I have been lax in my own postings because so much is going on right now, in my and our three boys lives. (All right, they are men now, I know, I know.) Erica Roman’s post, however, needs to be shared far and wide.
This is a brilliant response to the ignorance of those who have never suffered the loss of a spouse.
The loss of a spouse can be debilitating and heartbreaking. It can feel like the world has crumbled and dropped onto your chest, leaving you crushed and unable to breathe. I know that is how I felt after I lost my beloved that early Sunday morning.
Outwardly, I was strong all day.
I “held up well”, as they say. I was the strong Southern woman that my Yankee husband had learned to count on handling everything in a proper manner. I called every family member on both sides of the family whose numbers I had memorized. I had called all the friends, whose numbers I could remember. I called into that bastard doctors’ office that misadvised us that Friday on the seriousness of his condition. (If they did not cause his death, they certainly contributed to it.) I left the news on their machine that the appointment they had for him at 8 a.m. the next day would no longer be necessary, as he had just passed away after we rushed him to the Emergency Room. I called his work and left a message explaining that he would not be in after the doctor’s appointment as expected and promised I would call the next day with more information.
I was a good wife. I was strong. I could not feel my body, I could not catch my breath to save my life, but I handled everything that life threw at me during those first dozen hours that day. The only real flaws in my performance were when my composure snapped twice, for a few seconds each, then I brought it back under control as my beloved husband would have expected.
When I first arrived, I called my beloved’s family and told them to rush the 100+ miles, from just over the Texas-Oklahoma border, to come to his side as the ER nurse said as he was gravely ill. Only twenty minutes later, the doctors’ representative came to say they could not save him. I called his eldest sister/baby brother’s house. Their large families lived together but they had not left yet, as they were waiting on their mom to get to the house so the adults could all drive down together. They did not want her alone during the long drive, and her roommate, another elder widow, was driving her to the families’ house and was going to babysit all the kids from the two families. Over the second call, I gave them the news that their big brother had died, ruining forever the chance of another truly happy birthday for the eldest sister with the memory that on her 36th birthday, her big brother had died. They promised to be down ASAP, and to call the rest of the family. They advised me that the middle sister, who lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex was already on her way, and since she still lived in Texas, she would beat the rest of them to the hospital.
After I hung up with them, I began to call all our friends. The first snap came, as I began screaming into the phone, trying to convince an idiot husband of one of our friends that I was not making a sick joke in saying that my beloved was gone. As if I were the type to do something that sick and moronic. I yelled at him, “It is not a joke, he is dead!” The gasp from behind me was sudden and sharp. I turned to see the horrified eyes of his middle sister as they began to well with tears and she dropped like a stone into a chair beside her. She had driven like crazy to get to her big brother but it was already too late. The knife of her instantly overwhelming pain stabbed me in the heart. I could imagine her shock as she stood politely, waited for me to finish the call so she could ask about her brother, only to have the bald fact shouted out instead, with no warning. I imagine it felt like being kneecapped by a sports team, and then flattened as they all piled on top to keep her down on her back and breathless. That was how I felt when I learned of the death of my eldest living brother just a few months after meeting my beloved husband.
I recouped after that quick meltdown was over, apologized and held it together while my family began to trickle in from around the Metroplex. Some of our friends and our family’s friends began to appear. I asked some of the ones who are closest to me today, to stay away, because they were the teens that my Beloved and I considered as close to us as our own children. We adopted them and loved them dearly and I knew how badly they would react. He was such an amazing person they would be in pieces. While I could handle people my age and older in pieces, our kids, the younger nieces and nephews, and our adopted kids in torment would destroy me and I knew it.
Over all I held together perfectly well for another hour or so. The chink in my armor was that “candy striper”. She kept coming in with each new person and asking if she could get anyone some coffee. Then, she would turn and ask me if I wanted a cup of coffee. As I had already said no, over and over and over, but she kept asking again every few minutes with every new arrival, it was wearing on my nerves.
Snap number two was very clearly audible. In front of my father, the Southern Church of Christ preacher, my mom, the very epitome of a preacher’s wife, sitting demurely, quietly and dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. Several other religious family members and friends who were sitting and standing around the private sitting room speaking quietly. I know, the ‘candy stripers” are there to try to bring comfort; they are there to meet needs, bring tissues, coffee, water etc. However, after the 15th or 20th time she asked, I had enough. I yelled at her quite loudly, “Stop asking if I want the fucking coffee! If I want the fucking coffee I will tell you!”
Yeah, well. Known for my overly prissy manners toward strangers and not raising my voice unless in excitement when having fun around the magnificent in-laws I was blessed with. I think I shocked every person in the room, though none more than I shocked myself. My parents had never heard a four-letter word from me before that day. I use them, to be sure, just selectively and never in front of them out of respect for their religious beliefs. As you can imagine, all conversation came to a halt and I was treated to the speculative stares of every person in the room wondering if it was a permanent breakdown beginning. Steam released I became Mrs. Fortitude and Strength, again.
After almost everyone we were waiting on had gathered, a great many of us left the hospital to take the 5 minute drive home, only a few staying behind to greet late comers who were still arriving and issue them directions to our house. Everyone stood around talking in low voices and making plans as I wandered from group to group, thanking them for coming. It was all I could think to do. Nothing else made sense, there was no sense left in my world.
Once we were at the house, I was exhausted and started mentioning to a few people that there was nothing else to do so they might as well go home. I talked to my sister who is just over eight years my senior and asked her to take our sons home with her for the night. I asked her 15-year-old son to help them play and keep them busy for the night. I did not explain where their daddy was to the boys, and I forbid others to explain. I wanted to handle it the next day when I was ready. They only knew they were going to visit at a favorite aunt’s house and play with a favorite cousin. Word spread and the exodus began, finally.
With me being the “baby” of my family, even though I had turned 36 a few weeks earlier, my elder siblings and parents did not trust me. I wanted to be left in our new home of two months to process my grief alone. Thanks to my family, it was a fight for that privilege. They had set me on a “suicide watch” and the annoying next door neighbor, the wife of a beloved friend of the family, was chosen to keep me company. A vapid and narcissistic woman, she was difficult to chase away. She was just creepy. Her eerie smile never faded and her eyes glittered at me. She was full of excitement over all the people who had been there and the sudden shock of it all. I felt like she was a Koontz goblin and I had to be free of her of I would suffocate. They made her promise not to leave me alone, but I finally got rid of her an hour or so after everyone else left when she realized I was not going to break down for her entertainment, or at least that is how it felt.
My beloved had slept on the couch in the living room for his last night in our home. I worked on a website in our bedroom next to it with the door cracked to keep the light from bothering him. His coughing worried me and I checked on him during the night, but sitting propped up on the couch made his breathing easier from what we thought was the flu. Little did we know. That night, after he passed, I sat where he had and talked to our beloved Irish, the dog we had adopted two months earlier. Allegedly he suggested we adopt her for the boys, since we had a yard now, but she was more for my husband who adored dogs. She loved my beloved husband as much as I did, I believe.
I practiced on her. I explained to her, that her best friend was never coming home again. Her favorite playmate in the world was gone forever. I talked about how much she had meant to him, how much he loved her, how much joy she brought him in their short time together. I knew it was so close to the speech I would have to give our sons in a few short hours. The tears streamed and I know she felt my pain, and I believe she understood, as she threw her head back and began to howl. It was the last straw. I began to sob, and then I found myself with my arms around her as I keened loudly and she howled along in accompaniment.
I had been strong all day, for hours and for hours and forever.
Now it was past midnight. A new day had begun.
It was time for us bitches to howl our grief to the waning moon.