|Dreams Big Dreams (M.A. Reilly, October 2016)|
I equated Rob's death as the single source of my grief--as if grief might be encapsulated. For months I believed this to be a truth. I grieved because Rob died. Throughout this time, I moved in and out of denial about his death. It isn't that I thought he had not died, but rather I experienced what Joan Didion calls magical thinking. If I was good enough, kind enough, patient enough--our life would return to what it had been. Life as I knew it would be restored. I only needed to hold my breath and wait and then the miraculous would happen. Just wait and see. It's not as if I told myself this using words. Rather it was a bone deep knowing and regardless of how true it felt, it was false.
Some mornings when I came downstairs and it was late spring or early summer and the light was falling so lovely through all the front windows, it felt as if I could step back into that world I knew so well like one might step from a platform onto a stopped train before being swept away. I expected that as I turned to go into the kitchen, I would find Rob seated at the table with his coffee cup at hand.
The emptiness of the chair--a chair he never sat in--was so acute. My memories of our shared everyday ordinariness are so visceral, so familiar.
Those weeks right before his death, I craved the familiar as I stood in a landscape I hardly could name. Everything felt unfamiliar, changed, uneven, out of control. The hospital bed in the family room. The drone and click of the oxygen machine. The constant stream of people in and out of our home. Adult diapers. All I had to remember. The white liquid is Morphine. The pink liquid is Lorazepam. Fill the syringe with the green drug, haloperidol, if there is a psychotic incident.
One morning I realized that my husband could no longer say my name. He knew me, but his capacity to say my name was now gone. Every day something left us. Every day he inched towards death. I would learn later that at times of pain or fright, he would spontaneously call for me. He would yell, and only yell my name. In the middle all of this, there were lucid moments where I would glimpse my Rob again. But mostly he was not of this world those last three weeks of life.
In the weeks following his death, little made sense except the need to walk. I walked morning and late afternoon. I walked to try to distance myself from the awful, awful truth that my husband was dead. I walked because I could not sit still. I walked because Rob lost the capacity to walk. I walked because it reminded me that I was still living. I walked because I needed to commune with nature and I must have understood that it would be nature that would begin the healing. I walked to make a new ritual. I walked to see the cardinal darting in and out of the trees. I walked because it spent energy.