One night, this past October, my life got real in an instant. A terrible, unimaginable real that at first doesn’t even compute. It actually took a moment to understand what I’ll never unsee – and never change. That was the moment I found my handsome, loving husband crumpled on the stair landing. It was the moment I went from wife — to widow.
Gone for only a hour, one nondescript hour, I could never have known my breezy ‘see you in a bit’ would be the last words I said to my man. There would be no warning that his red shirt was the first thing I saw as I reached the landing at the top of my split stairs. Even when I saw his awkward position and didn’t hear a single word in answer to my wailing pleas, it was still hard to comprehend. It would be the infinitesimal moment before confusion became pure panic. It wasn’t until later, much later, that it would strike me how I never noticed how partial he was to red. Crazy, right? But then, crazy would be kind of apt for this kind of night.
What do we all wish for when we realize something is not a nightmare but more ‘real’ than we ever bargained for? A miracle? A time machine? No matter what you pray, hope, wish for, nothing is crazier than what just happened.
As I traded my clumsy CPR efforts for the paramedics’ expert tries at a miracle, I still fought an increasingly evident truth because its enormity was well on its way to crushing me. But, as I, my anguished children and two loving friends sat in the glaringly lit hospital anteroom after the ambulance transported him on his final trip, there was only truth. Who knew ‘we tried everything we could’ in such a traumatic moment would sound straight out of a TV med show. Or that, in an instant, everything became nothing. Sure it might be comforting to know his death came instantly, given all he endured from cancer treatments in his prior 10 years. One could say he had more pain and less quality of life for two lifetimes. But given his vibrancy, energetic spirit and the fact that he was hard at work only a few hours prior – the idea of his having 9 lives was the myth we lived.
So now, in the ‘after’, there are still more questions than answers, more missing than memory, more tears than smiles. And I’m reminded often of our wedding day when my groom vowed that ‘from the moment we were never you and me but we and without each other we are neither nor’. And if I had to name this version of me in ‘real’ time today, I’d say ‘neither nor’ was exactly right.