12 June 2010

The Aftermath

I've been dealing with a fair bit of guilt for the past week.

There is a thing called "survivor's guilt" where the one that is left feels guilty for not feeling worse about their loved one being gone. There are various shades of it, but you get the general idea. It is usually more pronounced when the loved one dies of a long and drawn out illness and the survivor has been the primary caretaker. The guilt comes about partly because of the relief that the survivor feels now that the long care-taking ordeal is over.

In my case I was able to deal with the pain of losing her in a fairly short amount of time, that being a couple of days. Not to say I don't get a bit melancholy or misty-eyed now and again, but the real pain wore off after a few days. There wasn't a long care-taking ordeal because she didn't get so bad off that she couldn't move around, even at the end, so that wasn't a part of it. I just felt guilty that I didn't feel worse about losing her.

One thing about driving several hundred miles with a box strapped into the side-seat is that you get a lot of time to think about things. What I finally came to realize is that the shock of losing her wasn't that great at all because we both knew that it was going to happen. The real shock came in the timing. No matter how much you prepare, you just aren't ready for such a thing to happen. In her case, she was fine just 24 hours prior to her sudden death, so there wasn't any warning at all.

Note that I'm referring to her moment of death as being that point beside the car where she collapsed, and I lowered her to the ground. One look at her eyes, open wide, rolled back and unfocused, told me that she was gone. I didn't want to believe it then, but the fact remained regardless of my inability or unwillingness to believe in it. The only thing that died Thursday in that hospital bed was the human suit that she wore for almost 46 years. My Laura died in my arms on Wednesday, June 2nd, just before 6 PM.

She never did get that gaunt drawn-down look to her, even at the very end while she was laying in that hospital bed she didn't look sick. She looked as if she would, at any moment, open her eyes and demand to know why everyone was making such a fuss over her. She hated that, she would make a big deal over anyone else's event and plan rings around it, but she didn't want anyone to do that to her. She would be happier over cards and flowers than she would have been over big elaborate parties. That was my Laura.

That's why when she collapsed and never regained consciousness it was such a shock to me. I was simply not prepared to acknowledge that this was the end, not when she looked so otherwise healthy. But the monster inside her had taken it's toll in other ways, and that great heart that cared so much about others and not as much for herself just failed in the end under the strain.

The fact is that we had said our goodbyes in hundreds of little ways ever since her diagnosis. One of the things that this taught us to do is treat each moment, each precious jewel in time, as the unique event that it is; never take it for granted, and before it is over make sure the person you are with knows, if you never see them again, the depth of your feelings for them.

She knew that she was going to die soon. I did not. But when she went, the last thing she heard was my voice in her ear, and the last thing she felt was my arms around her. She went knowing how I felt about her, and I know how she felt about me.

I will miss her terribly, but I no longer feel guilty about not mourning longer.


cary said...

Grief is personal - don't ever let anyone tell you how long or in what manner to grieve.

Laura knew you loved her, you knew Laura loved you. That is the sign of a great partnership, marriage, and friendship.

May God bless you with the knowledge that you were Laura's rock and mooring place; the love the two of you shared is a beacon to others around you.

Larry said...

We had a good run Cary, and I am a richer man in my soul for having had her for the time that I did.
Thanks for dropping by!

Moose1942 said...

Celebrate her life and the time you had together. A couple of years ago I thought I might lose my beautiful wife. The worst feeling I ever had was sitting in her hospital room powerless to do anything to change the situation.

May the good Lord bless you until the day you are reunited.

Larry said...

The worst feeling in the world is knowing you can't do anything, Moose. I'm glad there was a happy ending for you.
Thanks for dropping by!

Brigid said...

I had known she was sick but then was out of town for a long while and didn't catch up with the posts.

There are no words for you. But I can give you a little poem (I know, don't quit my day job).


When you leave 'll become a tree,
lone on a hill, strong and free
Growing as I wait for your return,
though years of lonely stars still burn.

Though I'll miss you,I will grow tall,
providing shelter to those so small.
Gaining strength and breadth we'll sing,
I'll spread my leafy branches out like wings.

But each moment of every day,
branches clasped as though I pray.
Though not because I feel I sinned,
in finding life without you empty wind
- Brigid

Larry said...

You had your own problems to deal with Brigid, and my prayers go out for you and yours.
Thanks for dropping by.