December 5th, 2020. Two months after Peg’s death.
I awake uncharacteristically late this morning. I have jobs that must be done every day to keep our household in order. Our home is still our home, it is now where her soul and my physical self, reside. Although, if anyone comes here, they will only see me.
I no longer want to get up. Could I lie here in our bed and die? Animals and humans die of a broken heart, how long would it take me to die? Would one of the many friends or caregivers find me dead? Do they understand why I am still lying-in bed day after day?
It would be called a deep depression, counseling would be called for, meds would be prescribed. No one would automatically know that my condition was a necessary part of grieving. They would try to fix a process that was not broken.
A broken heart requires time, time for stillness, time for the mind to sort out the steps to take to allow me to change and adapt to a new life without her. Time to fully grasp the depth of what happened to us when she died.
December 10th, 2020
Two months and five days have passed since she started on her journey, two months and five days without her physical presence, two months and five days with only my knowledge that her soul is somewhere in the Universe, the Universe of souls that I so much believe in. Two months and five days of constant reminders of the love we had together. Two months and five days of trying to convince myself that the energy of her soul will be enough for me, that I do not need her physical presence to continue on with my own earthly journey.
As strongly as I believe in my concept of how the Universe works, our physical bodies die but our soul lives on, it is not enough to make up for the terrible aching loss of my companion of fifty-two years. My reality is – I will never see her physical presence again. I will never touch her, never kiss her, never smell the softness of her hair, never feel the comfort of her warm body as we cuddle in bed. Never hold her hand as we cross the street, never share the same humorous stories at the dinner table, I will never again see her sleeping peacefully in her recliner with one of her favorite cats in her lap.
I feel useless, purpose-less, unable to accomplish the smallest task without herculean effort, without becoming breathless, starving for air not coming into my lungs. My chest aches from the exertion of breathing. My frozen heart is not able to keep up with the emotions formed by the image of seeing her die before me.
Grieving is the norm now. I wake in the middle of the night feeling for her body beside me in bed. For a short time, I have forgotten she has passed and will never come back. I think she has just gone to the bathroom; I will rearrange the sheets and blanket to make her side of the bed comfortable for when she comes back to bed. Then, I realize Peg will never come back to bed, I will forever be alone.
We had slept together for fifty-two years through loving interchanges and sometimes the cold of a brief spat, although the latter I am unable to recall details. Or the great unrest, a period of time when we weren’t sure our marriage would last. We made a second commitment, till death do us part. Marriage is always a work in progress to the very end.
For the last two years, I have taken to waking in the night to check on her, I would listen to the rhythm of her breathing to be sure she was okay, then and only then, return to my sleep.
Now, I awaken in the night to the reality that I am alone. That reality brings on sobbing and tears as I reach out for her and she is not there.
The sleepless nights are not helping me, they are dragging out the process of grieving and upsetting my physical health, which is quickly becoming a major concern.
Will the aching in my heart cause damage to my heart? I don’t want to address this because it may lead to trips to the doctors, hospital, rounds of tests, meds, or even surgery. I think I would rather die – yes! – I would be able to join her in the great Universe.
My research says there is an increased possibility of widowers dying in the first years of their loss. If I get hospitalized and I have choices I will say, “just let me die so I may be with her.”
I am going to bed at 6 p.m. It is winter and the days are very short but that is still early for me. I sleep fitfully, waking up to make trips to the bathroom, a normal occurrence for a man of my age, different now, I am always listening for her in the off-hand chance she will reappear alive and well again. If some of the cats are on the bed, I put them out of our room at 5:30 a.m. and sleep until I no longer can stand the guilt of not feeding them.
During the day, I nap after getting breakfast. Then if the spirit moves me, I write, I write until the memories overwhelm me, I may only produce a few paragraphs, at least that is something.
For a full month after Peg’s death, I would get up and get dressed and have the animals fed by 7 a.m. and then drive to my favorite breakfast place. Then the COVID-19 lockdown began after Thanksgiving and I couldn’t go out, so I sleep. I no longer care if I am sleeping my life away.
This is one of the big problems COVID-19 has caused, not seeing regular acquaintances, or being able to go out; it traps me in a downward spiral of living with my thoughts, dangerous thoughts, magical thoughts that I will in some way have her back. Unrealistic expectations that Peg is not really gone.
I am living on the edge of a great void. Everything that enters my mind reminds me of the life we had together. Across this great void I see visions of her and I together, the visions go in and out of focus, a great fog in my mind obscures every thought of today, I live in the past.
I am eating less now, I am losing weight, not a bad thing I rationalize. Breakfast and lunch sometimes hold me through the night, occasionally augmented by a piece of pie. I nap in the afternoon unable to be interested in doing anything constructive. If I work on this writing, grief overcomes me and I can longer see the words on the screen because of the tears in my eyes.
No matter who is helping me, they leave by 4 p.m. and I am alone. Alone to watch the day fade away like I am allowing my life to do.
I moved the recliner to our bedroom so I can spend most of the day with Peg. Her ashes are in a cloisonné urn sitting on her dresser guarded by a bevy of stuffed animals. From my position in the recliner, I have conversations with her.
It is just a few days until the new year. My asthma has been steadily getting worse. I am using the meds, but by this morning I am very congested. I decide to just lie in bed and not get up. My plans change when my breathing gets worse.
My breathing is now very labored. I have trouble going up and down the stairs to feed the cats. I know my breathing health worsened because of my grieving. When I am overcome by the memories of Peg’s death, my chest tightens up, I wonder if the pain is a prelude to a heart attack. Am I capable of making good decisions about my physical health?
I retained Peg’s caregiver, the woman who was with Peg non-stop during the last three days of her life. Peg’s caregiver is my caregiver now. I text her with my decision to go to the local Urgent Care facility. She texts back that she will meet me there.
When I arrive at Urgent Care, the receptionist informs me that they do not have the facilities to treat my asthma, I am instructed to go to the ER.
The ER is a difficult place for me. It is where the ambulance took Peg after her fall and subsequent stroke. It is where I held her hand before the ambulance transferred her to a different hospital, a hospital that could handle neurosurgery.
I no longer take routes that lead me past our hospital. I go out of the way to avoid the memories. We have a good hospital, the men and women at both hospitals were an enormous help keeping Peg comfortable until I came to the conclusion that Peg would go into hospice and I would take her home to die with her beloved animals, our family and myself.
Those words were extremely difficult to write. I fell into a coughing fit and now I have to stop and allow my body to recover from the flow of hormones and endorphins, which if I am not careful, can cause me great physical harm.
At this time, a few days before the new year, I am only sure of one thing. I want Peg back.