|from my art journal (Nov., 2016)|
Out here in the perimeter there are no stars
- The Doors
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.