seems to disassemble before your eyes. Who knew the spirit was the source of life?

IV.

To care for my husband, the father of our child, and bear witness to his much too early death is to have the trajectory of my life altered. I will never be the same as I was before that morning when we received a phone call telling us that Rob had cancer.  In the space of 30 weeks my husband went from walking around seemingly fine to dead.

Carpe diem is no longer a catchy phrase, but rather an imperative I live with. Friends, we have now.


V.

Last week I reread some of what I had written on this blog during Rob's last three days of life. It was the first time I did so. Reading these few posts left me in tears. I had little to no memory of having written any of it and yet even though I was sad beyond description, I was also grateful that I have a record of those days--a record that is raw and honest and necessary.

To be able to to write and to have chosen to do so is more gift than I ever expected.

14 comments:

  1. Words with beauty, strength, love...I know the truth in them. I, too, was with my husband when he took his last breath, too soon. The words are a gift.

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    1. Thank you Diane for taking time to tell me this. I feel so much more these days. Wishing you peace and joy in 2017.

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  2. Mary Ann,
    Your words have captivated me during this whole time of Rob's illness, death, and your year of grieving. I'm so scared of all of this- of life changing with the ring of a phone and yet reading your account of how you have survived gives me hope for what may lie ahead. The image of your son holding Rob's hand for a half an hour after he passed away is heart-breaking. It makes me think of an AP at my school who was a young, vibrant man who became stricken with lung cancer. He fought so hard. His son visited our school one day- he was about ten. He held his dad's hand all day. It was like he couldn't get close enough to him. This man died of cancer- leaving behind a beautiful wife and 2 young children. I'll never forget the way that son held his father's hand and your story brought that back. I think these posts would make an incredible book about this whole journey. You've given all of us a gift.

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    1. Lung cancer is atrocious. The principal where Rob worked died in his 30s of a rare form of lung cancer. it was so shocking and so sudden. The one thing I am most grateful for is that neither Rob nor I wasted the time we had together worrying about death. Truthfully, it never occurrred to me that my husband would ever die so early. He was so vibrant, so full of life, I'm grateful we lived fully and that I am finding the courage to continue to live wide awake. I don't think I knew the inner strength I possess. Life calls in powerful ways.

      Peace to you and your family. Thank you once again for you meaningful words. They touch me.

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  3. Mary Ann, Every time I read your blog it resonates with me for days. I have no words to offer you, because you have experienced my deepest fear. "Friends, we have now." That is going on my board. (If that's okay.) Thank you for the poignant reminder. I do pray/wish/hope/offer peace and continued healing? for you. Thank you for sharing your story and being so gracious with your readers. You rock.

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    1. Thank you Kendra for your words and kindness.

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  4. Your willingness to share your emotions and observations with such intimacy is a gift to the world. Thank you.

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    1. David, thanks for reading and commenting. Means a lot.

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  5. This: "To be able to to write and to have chosen to do so is more gift than I ever expected." Your words are a gift to your readers. They live in my thoughts. Peace to you in 2017.

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    1. Thank you Julianne. Peace to you as well. May 2017 be kind to you.

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  6. Thank you, Mary Ann. Your words stir deep within, and though I feel much, I am mute. Peace and joy to you.

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  7. In our darkest moments, the pen holds a magical ability to convey what is locked inside. You have surfaced, Mary Ann, with words that hold your yesterdays, present, and yes even tomorrow as you seize the day. I am in awe that you have been able to record your journey with such clarity and emotion. May this season bring the peace that it always promises.

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    1. I don't know how the words arise, but am pleased they do. Happy holidays to you Carol. All the best for 2017.

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