Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | October 5, 2013

“He’s PERFECT! He’s like a husband in a widow’s memory!”

-Marge Simpson.

Heard this line and scribbled it onto a napkin this past Sunday night while lazily watching tv and puttering. It made me laugh, in a not very nice way. It has stayed with me for a few days now. Was even still in my head this morning while I was searching old notes for a certain thing and came upon this other thing, posted below. I am grateful now that I wrote it down back then, exactly one week before Jeff died. I’m certain that if I hadn’t, I would NOT remember this day, or remember it imperfectly through a thick gauzy lens of time. So. I gotcher widow’s memory rightchere. Perfectly imperfect.

In Sickness and In Health
July 9, 2009 11:09 am

My beloved husband Jeff is dying. His liver is failing, full of tumors metastasized from primary colon cancer.

A nurse told me yesterday that the liver can be 95% nonfunctioning before you start to notice symptoms of liver failure. Well, we are noticing them. He is swollen with ascites, fluid in his belly from his body’s inability to process wastes. It has been drained: many pints of liquid were removed; “tapped”in an outpatient procedure but his belly was swollen with fluid again within three days.

His ankles and feet are swollen, white, and cold; if while pulling on his compression socks my thumb presses a little too hard it will leave a thumb-shaped depression in his flesh. He does not notice. His eyes and face are bright yellow with jaundice. He is short of breath and very weak –  sitting unmoving while I put on his pants, shirt and socks wears him out to the point of needing to sleep.

His lungs are working only in the top lobes; the lower ones are compressed by the fluid that is slowly filling him from below, and the lungs themselves will likely start to fill with fluid soon. His fingers don’t work and his balance is unsteady at best. He needs the strong arms of loved ones to help pull him up from lying to sitting or sitting to standing. He uses a walker to get from sofa to table to bed to toilet. And on that subject let it suffice to say my cleaning duties are intimate and I now care for him in ways I had not contemplated when looking at his body with another kind of love.

His quiet dignity and acceptance of all of this makes it less difficult, more peaceful than one might expect.

His face is looking more and more handsome to me. Chiseled down to its ultimate self. The cheekbones and eyes I fell in love with. Round skull, no longer the thick ponytail and gorgeous mustache to hide the shape of his head. Lips thin but they still smile at me and whisper Thank you and I’m sorry. And I say back I’m sorry and Thank you.

 

 

Jeff and Anna, July 2009

Jeff:Anna July 2009

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Responses

  1. I could have written many parts of your blog. You brought me back to moments where my life mirrored yours in many ways.
    I am grateful I was able to be the one who was at his side doing for him what he could not do for himself. Vivid memories of being in the shower with him washing his thin, emaciated, beautiful body tenderly and slowly, trying to give him the pleasurable sensation of gentle touch and loving massage on those weary bones. He was grateful and somewhat chagrined to be so needy but it was bonding and strengthened us on this final stage of the journey. Getting him dressed and keeping him warm became almost like a ritual after the cleansing and then sleep again, all clean and warm and quiet. Love and peace filled my heart for him.

    Thank you for bringing me back to the memory, November 30 will be the fifth anniversary of his death at fifty-five years of age.
    Today we are gathering and grieving the tragic accidental death of a deeply loved 28 yr old nephew Joel; who was killed in a farm accident two days ago.

    It’s so hard to say good-bye and then keep living life.

    Like

  2. Bev, this is very beautiful. I love it when musicians write. Prose needs to be rhythmical. Life is a song.

    In college, I could write a composition about practically nothing and get an A. This angered some of my peers who lugged volumes from the library, built index cards and outlines and received a grade of C or D.

    Their resentment was unsettling for me, but the solution was so simple. I edited their work. It would only take a few short minutes to arrange their words rhythmically. Life and death are the songs we sing.

    Like


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