Today is the 28-month mark of the last time I heard his voice. He said, “I love you.” It was the last thing he ever said. He died five days later. Since that time, I have experienced every emotion imaginable. I am devastated. I am sad. I am lonely. I am angry. Sometimes, I try to figure out how I can stop this roller coaster of emotions and just walk on the ground. Grief has taught me that people do not understand grief until they have experienced it.
I spent nearly 20 years with this man. We laughed. We cried. We loved. Our passion was as vibrant at the end as it was in the beginning. I thought he hung the moon; I still think that. He thought I was made of the light that makes stars. We were truly in love. We believed in love. He encouraged me to reach for the stars.
I will never forget the day we learned a terrible demon called “cancer” was nesting inside of his chest. That same chest I lovingly caressed as we drifted into slumber. He was gone just 18 days later. I was so angry. I am still angry. It was so fast. I experienced a whirlwind of emotions as reality screamed at me. In the beginning, I asked everyone to pray that the miracle of medicine would kill the demon. I prayed. I prayed so hard, but obviously not hard enough. Near the end, when his body refused any nourishment, I asked everyone to pray that he would not suffer. That was the turning point for me. He made me look into his eyes, assure him that I would be okay and that I would finish college, and teach. That is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I had to keep tears inside and say those things, knowing that he was leaving me. I wanted to scream. I wanted to hit something. I wanted to curse God.
A few things sustained me during those first few days after, our children, my friends and my family. I do not even remember coming home that night. My best friend was with us at the hospital. She brought me home, but I do not really remember climbing into bed that night. What I remember is my hand on his chest, feeling the rise and fall of it as he strained for each breath the oxygen mask provided. I remember the noise of that oxygen. I remember how strong his heart beat. It was so loud and fast. I remember that his breaths became farther apart, his chest would rise and fall, for what seemed like hours, then it would rise again. Finally, it did not rise. His heart began to beat slower with eternities passing between each thump. Two minutes later, his heart stopped. There was no magic twinkling of bells, no angel heralding his arrival home, just silence.
That night was the beginning of a silence that persists to this day. I miss him so much. I stare at photos and twirl the wedding band on my finger. I tried to take it off once, but I could not do it. The ring has been a part of my body for two decades. It cried when I tried to remove it. Maybe that was me crying, I am not sure anymore. Regardless, it remains on my finger. He told me he loved me in a circle. When I asked him to explain that, he said, “A circle is endless. It is forever.” My ring is a circle that symbolizes the love we shared.
I do not know how I will survive the next decade or even tonight but I know that I will never stop missing him. I will never stop loving him. People tell me that I need to get over it, I need to move on, I need mental help—I have heard it all. How do I tell them that what I need is my love? He completed me. We were one. I am half a person now. At this moment—I am stuck on ANGRY. I am on a roller coaster just spinning its gears begging for a message from beyond. Next week—I will have coasted down one hill and climbed another, only to begin another descent into loneliness—or hell. The roller coaster never stops. I miss the ground beneath my feet.