Two years ago today, I followed an ambulance up Hwy 95. I had just been told that Jim had a mass on his brain. I had enough medical knowledge at that time to know what the diagnosis was likely to be. On 9/11 two years ago, that diagnosis was confirmed after they cut as much visible glioblastoma from Jim’s brain as they could without causing a stroke. They took heathy brain tissue as well. On the evening of 9/11, I sent the kids back to the guest house and stayed with Jim until he was sleeping peacefully in the ICU. I then walked back in the dark towards the guest house. I did not make it back right away. I collapsed on a small patch of grass into racking sobs. My life as I had known it was over. Though Jim did not die that night, our dreams for growing old together did. Though there was much sweetness in his remaining 14 months on earth, he was never again the man I had married. I lost Jim on 9/11/2009.
I knew this weekend would be hard for me. It’s been looming for a while. I decided to fill it with good things to do. I fed Jasper’s cross-country team, 30 of the greatest kids in Moscow, spaghetti dinner last night. This morning I was up at 4:30 to volunteer at the Palouse Sprint Triathlon. I need to leave momentarily to pick up all the food for tomorrow’s Moscow Mountain Madness race. 2 years ago, we were still at the medical center when that race was run. I can still pull up the frustration of trying to organize the food from afar, the gratitude for those that jumped in to do it at the last minute, and the elation of the phone call that came though from the entire race crowd. I knew that this weekend would be hard for me….but I did not want the weekend to be about me.
9/11 is a loaded date. For me, but also for this country. Unlucky people die from cancer all the time. My grief seems insignificant compared to what happened in this country 10 years ago. One of my wives (yeah, I’ve got a couple :)) stopped by this afternoon as I was packing up the truck with plastic cups and water jugs. She wanted to know how I was doing, and I told her the truth. Grief is not linear, and there is still that well I fall into sometimes. I told her that it felt really self-indulgent to mourn Jim’s passing, when so much pain and suffering occurred and continues to occur elsewhere. She pointed out that it is precisely all those individual deaths, and all the loved ones who miss them, all over the country and the world, that is significant. I guess I had never really thought about all those people, everywhere in the world, sinking to their knees with racking sobs, falling into the well of despair….and waiting for love, and light, to return. Grief, like death, is a universal experience.
9/11 is tomorrow. I will rise early and get the food up to the mountain for the race. If I have enough volunteers, I will abandon my post from behind the food table, and join in with the runners. I will dance on the trails that Jim designed and this town built. It will be self indulgent….and the best kind of tribute to a life well lived, even if it was too short.