It really is only fitting that my 500th blog post (five-freaking-hundred, yo) comes on the eve of the 3rd anniversary of Stephen’s death.
Maybe not fitting. Maybe that’s not the right sentiment. But I wonder how many of these posts are related to my thoughts and feelings about Stephen and what happened to him? To us. To me. Two hundred? Three? More? I’d count but then I’d have to go back and read them all over again. And maybe that’s what I need to do in order to get some perspective on where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.
I have a vague and percocet addled memory of the late, late night after his funeral. I was heavily medicated and high on cake and frosting. Best. Cake. Ever. It was long past midnight. I believe I was on ebay and also IMing with a person who I had never met in real life. She often has the right words when not a soul on Earth knows what to say.
“Please be gentle with yourself,” she said. “This is all so new, so raw.”
Or something like that.
I’m glad that I didn’t know then that the rawness never really goes away. Not when I didn’t have to change diapers anymore. Not when I went out on that date that one time. Not even when I ran that mile last week.
Nope. Still hurts. Still unbelievable.
I guess I thought that the hard part was over.
I was wrong. And nobody can tell me different. There is not a single bit of evidence to sway my opinion otherwise.
I know that somebody is going to stumble on this someday. Somebody whose husband or child is dying of neurosarcoma or some other kind of cancer or tumor that is so rare that they can’t do a single thing about it other than offer your loved one a cocktail of drugs so powerful that it scars the vein that it goes into. Radiation so strong that everything it touches swells because the tissue is fried.
Friend, I hate to tell you but that was so easy compared to what comes after.
“Terminal” means terminal. There is an end and they can predict it with some certainty no matter what you do or don’t do.
Me? If I had to do it all over again, I would have looked into palliative care and hospice instead of running from the very idea. I would have wanted more life in the days instead of more days. Five months from diagnosis to funeral wasn’t very long. What difference would it have made if it were four or three when we spent a total of weeks in chemo and in hospitals instead of at home or on a trip with our little family?
I guess this is what three years buys me: perspective.
I have also gained a level of frustration and (very) controlled rage that I didn’t imagine possible for one human being. Not to mention sadness and fear. How about those? Yes, there’s been joy and laughter, I won’t deny. But it’s in spite of all this.
Mostly I can’t get over how really unfair it is. This is very immature; I get that. (I wish I could tantrum and have somebody make me go take a nap.) This experience has changed me for sure and not for the better.
I used to be rather type A. Or at least a wannabe type A. Now, I’m the type that can’t return a phone call.
I used to laugh and flirt and enjoy wit. I still laugh, just not as loud or as often. I forgot how to flirt and my mind is often too slow to crack a joke at the right time. (I’ll think of the right answer on the way home.)
I used to have such grand plans for our children: dance and sports and arts programs and church. Now, I realize that I can’t do it all and it takes a world of effort on the part of the parent when the child is enrolled in something other than school. There are just not enough hours. But, the hours that I do have, I can’t seem to want to do anything productive with them.
I don’t have anything left to give.
I guess that’s the point of this essay. (Time to land that plane, Jennifer?)
I don’t have anything left to give. What I have, I give to my children and that, admittedly, is not very much. My parents, my siblings, my friends, myself all get hosed in this equation. I just don’t have anything in reserve.
It’s just kind of a hole, you see. A very empty and dark spot. Before I met Stephen, that spot was waiting for him. It wasn’t dark back then and not terribly empty. Just…unfinished? And he filled it up and built on that spot and filled it with children and dreams and laughter and stories and plans.
And that morning that he died, three years ago 6:48am tomorrow, that spot was beaten and robbed and set on fire and became completely unrecognizable and empty. Not even so much as a frame. And it smells funny to me. Like raw meat and ocean water and rubbing alcohol. I walk through it every day, looking for an artifact. A photo or a memory or a letter or something that wasn’t ruined.
This isn’t healthy, I realize. Revisiting. Spilling my guts to the known universe.
This is also something that I will never recover from. Not fully.
Knowing that one truth now, I am grateful that I didn’t know it then. Nobody talks about it. Or should.
Because that night? Three years ago?
I thought that was the hard part.