My husband’s sudden and unexpected death happened on a Wednesday.
July 13, 2011.
We had gone to sleep the night before, and I still don’t recall saying goodnight.
Or saying anything.
We simply fell asleep, in the exhaustion of having two jobs and being busy and life.
A few hours later, he had left for his volunteer job at the local Petsmart,
helping out with cat adoptions, and then stocking pet food.
But he never got around to any of that.
His manager found him collapsed on the cold, hard floor instead,
about 90 minutes after arriving to work.
(Just a side note; I don’t actually know for a fact that the floor was cold, but for some reason, whenever I describe it to anyone or write about it, I always describe it as a cold floor. I just picture it and see it as being cold. These are the kinds of things, big and small, that trauma puts into our heads.)
My very healthy and active husband,
who was a paramedic and saved other people’s lives daily,
suffered from a massive heart attack at only age 46.
No symptoms. No warnings. No goodbyes.
Here one second,
Gone the next.
On that morning, I literally woke up to my new reality and the new life I didnt want, as my husband was gone from our apartment, and gone from Earth.
And since that catastrophic day,
I have been counting,
both consciously and subconsciously,
every month, week, hour, minute, and second,
since he died.
On the 13th of every month,
my heart would automatically know it was the 13th.
On the rare occasion that I didnt know within minutes of waking up,
my body would remind me.
I would feel “off”,
or really, really awful.
If it was the 13th of the month, and a Wednesday,
that was even worse.
I would re-live “that day”,
again and again
For over 2 years.
Until this week.
This week, someone innocently asked me,
“How long has it been since your husband died?”
And instead of blurting out, like a robot,
my completely normal response of:
“It has been 2 years, 4 months, 5 days, 17 hours, and 3 minutes since my love died” –
something bizarre happened.
For a few seconds in time,
I could not recall the exact time that had gone by since his death.
I had to think about it.
It required math.
I had to use my fingers, and carry the one.
That had never happened before.
And then I remembered something else,
that I had forgotten.
For the first time ever, since his death,
the 13th of a month, that happened to fall on a Wednesday,
without me even noticing.
The only reason I even thought about it,
was because this person had asked me,
“How long since he died?”
So I counted. Did the math. Remembered.
But here is the best part:
I didn’t feel any guilt.
I didn’t feel bad or guilty,
for momentarily forgetting the exact date in time
that my world exploded.
Because why should I?
It is insane to think,
that I could ever really forget.
That’s not possible.
His death is in the rhythms,
of everything I am.
I felt something else.
A new way of breathing.
I was happy to forget,
even for a few moments,
because in my world,
this is progress.
I was excited.
I almost felt like singing.
And after that day, this week, where I had forgotten what I had always remembered, I noticed other things happening too. Small things, but still things. I noticed that lately I have been sleeping in the range of 3-6 hours per night, instead of the 0-3 hours range that used to be my normal, for the first 18 months or so of this new life.
I noticed a couple walking down the street, holding hands and kissing, clearly in love – and for the first time in a long, long time – I didn’t want to simultaneously trip them and watch them fall into a manhole, never to be seen again. I mean, I didn’t want to throw them a goddamn party or anything, but I didn’t feel massive rage at them for having time together, when my time with Don was up. It’s a start.
I also noticed that this year, on the upcoming Thanksgiving, which will be my 3rd one without my love – that I’m not filled with anxiety and fear and dread, as the day approaches. I wouldn’t say I’m “excited”, because, well, let’s not get crazy – but it’s not looking like the black, dark hole it used to be.
The other day, I was in the car, driving to meet my best friend Sarah for dinner somewhere, and I had the car radio on. Now, that in itself, is something that is very recent for me, in my new “after” life. Music is still very hard. Music was my husband, and my husband was music – so it’s very, very hard. Only recently have I been able to even listen to music of any kind in the car, and still, lots of times, many songs will send me into random bursts of sobbing, and I become an emotional dishrag. But on this particular day, for whatever reason, it was different. Not only did they play music, they played Christmas music. “Let It Snow”.
I sat there. Driving. There was a slight pause in my tiny, ginormous world. Nothing happened. And then, something did happen. I turned it up. Loud. And for the first time, in a long, long time – I sang. It has hurt too much to sing since he died, because I’m not singing with him. I’m not singing while he strums his guitar. I’m not singing to chords that he learned, just for me, that would sound melodic, blended with my voice. Music was my husband, and my husband was music. And we, together, were music. Like a duet. When he died, the music stopped. There just didn’t seem to be a point anymore.
And then there was. In the car. When I sang “Let It Snow”, all alone, and with him.
For about 25 seconds in a row, I decided to let Christmas in again.
It hurt a lot.
I’m still not ready for all of Christmas.
But maybe just a verse.
So I sang.
And then I cried.