|The Familiar Falling Away (Devon running down a road in Ringwood, NJ. M.A. Reilly)|
I know more now. Knowledge comes with personal cost.
After watching Rob die, I know that death is more labor than not; more late acceptance than hope. What I am learning nearly two years later is the nature of being alone. No matter how constant I held Rob’s hand between both of mine, he went to his death alone. We all die alone and this frightens me even though I realize it is both requirement and fate to leave alone. I watched Rob do that the last 36 hours of his life. I watched from beside his bed. I watched with my eyes trained on his. He resurfaced for a moment twelve hours before his death choking on flem. Only our friend, Robyn was present and though panic swelled having another person there in the middle of the night was more of a gift than I could name at the moment. I learned how to clear the airway, how to administer greater amounts of morphine that the doctor ordered, how to best insure that my husband's leaving would be without panic.
This knowledge has changed me: I'm more watchful now. I scare easily and let go of panic quickly too. I'm less interested in gains of any sort. The trappings of this life are that: trappings. They feel like weight. Giving is an elixir. I sidestep drama. I measure possible concerns against the lost of a love and ask how important is this? I find I anger easily at foolish things and forget grudges easily too. I know bad things happen and new things emerge.
The passing of time has acted to unwind Rob from my memory, as if remembering was like adjusting a TV antenna in the hope of clearing static. A new image emerges of the last eight weeks of his life and this time I see me with him. When I close my eyes and try to see him, it’s like I am glimpsing a man I almost know, but not quite. Then I could only see Rob. His voice remained the same even though his features had changed. When he looked in a mirror and then at me and said he didn’t recognize himself I felt his pain.
“You were given huge amounts of steroids Rob. That’s what’s causing the distortion.”
“I don’t recognize my own face. Shit, even my hair is grey now.”
“You’re just distinguished.”
“I want to write a letter to Devon before it’s too late.”
When my husband grew too ill to be himself, I began to lose my very best friend and learned how to let this void fill with even greater space. Every loss opens me to what I could not imagine before. Rob would love knowing that.