|Rob's Hand (March 2016)|
Jeremiah 8:21-22. “I weep for the hurt of my people; I stand amazed, silent, and dumb with grief. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why doesn't God do something? Why doesn't he help?”
I am speaking with the grief therapist yesterday morning when a new understanding of this pain surfaces. I am experiencing the last weeks of Rob's life for the first time. A year ago, Rob was still alive, still here. One of the things I would say to myself when I sensed panic rising during that time is that I could still touch him, see him, hear him, kiss him. This litany of things I could do brought comfort.
A year ago, I slept little and ate less and walked through each of his last 20 days at home attentive to only my husband and his needs. I swore I would do all I could to ease--as well as I might--his passing from this life to the next. I wanted to comfort him. I wanted him to know the love I felt and hope that he did. Oddly this drive insulated me from the pain.
I realize now that so much was beyond my reach, my touch. Rob passed from here to there on his own as he had to--as you and I will one day do as well.
Those last few days in the hospital, the week in the palliative care unit, and the 20 days at home are now (in)formed by the understanding of what happened next--what happened on that last day. Rob's life has an ending. And it is knowing that he will die on March 8th at 4:15 in the afternoon that changes how all the previous days with Rob can be understood.
Time folds back on itself.
I keep returning to that John Berger quote I mentioned in a post last week. In a conversation with Susan Sontag he says, "Somebody dies. It's not just a question of tact that one then says, well, perhaps it is possible to tell that story. It's because, after that death, one can read that life. The life becomes readable."
With his death, Rob's life became readable.
It's reading Rob's life a year later--that life I loved like I loved the man, that feelings well up, swamp me. I feel sorrow grab and take hold for I see so much more now than I could have at the time.
I see now how impossibly lost my sweet husband was during those last few weeks. I see how vulnerable he was. How childlike he was at times. I see his sadness when he would remember he was dying. I see now, that he forgot so much. Each morning he would ask me to help him stand, forgetting the paralysis that kept him moored to that hospital bed. I realize now that he didn't think it odd that he was in a hospital bed in the middle of our family room. I realize now that I never noticed that before.
He began the leaving process well before he took his last breath. And it isn't only the last few weeks of his life that are refocused. No. Rather, it is every minute I spent with him. Every memory that resurfaces. All of them are now subject to illustrating the distance between then and when he would die. It isn't that we climbed all over the Badlands one August, but rather that this happened five years before the diagnosis. It isn't that the time in Tuscany was spent wandering and eating well and laughing often. Rather, it's two years before the diagnosis.
Every photo has a timeline taped to it now. And the photos with Rob and Devon hurt the most. I can barely look at those first photographs. We were so impossibly young and lovely. I wonder how Rob could only have a handful of years with his son. 17 years is too little time. 17 years is a quick breath in a lifetime.
And though remembering all of this hurts, I sense this pain is more redemptive than harmful. More solace than salt.