Well, here it is, come at last: the first Christmas without my love. I’m dying inside, lost the love of my life…the soulmate I’ve been married to for 42 years. We have shared such a full life, some highs, some lows but always together. We laughed together and cried together. We made some heart-wrenching decisions mostly for the good of our kids. Sometimes those decisions were the wrong ones as can happen in life. But we did the best we could.
When we reached the empty nest time of our life it was nothing like what we expected. No kids meant less worries. But then we found ourselves wrapped up in a blanket of warmth and communing that surpassed everything we had before. We were able to focus on each other again.
It was a wonderful feeling to know that my love was not afraid to go down life’s road wherever it might lead as long as we were together. We laughed at the same movies; teased each other about taste in music (she liked the Beach Boys; I liked the Beatles but we both adored opera), but ultimately just loved being together.
When I faltered she lifted me up. When she couldn’t bare to give sad news I did it for her. When someone we knew needed help we both went over the family budget to find a way to do it.
I can’t help but remember our little inside jokes. I guess all long-time married couples have them. I’d crack a corny joke and she’d give me “The Look”. I’d mention how I thought her ears were cute and she’d bring up how I said that back in college about another girl.
Then the monster showed up at our doorstep and she would no longer be the same physically. She couldn’t stand on her own. She couldn’t do the things we all take for granted each day. Everything was too hard to do. Gradually, she became weaker and less self-reliant.
The hardest part I now have to face is that I can’t do it with her anymore. I am alone. Yes, I have my two wonderful daughters and a grandson that is perfect in every way. Yes, prefect! But when I come home from work my dog will be there to greet me but my soulmate will not. It will be an empty home with nothing but memories that I am sure will never fill the void.
There was one last decision about our life that had to be made. This time I had to do it without her. That decision was to return my wife to a nursing home to delay her death a few more days or maybe even a few more weeks or to move her from the all-to-familiar emergency room to comfort care in the hospital for her final days. My heart and I chose comfort care. That meant no more feeding through the gastric tube. No more IV for hydration. But it also meant the right kind of medication to take away her pain and let her sleep.
The staff was the most loving, understanding group of people I have ever met. Such a contrast to the nursing home staff that seemed to be either overwhelmed, uncaring or downright resentful. But each day that passed, no matter how peaceful, marked the path to her the grave. There was so very little time left for us to be together. She slowly drifted into whatever realm exists between life and death. I spent the last day holding her, hanging on her every breath not knowing if each one would be her last. But still such a better alternative to weeks in a nursing home shuttled back and forth almost daily to the hospital every time she started to fail. Finally, the last breathe came and went. She passed away in her sleep without pain.
While it tears me apart inside I know she is much better off now and at a long-sought peace. Her last words to me were “Babe, Don’t cry. I’ll be all right.” And she is at last.