this (grieving) life
IT’S been four months, and it’s unbelievable still that my husband of 42 years is no longer with me: at the dining table, the movies, our favourite restaurants, family gatherings, and in bed — my tummy leaning into his back, breathing in unison.
However, he is still with me in the garden, where we buried him last month, my three sons and I.
We dug a hole deep enough for his ashes, then placed the memorial stone/plaque underneath the bird feeders he’d made and loved. I read a short poem, We Speak Your Name, that I’d also read at his cremation.
It was sudden, his stroke, one Friday morning. The ambos got him to hospital within half an hour, a very promising sign.
His right side was affected. There was talk of rehab for two weeks, then home for recovery. However, things took a turn in the afternoon when a Code Blue was called: a medical emergency, as he suddenly had trouble breathing. Doctors and nurses explained the need to move him to intensive care, to insert a ventilator.
We followed, we waited, we prayed. We were sent home and told: ‘‘We’ll ring you if need be.’’ The phone rang at 2.30am. “Come in …” The doctor told us straight: “He may die, we are trying to save his life.”
My three sons and I sat stunned, staring, shocked. I said: “I haven’t told his brother and sister yet.” Doctor said: ‘‘Ring them.” I phoned.
For four days in the intensive care unit, in shifts, we squeezed his hand, stroked his face, reassured him we were watering the garden and feeding the rosellas, lorikeets and pet cockatoo. His eyes stayed shut, with an occasional flicker, but he squeezed our hands in response.
On the fifth day, he wrote the word “pills” and I explained his medications. I was overjoyed, then ushered out as doctors did their rounds. An hour later, I entered the ICU with one of my sons to be told: “Great news, he is breathing on his own.”
We walked towards his bed, he gave a little wave with his good left hand. However, by the time I reached his bedside, held his hand and started to talk, suddenly his eyes glazed over. What?
Nurses rushed to adjust machines, we were ushered out again and in the corridor heard: “Code Blue, bed three, ICU …”
The rest is a mystery. No answers: a possible second stroke and severe brain trauma causing a respiratory arrest. The worst moment of our lives. We had to reach consensus on removing life support.
We grieve. It is fitting that he is still with us, in his garden, rather than in a cemetery.
I talk to him every day.
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