Thoughts can just hit me out of the blue. I’m driving, walking, talking, watching television and something pops into my mind. Today as I drove home from work, the words I used to say to Kevin throughout his illness, particularly in the latter days, just popped into my head.
When he first got diagnosed and after the initial shock, I went into research mode. God bless him, he would try just about anything that sounded promising. It was all about that slim margin of people who, despite being Stage 4 Lung/Bone cancer, manage to see five, even seven, years of life. That hope that dangled out there – the thought, why not us, why not Kevin?
So when we talked treatments and looked toward the future, Kevin would say – “if I make to next summer then let’s travel.” I’d respond back, “Not if, when. There are some people who manage to see five years, why not you?” We lived and breathed that “why not” philosophy. The treatments made sense, became more bearable, because they fit into the ‘why not’ world view we had created.
As things progressed and started to take a toll on his physical body he still kept on believing; we still kept hoping for that miracle to occur. Decisions had to be made about the value of the treatments versus the impacts to his health. It was at times like these that I had to step back. I’m a greedy woman, not a cruel one. Greedy in the sense that I wanted Kevin with me, I couldn’t imagine life without him. Greedy for the warmth and love that he provided me. But not cruel – never cruel. Did I want my husband around longer, absolutely, but at what cost? What value did the treatments provide?
There was a point when all hope was false, we both knew it. The decisions and discussions became about the achievable things and making sure that Kevin could enjoy them properly. The treatments stopped. It was Kevin’s decision and I accepted it, it was unbearable to see him suffer. He did suffer in ways that I can’t express in writing. He was tired and the inevitable was bearing down upon us. His spirit, once so strong, was waning; he was necessarily quiet since it took too much energy and hurt too much to talk.
Time was both a blessing and a curse at this point. For me and the rest of the family there was just too little, for Kevin I suspect it was interminable. His death came quickly; we went from an anticipated three weeks to just five days. No one was surprised, not really. He’d made up his mind. There were tears on his cheeks in the morning of the day he died. Trickling out of the corners of his eyes, closed tight while he struggled for every breath. A few hours later he was gone, so gently we weren’t sure it had happened.
I sit in the spot in the living room where Kevin would have sat. Anyone who comes to the house knows where Kevin sat. He liked centre stage. He liked to be able to look out the window and see what was going on. Not just while he was sick, he had always liked to see the comings and goings in the neighbourhood. Even more, we all had our assigned places in this house, our seats at the dining room table, our dinner plates, coffee mugs. The imprint or stamp of this family is very defined thanks in large part to Kevin and ‘his way of being’.
So I suspect that the arbitrary thoughts that cross through my mind are likely not arbitrary at all. They come from my unconscious mind struggling to adjust to the new reality. My conscious mind is working hard to override 30 plus years of conditioning. I wear the imprint of being Kevin’s wife, partner, friend, without even really recognizing how it has shaped and molded me. So although the pop-ins or moments that are triggered by things can be quite gut-wrenching, they are also awareness pieces for me. There is so much to examine and make sense of regarding this awful loss. It’s like a pane of glass shattered into 10,000 pieces – big pieces, small pieces and little shards – they all cut and my blood is just as red for each one.