It’s 3:30 am and I am far past getting any more sleep this morning. The ghosts in this house are thick. I was woken up by Jim’s 3 final phrases. “This is hard.” Life, more often than not, is. “I know.” Shared history. Perhaps this is what I still grieve. As time goes on and memories fade, there is no one out there that can help me recreate the sad, the funny, the ironic, the joys. “I love you.” 3 years later, and this remains the most important lesson in all of it. Jim taught me much about love. I will always remember that, and forever be grateful.
It’s 3:30 am, 3 years after one of the longest days in my life. One of Jim’s fears was that he would be forgotten. Having his tumor diagnosed on 9/11, and dying on Veteran’s Day, I don’t think that is possible. Even when I am not looking at the calendar, or consciously thinking of it, my heart, my body, my soul remember. I was not a pleasant person to be around yesterday, I could barely stand my own company.
It’s 3:30 am. Looks like I am up with plenty of time to make it to swimming this morning. It is a holiday. The State of ID and the school district I contract with are off today. After swimming I’ll go buy some wire cutters and pull out my chain saw. Plan to spend the day creating a new trail on an old fence line in preparation for horse fencing and eventual pasture. When Jim and I would cut trail, he always ran the chain saw, and I did the heavy back work of hauling brush. Today I will get to do it all, and I will remember.
It’s 3 years later, and it is 3:30am. The great storm of my grief is over, but I will never forget. I remember.
Written Nov 12, 2010 8:50am
Death is ugly. As my friend Pat so eloquently put it, “We live in bodies…and they are programed to just keep going.” There were many times in the 4 hours of Jim’s death rattle that I thought we are much kinder to animals in our world than the humans we love. It felt like forever….and yet it was so quick.
We had a very sweet day yesterday. Jasper went to school, until the wise woman that is his girlfriend told him to come home. Emerald went out to brunch with friends, came home, and then I set the kids loose on sorting through old photos. So much laughter. Chloe (the girlfriend) came over for a bit in the evening and got to know Emerald….again, so much laughter. Rachel came over for her usual Thursday night date with Jim. Kids took off as Jasper had a vaccine scheduled at 6, and I kicked Rachel out. 1 hour of the blessed empty nest, then some leftovers for dinner, and we settled into the living room with Jim. I read from the Tao of Pooh (our wedding vows), Emerald read the Opus Xmas story, and Jasper read Joshie Otter. I sang, off key, the bastardized lyrics to “Good Night Irene” and sent the kids off to bed. Jim waited until Jasper was safely upstairs before he started groaning. I rolled him to his side, breathing eased somewhat, and I finally got a bit of sleep on the couch. I awoke at 2, got a warm rag to wipe Jim’s mucous mustache, rubbed my hands through his hair, and told him one more time, “I love you, it is time to go, you stubborn old man”. And he did.
Jim ate dinner Wednesday night and had John and Tom come over to play him some tunes. Did not want to be in bed, sat in his chair to hold court. Thursday am, transfers weaker, but he still insisted on getting out of bed to pee. Slept most of the day, even with all of the hubbub in the kitchen. As Rachel left last night, I made a comment about there not being enough room in the bed…Jim made the motion with his leg that indicates he wants to transfer…but when I asked him if he needed to pee, he shook his head no, and moved over 3 inches to make room. I crawled in, he laced his hand in mine and laid it on his chest.
Jim died at 2:16 am. The house was quiet, kids asleep, most of the world asleep, but he and I. After 4 hours of death rattle, I thought I would be relieved when the funeral home arrived to take his tired old body away. It was much harder than I thought. He was still warm. I crawled back onto the couch and held Jim’s pillow close. I didn’t go swimming this am. The parking lot was closed for the football game, it was raining, and I was just so cold.