They say that grief and love go hand in hand. That has been the case for me.
On my husband’s 60th birthday, December 20, 2012, we were told he had stage IV pancreatic cancer. I'm a nurse, so I didn't need Google to tell me the statistics. It’s pretty much a death sentence. Then came the words, “We suggest you go home and get things in order.” What? Just like that? This was not the way it was supposed to be. We were going to retire and grow old together. The same questions circled round and round in my head. Why is this happening? What did he do to deserve this? Is he being punished? Am I being punished? WHY?
From diagnosis to death, I tried to pray, but the only words that came out were, “What do we do next? Help me!” Those two words “help me” were prayer enough (I’ve learned not to judge my prayers).
Although Tommy didn’t want to know how much “time” he had, the doctors told me 4-6 months. I had no idea it was going to be 3 weeks. For the majority of each day, I found myself going through the motions of caretaker and nurse in order to protect the wife part of me so she wouldn’t “come out.” It would be too painful. But when left alone, my despair took over. Despair means to lose all hope. What a horrible emotion. Then I remembered to "stay present in the present” and all I had to do was pray and breathe.
I would stay up late into the night reading everything I could find about the topic of dying. I found some words of comfort: “From the moment we are born we all have the same end result: physical death. We just don't know when that end will come.” I realized we were given the opportunity and gift of time to make sure nothing was left undone and unsaid. No regrets. Not everyone is blessed with that. I just thought we would have more time.
Three weeks later, in the middle of the night, as I walked next to him in the bedroom, Tommy collapsed in my arms. He began to struggle to breathe and I knew our time was over. I told him it was time and it was okay to go. I literally saw the sickness that was eating up the inside of his body be released from him. Every last bit of cancer, every last bit of toxins, every last bit of evil, every last bit of pain and suffering, left his body. His earthly body became just a shell. His soul was freed and he had been healed.
On January 9, 2013, my husband, my best friend, my confidant, my lover, died.
How can I describe a pain that is indescribable? How can I hurt so much that there is absolutely nothing that can relieve it? How can I miss him so much that I can’t breathe when I think of him? How can I go on without seeing his physical presence in our home? How can I make new memories when I just want to lose myself in all of our old memories? How can I survive in this ocean of despair that grabs at my heart and soul every morning when I wake up and remember he is not here?
How can I live without him?
I can, knowing that he is with God. It does not always make me feel better, though. I am only human and God accepts me with all of my faults. I used to hear the words people would say and they meant nothing to me, NOTHING at all. I know I am not the first, nor the last that has a hurt like this, but when Tommy died, I didn’t care about anyone or anything. I was overwhelmed with selfishness that was not like me at all. I only cared that I wanted him back. It’s not that I wanted to die, I just didn’t want to live without him.
I’ve come a long way in this journey, but it’s definitely not over. The pain has now become part of me.
God will not answer my “whys” until I go home. This is where my faith takes over. It was no one’s fault. It was just His will. I was witness to God’s cleansing power. It took me a while to understand and believe this, but I know God showed mercy and grace to my husband that night. Eventually I have accepted it as a gift for me as well. He showed me mercy by allowing me to witness the miracle of a soul leaving to go to their eternal home. How many people in their lifetimes will be able to say that?
God answered my prayers for healing that night. It just wasn’t my definition or expectation of healing. It was in God’s time and in God’s way. AMEN!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4