5 years ago I woke up from a sleepless night. I think I slept from 4:00 until 5:30. I was too excited to sleep. This day was going to be the first day of our happily ever after.
This was one of the happiest days of my life. The other being when our daughter was born. However, I think it is worth noting that I looked a lot better and felt a lot better on the day we got married as opposed to the day we became parents.
The weather was cool and a little dreary. Father Mullen, the priest who had married us, had referred to it as a “soft Irish morning.”
I spent the morning in our bridal suite getting ready with my bridesmaids. My hairstylist said I was the calmest bride that she ever had. The nerves didn’t hit me until it was time to board the trolley to the church. It wasn’t nerves about getting married, just nerves that everything was going to go perfectly.
You spent the morning watching soccer at the Biergarten with some of the groomsman. You drank “das boot” even though I told you not to.
You always did what you wanted to do.
We had our whole lives together.
We bought our starter house. Our daughter was born. We bought a family car. We made progress in our careers (you more than me). We went on 5 cruises.
But our happily ever after only lasted 1422 days.
151 of those days I was upholding my vow “to be true to you in sickness and in health.”
And now it is our fifth wedding anniversary and you are dead.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. We were supposed to grow old together. We were supposed to have at least two kids. We were going to buy a bigger house and take many more cruises. We were supposed to go to San Diego. And Scotland. And London. And Branson, Missouri. (I still don’t understand that one. But I will make it there someday).
You were supposed to walk our daughter down the aisle. You were supposed to hold your grandchildren.
You wanted to be an adjunct college professor and write a book on election law.
You weren’t ready to die. You were taken too soon.
And I am here, still reeling from everything that happened. The other morning, I drove to the cemetery and I wept. My whole body was shaking and I was gasping for air. I have never cried so hard where it affected me physically. I just kept saying “Why? Why? Why?”
404 days later and I am still asking why you have to die?
Maybe I will never know.
For the past 404 days I have thought about the 151 days you spent in the hospital, 149 of them in the ICU.
Every one of those 404 days, I have thought about what happened, how the events unfolded.
For 404 days, I have beat myself up which is ridiculous because I had no control over the situation. That was up to God and the medical staff, both of which failed you.
For 404 days, I have felt empty. An emptiness that felt like a deafening silence that echoed through my body. The emptiness is both physical and emotional. Your side of the bed is empty and you are not there to hear my stories.
You were aware the whole time you were in hospital and I have no idea what was going through your mind. The other morning I was driving and listening to some morning talk show. The hosts were discussing the song “Seasons in the Sun” and of course I lost it when I heard “It’s so hard to die, when all the birds are singing in the sky”. Because you weren’t able to talk, I have no idea what was going through your mind before you died. Or even if you knew you were dying.
One of the hardest parts about your death was that we didn’t get to talk about it. You went from having back pain to being intubated in a matter of hours. For the following 149 days, you could not speak. You were my best friend and we talked about everything but we couldn’t talk about how sick you were or that you may be dying.
We didn’t get any closure.
Wherever you are right now and in whatever form you are, I am sure you understand what happened. But for me, on Earth and in human form, I struggle to make sense of it.
You left me with amazing friends. They are now my family, but unfortunately it took your illness and death for us to realize what we meant to each other.
I am so much stronger than I ever thought I could be. When you were sick, I looked forward to when you were better. I was hoping that you would be proud of me. But you died before you got to see that.
At your funeral, your best friend gave your eulogy. He said we were the lucky ones because we got to know you. In some ways, I must have been the luckiest one of all. You chose me to be by my side.
You made such a big difference in my life. You taught me so much. You taught me my worth. You believed in me and gave me confidence. You told me I was beautiful. One of my biggest regrets is not believing you. I couldn’t just let you think I was beautiful. I made it hard for you to love me. I didn’t appreciate you. These things will always haunt me.
Our daughter was robbed because she was only 18 months when you went into the ICU and you left us a month before she turned 2. But I am grateful that you left so many friends who love her. It makes my heart hurt to know what you won’t be taking her to any Father-Daughter dances, but you left many friends who would step up and take her. I hesitate to use this analogy because I know how you feel about Hillary Clinton, but our daughter truly has a village. That is one of your legacies to her.
I was talking to a friend of ours the other day. I said that I wished you were here to weigh in on a problem one of us was having. Because you would know how to handle it. You knew how to handle everything. I still need your advice. Our friend said that while you were not here, at least you gave us a lot of advice when you were here that we can use.
But it is not the same.
Grieving your death has been exhausting. Even though 404 days have passed, I still miss you so much that I literally feel physical pain. I miss you so much that it literally takes my breath away. I still go through the motions of life and I still feel dead inside.
I still have moments where I curl up in the fetal position and I cry my eyes out.
I am in a weird place because sometimes I wonder when it won’t hurt so much. But then I get scared. I know that in order to get to the point where it doesn’t hurt so bad means that I have to let go to a certain extent. The thought of letting go brings on those feelings of pain.
Sheryl Sandberg says there is a one line Jewish prayer that states “Let me not die while I am still living.”
I am trying. Some days I do okay. Other days I feel like I can barely stay afloat. Some days I feel like I am drowning.
But I know deep down that I need to live again. When I think about all that you had given me in our short time together, I owe it to you to try to make my remaining days on Earth matter.
I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.