|from my art journal|
A year ago at 4:30 p.m., my husband died. It is still shocking that the world continues to turn and does so without Rob.
It was a Tuesday, sunny and unusually warm--much like the morning my mom died, 16 years earlier. So many details of that day a year ago have been lost, but the sheer beauty of the day remains, along with the closing hours of Rob's life and the final two breaths he made. Devon and I had thought Rob had taken his last breath and a minute or more later we were startled when he gasped and then died. There is no mistaking a body that has died. The body on the hospital bed was no longer my husband.
Dying is such hard work.
A year later, what best (in)forms my life is remembering Rob chose to live positively in the face of stage 4 lung cancer. He was fearless and brave, full of humor, and quiet contemplation. When Rob was at home after the first staph infection had been diagnosed, we spent time each day reading from Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: The Teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn. Other days found Rob watching foreign films with our friend Robyn and old Marx Brothers' comedies with Dev. He wrote daily in several notebooks and read Walter Benjamin books in order to keep his mind as whole as possible.
He has helped me to understand on a very visceral level that what rests in our hands is always a choice. How we answer that choice colors the life we make.
Rob could well have spent the last months of his life bowed under the weight of the diagnosis and the high probability that he would not live beyond a year. He could have met the disease with sadness, trepidation and at the end of six months, he would still have died. What would be different though is those last six months would have been squandered.
Live brilliantly, he told me 40 minutes after learning his prognosis was terminal. I have thought often about those two words, that phrase. I suspect the meaning will change with time. What I think about now is that Rob wanted me to face adversities as I face the ordinary. He wanted me to understand that at each minute of life, we make choices and the made choice gives us and our lives--definition.
Somedays, I can almost hear him telling me, Be the poem.
I love you, Rob.