Just under a decade ago my husband was diagnosed with Glioblastoma. In the medical community it is known as the “terminator” of cancers (it has no cure and the life expectancy is incredibly short post diagnosis generally 12-14 months; 18 months are best case scenarios). He had a golf ball size brain tumor that was within weeks of ending his beautiful life. I was his second marriage, he, my only. We were only 30 months into our marriage. Two and half years and already facing “until death do we part”; how could is that even possible my heart and mind asked.
As soon as the tumor was discovered he was admitted in the local hospital. Within seconds anything outside of that hospital bed was a blur. My love for him was crystal clear. All of my focus was on my beautiful husband. He was in a special room with two other critical patients and a nurses’ station. The first night, I was not allowed to sleep next to him. Around 24 hours after his admittance a nurse pulled me aside. The nurse offered what looked like long ticker tape to me. “I’ve been watching your husband’s vitals for a while now and they are all better when you are in the room”. The tears fell as I grabbed her hand in gratitude. Through his vitals she acknowledged our bond. “Thank you for sharing that with me. Can you share that information with your colleagues so that I am allowed to stay with him?”
She shared. I stayed.
Vitals became more important to me than ever from that point forward. The sound of his heart beeping, a line on a screen that showed the stress, the calm within him . . . . years later after he left his earthly body and liberated himself from the awful disease I looked to my vitals for guidance.
In my despair, sometimes referred to as grief I made a silent contract with myself. If I have one year under my belt then I can exist without his love, support, encouragement, and his smile. One year equals proof that you can exist. Some days I did whatever I could to make it to an appropriate time when I could go to bed. Work consumed 8-10 hours minimally, to walk my dog I could do that for up to 3 hours if the sun afforded me the opportunity but other than that I had to find distractions to make the minutes pass; a ‘to do’ list of sorts, only this list’s focus was existing one day at a time. Grief was synonymous with despair so one calendar year post my Beloved’s death seemed a critical milestone. There were rare times in that year where my vitals increased and life was a little more fulfilling than merely existing. Whatever item to make life seem more bearable for that second, minute, hour, day; I latched on to that activity or person.
In my hypothetical ‘to do’ list entitled how to live a year, I allowed myself to “be”. It was grace without condition or judgment. Thankfully I work from home so I kept myself as hidden as possible but when I did not or could not I allowed my tears to flow if they felt so inclined. I allowed the anger to surface. I walked my pup because I had to but in time I observed nature and its resilience. If my dog licked my tears at night, I allowed it. Whatever the emotion, whatever the feeling, whatever to get my through to sunset, I allowed. I knew if I did not just ‘be’ the grief would haunt any future existence my journey had planned. I went to therapy and worked and gave myself wine or a reprieve through a new or old friend when needed but no heavy decisions or burdens to bear, just existing, very little new information to process, just marking one more day off the calendar.
I knew he wanted me to live a full life again and in order to honor him and our love, I would . . . . eventually but now I would just be . . . . until my vitals would determine when the existence ended and life could begin again.