Not all anniversaries are good
Sixteen years ago this week, several bad things happened.
It began in the wee small hours of the morning of the 12th. I was awakened by the sound of a crash. I stumbled into the computer room to see one bookcase knocked over, and my husband, Ray, on the floor having some kind of seizure.
He had been sick for a few years. There had been surgery and rounds of chemotherapy. Just two weeks before, the specialist overseeing his treatment had cautiously told us that instead of only having two years or less to live, Ray might be looking at five to ten years.
They had been telling us the “two years or less” line for more than three years, and I had kept refusing to believe it, so I’m not sure why I took the new prognosis as such good news. Other than the usual human tendency to reject news we don’t like, and accept news we do.
I remained surprisingly calm as I tried to hold him so he wouldn’t hurt himself further and call 9-1-1.
Until something happened. I still can’t describe it very well. He was still seizing, but something changed. The light in his eyes was different, or something. Until that moment, I believed this was something treatable. Something we could fix. But when that change happened, I suddenly stopped believing… So by the time the paramedics got there I was in more than a bit of a panic.
I could go on to list the other things that happened, the many stages of denial (for other people, denial was a single stage, for me it went through an incredible number of nuanced phases over the next couple of days). Then, while hugging and crying on my friend, Kristin’s, shoulder, I jumped over the other phases. I’d been crying off and on for hours—days, technically (though I’d only slept a couple hours out of the previous 48+, so it seemed like one really long, horrible day).
So on the 14th I signed some papers. Then a couple of nurses turned off the monitors, removed the respirator tubes, and turned off the rest of the machines.
I held Ray’s hand. I said “Good-bye.”
I don’t remember if I cried again. My last chronologically-in-order memory is taking hold of his hand that one last time. My memories for the next few months are like a collection of shattered glass pictures.
He promised me he would stay with me for the rest of his life. And he did.