Reliving the Anniversaries
One of the hardest parts of becoming us without them is the slow motion approach of the death anniversary. Somehow it is as if we are reliving it again. The logical part of is knows it is in the past, but some other, illogical part of us begins to quietly dread it happening in the future. We can feel ourselves growing more anxious, or flakey, or some combination of the two as the time grows closer. Facebook nicely reminded me of this via a memory of a post from the first anniversary.
This is the week of the “last times” anniversaries. It is filled with the hope that the love we realize now was successfully conveyed last time, because it was, the very last time and there are no more chances.
On January 16, 2016, we celebrated what was to be our last family Christmas with the kids at Jeremy and Angela’s. It was our first Christmas with both or precious granddaughters. He played Santa Claus and seemed so healthy. January 17th was our last Sunday off together. Our work schedules were off synch and so full, that every other Sunday was our only concentrated time together. We spent the day mostly relaxing and getting ready for the family vacation at Tahoe that would begin on Thursday the 21st. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we both worked, which meant he was asleep when I left for work and I was asleep when he got home. We sometimes had brief conversations but one of us was mostly out of it and not very focused on the other. We talked by phone during the day, and I called him on my way home from my last appointment every night. If he was home early, he would be waiting on the front porch for me when I arrived, still talking to him on the phone.
So Wednesday, January 20th, would turn out to be the last time I would wake up and find him sleeping beside me. I was always grateful to wake up and find him there, but I can’t imagine that I expressed that clearly enough to feel sure he knew. Thursday he got up in the wee hours of the night to go duck hunting with his nephew, Bruce, and I left for Tahoe to meet the kids.
He worked Friday and rode up to Tahoe on Saturday with Jeremy, who had come home to coach soccer for the day. It was fairly late when they arrived. Sunday, January 24th, was my birthday, which means I am about to spend my first birthday without him since I was 17 years old. I will turn 65, feeling much older than I would have if he was here to celebrate with me. We spent the morning relaxing. My brothers and their families came over in the afternoon to celebrate my birthday. It was a very relaxing time, just enjoying the time together, laughing, and enjoying our last family meal together.
Monday was another day of simply relaxing and spending time with Jeremy, Angela, and Schuyler. Schuyler was always afraid of men and, while she flirted with him constantly, she had never allowed him to get very close. With days together, she had begun to warm up to him. He figured out that it was his size that was the problem, so he took to sitting on the floor so he seemed less intimidating. I caught a great picture that morning of her bringing him her favorite book and sitting on the floor next to him so they could read it together. I had not idea that would be the first and only picture I would have of them together like that. In the afternoon, he and I went on a drive around the lake. We enjoy a mellow evening watching TV with the kids.
January 26th, what would be his last day in our lives, I woke up very sick and he spent the morning tending to me. He and Jeremy planned to go snow shoeing in the afternoon and he was very excited about that. He had always wanted to share his outdoor world with his sons but they were always too busy to coordinate their schedules do to that. When it was time to go, he asked me If I wanted him to stay. I assured him that I was feeling much better. I told him he was the best husband in the world for offering. He had waited years to go play outside with his kids and I would never ask him to miss that. I have replayed that moment over and over, wishing so desperately that I had said, “Yes, please stay with me and don’t leave me.” There was no way to know that he had been overwhelmed by the duck hunting adventure and his heart was probably already stressed. The addition of the snow shoeing at 6500 ft. elevation would push him to the edge. Carrying one bin of groceries to the car, going down three flights of stairs and back up for the next triggered the heart attack. He dropped outside the door of the condo. Jeremy valiantly administered CPR of over 10 minutes while we waited for the fire department. And while Jeremy kept him alive so he had a chance to fight for his life, he had lost oxygen for too long and his brain was already gone.
Both my family and his surrounded us in the hospitals in Tahoe, Carson City, and Sacramento, every medical intervention possible was offered. His heart was beating on its own and although he was on a ventilator, he was breathing on his own. But in the end, on February 11th, we put him on comfort care and watched him leave us. He quietly stopped breathing at 6 pm on February 13th, taking half of my heart with him. On Valentines day, a day that he always celebrated with a flare, Jeremy put flowers and a card in my car so that day would not be such a black hole.
So now we are walking through the land mine of the anniversary of those days. So much has changed in this year. We are all learning to go on without him. My friends and family have been my life blood. I have a beautiful life, a wonderful new home around the corner from Jeremy, Angela and Schuyler, and meaningful work that gives my life purpose. But there will forever be a gaping black hole where there used to be an amazing partner and friend.
I would give a million dollars for one more minute with Butch to be sure I tell him how much I loved him and how awesome my life with him was. I just want to know that he knew that for sure. But my moments are gone forever and I’ll never get that one minute I want so badly.
Thanks to all of you whose prayers have carried us through this year and will most surely carry us through the next.