The worst things happen on ordinary days.
In the morning a vision of you floating in the front door through the house and vanished out the sliding glass door as if taking a last look around. I fall back asleep.
I call the hospital later. You are asleep. Vitals are stable.
The sky is blue and the sun is shining. A friend brings over bagels and coffee. We sit outside and talk. Feeling more relaxed than I have in awhile.
The call from the hospital in the afternoon. Apprehension when seeing the number because when they call you it usually isn’t with good news. I answer and there are many loud voices in the background. You hear the nurse say “Quiet. It’s the husband”. They stop talking. I stop breathing.
The doctor comes on the line “Your wife stopped breathing. We worked to get her breathing again” the doctor says, “Her heart stopped. We did everything we could. She’s gone.”
I feel half my soul pulled out of the left side of my body as I hear this. I start to breathe. I continue listening to the doctor and I just keep breathing.
A call to your parents and their cries of anguish join my own. A text to your brother telling him to go to your parent’s house now.
Zoom call an hour later with my parents, siblings and their spouses spread out across the country. They listen. We all cry. The siblings tell me they will make plans and I hang up. Someone on the call asks can we do anything for him? “No. Not in this moment”
I breathe some more.
Evening and your parents arrive. We sit by the fire. The air filled with talk and tears and silence. An aunt and uncle arrive and join us at the fire. More tears. More silence.
Morning and I write in my journal. Maybe the routine will help me get through the day. Suddenly I hear your voice say my name. I hear it clearly with a tone that always vibrates straight to my heart. It gives me the feeling you are okay and eventually so will I. An oasis moment in a desert of grief.
How do we grieve as a family, a community? Mostly from a distance. We don’t want anyone catching what killed you because they came to honor your memory.
I go the hospital and pick up your belongings. You aren’t coming home.
The aunt finds a funeral home.
Sister arrives and lists are made. We visit the funeral home choose a casket, an urn, confirm the service can be streamed.
Years ago she chose the photo to display at her funeral. The one easy task.
More pictures for the slideshow. Distilling your essence into 50 photos or less.
A friend picks out clothes for you.
More phone calls to friends and family. Have we notified everyone we can think of? Publish status update posted on Facebook.
A cousin arrives and provides a comforting presence. Always in the background ready to help at a moments notice.
I see your body for the first time in the casket at the visitation. It’s your body. This is real. My body shakes and the tears flow as they have so often the last few days. You’re worth it and what we have is worth this pain and all the tears.
A brother arrives. Like the sister he’s had his first vaccination dose. For several days I live in my house with a mask on as the visitors are constant and welcome.
We spend many hours sitting outside around the fire a distance. We eat meals around the fire. You loved sitting around a fire. Something comforting about it.
Another brother, a priest, arrives and the service is planned. Music to open and close the service. We look to your playlists for inspiration.
One song has all of us laughing to the point of tears. Not appropriate we decide for the service but gave us a much needed release that night. Another oasis moment where I feel I can get through this and carry you forward in my life with joy.
I learn during the service you talked to my brother years before anticipating this time. You spoke with him about it and how you wanted to be remembered… with honesty, humility, and joy. Not aware you had done this but I’m not surprised. Thank you.
The service is over. People, those few able to attend, walk up, offer condolences, and look at her body in the casket. I stay for several minutes after everyone leaves. I pause. I cry. I stall. This is the last time I will see you. It’s time. A brother gathers me up and I walk out.
In our house again, family coming in, food cooked. Playing a board game to distract. Lots of time in the bedroom alone as I can only handle so much time with other people.
There is no flow to this day or the days since you died. They are all just snapshots, moments strung together with time crying and curled up in a ball.
This morning the sky is blue and the sun is shining. Ordinary day yet so much has changed.