I can remember many dates.
Some are easy for me to remember because they relate to events that happened in my life.
I can remember the date I moved to Maine as a teenager.
I can remember the date of my first date with Bryon.
I can remember the date I got married.
I can remember the date my daughter was born.
I can remember the date when Bryon died.
But there are many events in my life where I can’t remember the date.
One of those events happened four years ago today.
I had been anticipating this anniversary, but I needed help from Facebook memories to know exactly what day it was. Because all I can tell you is that this happened on a Tuesday, two days after Easter.
Truth be told, I don’t look at Facebook Memories very often. There is a lot of pain in my past. Even the happy memories bring me pain. Eventually you reach a point where you decide you have had enough of pain and you just have to start staying in the present and move forward.
Kind of like that scene in Love Actually when Mark pretends to be carol singers and holds the cards up to Kiera Knightly, professing his love to her because you have to be honest at Christmas and then she kisses him and he walks off saying “Enough”.
It kind of like that.
But sometimes you can’t escape thinking about those memories because they are defining moments in our lives.
On this day four years ago, Bryon was in septic shock and his body was beginning to shut down.
He was rushed off to a surgery that the doctors said he may not survive.
He had been in the ICU for 5 days at that point and I had been quiet on social media about his illness. He was a proud man and I wanted to respect his privacy. I have questioned that decision.
But in that moment, I only had hope and faith. So I posted a prayer request on Facebook.
My life changed that day.
It was the day when I realized that in a matter of moments, everything you had can be taken away from you.
Even if Bryon had survived, I know I never would have been the same.
I think it’s safe to make the assumption that Bryon would not have been the same. We just don’t know to what extent.
Miraculously, Bryon survived the surgery. I was hopeful that we were beginning the long road to recovery.
But that moment was really the beginning of the end. It was the beginning of Bryon’s final chapter. A chapter where he would be hooked up to machines in an ICU. A chapter where he couldn’t speak and would be too weak to even press the buttons on his TV remote.
Eventually Bryon was moved to another ICU at another hospital in New York City. I bet he never would have imagined that he’d exit this world in New York City. Though he was never one to ponder death, aside from showing his concern as to how I would manage if he were to die. He was always the one to think about long term logistics. I was the one who made sure milk was in the fridge and that there were enough clean clothes to get us through the following day.
Spoiler alert: I survived and I managed and I am okay.
He was not comfortable with death. Part of that was the culture of his family of origin. But sometimes I wonder if he knew on some deep soul level that he wasn’t going to be on Earth for a long time and he didn’t want to think about it.
I was the morbid one in our relationship. I had no problem talking about death. Pluto is in my first house. The darkest planet in the most personal house.
I also come from a Boston Irish family. All of the grandparents came from large Catholic families and I attended many wakes and funerals growing up. I joke that I grew up at the local funeral home. Death was never shielded from me.
Four years ago today Bryon started his final chapter, a very painful chapter. Though we will never know how painful it was to him.
I just know he fought to live. He fought harder than most people. I would have given up a lot sooner than he did. He wanted to live.
He was hooked up to a ventilator and he couldn’t speak. We never got to discuss what was going on, the what-ifs. We never got to talk about the possibility of his eventual exit from this world.
If he had any words of wisdom he wanted to share with me and my daughter for our following chapters, he didn’t get to share them.
It’s a piece of closure that I never got and I really needed. I still need that that closure. I still struggle to move forward because I never got that closure.
While Bryon entered his final chapter, I also began a chapter that interwined with his chapter.
Our chapters had a lot of the same elements. The same two main characters, the same minor characters, the same setting, the same medical staff and parade of visitors. Both chapters had a lot of beeping from machines in the background.
I have no idea how the passage of time felt for Bryon. I am sure when he was lucid, it went painfully slow. But there were many days he was out of it due to many episodes of sepsis.
For me time went really slow. Day by day, sometimes hour by hour. Just sitting in my own thoughts, unable to focus on much. I read a few fluffy novels and I did organize all my pinterest boards. I organized all those recipes that I never got to cook for Bryon.
I have tried to explain to people what those 5 months were like.
I made the mistake of assuming that friends who visited a lot understand. Most didn’t. Very few people from that period actually understood the true impact of Bryon’s final chapter. Those people who do understand will always be held close to my heart.
I should have realized early one that my chapter is just that. My chapter. Pain meant to be shouldered by myself.
When you think about it, most people were just there for many key, pivotal moments. But they weren’t there for the day by day. That was me.
I try not to think about that chapter. Yes, I was there for him through sickness and in health, but I’d rather remember him as healthy Bryon.
No one really asks about those days and can we blame them. If they did ask me, they’d probably quickly regret it. It’s probably for the best because I usually cry and that’s awkward.
And here we are now.
And we are in the middle of a pandemic.
I feel like I am living in some sort of parallel surrealistic universe to the life I lived in 2016.
There is a medical crisis.
A Presidential Election Season is going on, albeit in the background.
There is a lot of talk about ventilators.
We are desperately seeking a cure or at least a solution.
Hand sanitizer and hand-washing are very important. In 2016, I didn’t want to spread ICU germs to my toddler and I did not want to spread daycare germs to my critically ill husband in the ICU so everything was sanitized. In 2020, I am careful to wipe down everything I bring into the house from Wal-Mart with a Clorox wipe.
In 2016, it was a treat to grab a coffee at the on-site Dunkin or Starbucks. In 2020, it is a treat to grab Dunkin from the drive-thru, (paid via app, no cash or card touched by hands and my cup is immediately wiped with a Clorox wipe. I keep a canister in my car.)
In some ways, 2020 feels just like 2016. I am living day by day.
But this time I am not alone.
We are all living day by day, sometimes hour by hour. The whole world.
This event is going to change us all. Whether we want to admit or not. We will never be the same.
2020 is a bizarre chapter with the plot twist you never saw coming.
I want to tell everyone that everyone is going to be okay. But that is a lie.
So many people are going to become critically ill. But their families won’t be with them because they will likely be quarantined. That is painful for me to think about.
As I type this, 33,966 people have exited this world and this pandemic is still in the early stages. The number will be higher by the time you read this.
I can’t help but think of the magnitude of Bryon’s death and then multiply that magnitude by 33,966.
33,966 families and social circles are grieving.
If you are reading this and have lost someone to COVID-19, please accept my heartfelt condolences.
And even if no one close to you dies, it is still okay to grieve. The world you knew is gone. It is okay to be scared. A disease that we don’t have a cure yet is a scary thing.
But my message isn’t all doom and gloom.
For those of us that survive, I can tell you that we will be okay. Everything has changed and everything seems so different. You will adapt.
We are all so much stronger than we think we are.
Don’t be afraid of the growth you are going to experience. We are humans, we are meant to grown and evolve.
Bryon’s death forced me to grow and evolve. I am still growing and evolving. And now we get an opportunity to grow and evolve as a community.
In some ways, it like a gift. A painful gift, but still a gift.
This is our defining moment.