Death, Shock, Stereotypes, Funerals and Mirrors

I always have said no one should die alone. Recently, I changed that to no one should die without someone who loves them by their side. I changed it because, dying is something we do alone, there is no getting around that fact. I guess it would be fair to say we come into the world alone and we leave the world alone.

When my husband was moved to the Hospice Home, I spent half my nights there. It was close to home and I had been spending most of my nights at the hospital. He was moved there on a Wednesday afternoon and died the following Wednesday a little after twelve noon. The day before he died he never woke up. I had brought him flowers which always made him happy. But he did not see the flowers. He slept and I slept in a recliner that seemed like it was trying to kill me that day. I say that about the recliner as the days leading up to that day, every time the phone rang or I awoke and needed to use the rest room, I would try to get the recliner in an upright position, but always seemed to fall out of the recliner landing on my nose. My husband and I laughed as it seemed the recliner was made for a child, even trying to sit upright I fell out of the recliner, as though I were to heavy for it.

But back to that day. He never woke up, I slept in the recliner most of the day. I was very tired. He started to sound as if he was breathing funny, before I could call the nurse she came in to give him some medication to help him breathe better. His medications were given by IV in the mouth, in his sleep he would open his mouth for the medicines. I was extremely sore and tired so talked with one of the nurses about whether I should spend the night again. She told me she thought he had another week left and that I would need my strength, to go home and get sleep in my own bed. I left and went home. I called several times to ask how he was doing. At one point I was told he had woken up for a little while and was doing okay. They promised to call if anything changed but did not expect any change. The next morning or I should say around noon, I woke up, still very tired. I was about to call my husband or his nurse and ask if he was okay and tell them that I was going to sleep a little longer. As soon as I picked up the phone, my caller ID went off, they were calling me. I did not expect to hear he had taken a turn for the worse and to come right away. I quickly dressed, no shower, no makeup, no mirror. I went to get something for my pet to eat as I knew I would not be home for a while. I also went to the refrigerator to get something to drink so I could take my meds., so I would not panic. It seems like everything fell out of the refrigerator onto the floor. It was ant season, I did not want to come home to ants so I cleaned it. I really did not think my husband was about to die, rather I thought he had taken a turn for the worse. After cleaning the mess, I went to get my keys to the car. I have 3 sets. I could not find any. I tore the house apart, my purse apart. Finally sitting on top of my purse I had just pulled apart, I spotted my keys. I got in the car, it would only take about 5 minutes to get there, that is until for the first time in all the time we have lived here, there was construction on the roads. The 4 lanes were down to one open, but traffic kept being stopped to let the other side through. I had not had a red light in my travels there, that day I hit every light as it turned red.

When I got to Hospice Home, the nurse and two other woman were outside waiting for me. They told me my husband had just died. I wanted to be with my husband, holding his hand when his time came, but I did not know if I would be able to mentally handle it. His dying before I arrived seemed as though it were meant to be. That I would not be able to have handle it. I will never know. I do know that after they told me he had died, they brought me into a room to talk. Shortly after they said he had been cleaned up and asked if I wanted to see him. I was in shock, though still trying to control my emotions as I always do. In fact, while there I heard many people cry out loudly upon the death of a loved one, whether they were there when it happened or arrived shortly after. These people would be crying uncontrollably, I would sometimes see them in the hallway and look the other way, trying to give them privacy, as we each deal with death in our own way, there is no correct way. I did not want to act like these people, not that it was wrong to cry or any shame in their crying, rather since I am always trying to control every aspect of my life I did not want to lose control. In my shock I told them I wanted to see my husband. I do not know why, probably to be sure he was really dead, not that it was a mistake. Looking at him, there was no doubt he was dead, he looked dead. The nurses had seen me taking pictures of some of their statues, outside and many of my husband, they told me to take one of him dead. I thought how strange to take a photo of him dead. But they persisted telling me that I would never get the chance again, that he would be in a coffin the next time I saw him. They told me I could always delete the photo. I took 2 photos, the first one he looked dead so I took the second, he still looked dead. I took no more.

I flew up for his funeral with the same memory card in my camera and took photos looking down from the plane and a few videos of planes landing. While I have always taken pictures of medical helicopters, I had rarely took photos of planes. It was not until someone wanted to see a photo that I saw the pictures of my husband dead. I quickly went by those. When I returned home I forgot to change the memory card and took more pictures. After seeing the pictures of my husband dead several times, I could not delete them, it seemed as though I would be deleting him from my life if I did, I finally changed memory card. I cannot tell someone whether they should take a picture of a loved one dead, as I still am unsure if I should have taken the photos. Maybe some day I will want to look at them, but for now I do not want to see them.

Back to after my husband died. I was in shock. I had to get his clothes to bring back up to Hospice for the funeral directors to dress him in for his flight. I could not find any suit pants that went with his suit jackets, I ended up just finding a pair of dress pants that matched. Shirt, tie, underwear, socks, shoes, all had to be brought. It is odd that even when I donated his clothes, I never found the pants that went to any of his suits, I must have donated them at some earlier time but do not remember. On my way home, a rock from a truck in front of me hit my windshield at the exact spot I look out. It did not break, but it did shatter. The whole day was surreal. It would be no different as I flew up to his funeral. I have mentioned before how people say I am sorry. When I got on the plane I sat next to a pilot that was going to a hub to catch the plane he would be flying. He asked where I was going, I replied calmly to bury my husband. He immediately told me how sorry he was. I told him it was okay. It was not okay, but what does one say? First when people say “I am sorry”, sorry is usually used to apologize for doing something wrong or possibly hurting someone. The pilot had done nothing to be sorry for, I did not know him. After my response he looked at me strange, I guess saying it was okay was strange. I followed it up with, it was expected but still a shock. This seemed to make the pilot more comfortable. As for me, I was lost in the clouds in my mind or just lost.

At the viewing I remember hurrying into the funeral parlor, I could not wait to be with my husband again. Though I dreaded it, I also needed to be with him. I do not know if I expected him to be alive or what. I just know I wanted to be with him. It seemed throughout the viewing and funeral that I seemed to give more comfort than was given to me. My husband would have wanted me to keep it together, I was worried I would not be able to. With having to comfort others it gave no time for me to think of my husband’s death. As I said, everything was surreal, I was in shock. Glancing in the mirror the day of the viewing to put on make-up, I even fooled myself into thinking I looked fine. I know I fooled others, which was what I wanted, but not to fool myself. But I did look fine, a mirror does not show what is inside. I do not know what I looked like inside, I was too confused and still in shock.

There are stereotypes describing how someone who has a loved one die acts or looks, I did not fit any of those. I still do not. I miss my husband more with each passing day, yet to an outsider, even my family, I seem to be pulled together. They think I should be out of the grieving mode and back to living my life because I look normal. Once again, what is inside is so much different then what others see on the outside. I think we need to give people who have a loved one die room, room to rediscover themselves and to allow them all the time they need, no matter what they look like.

This is yet another blog I started to write a few months ago, but did not finish. I do not remember everything I wanted to explain or write, as I had the title and 3 paragraphs. It seems as though I am missing something in this, much as I am missing so much in my life.

This Mirror is Trying to be Fair

I took my pet to the veterinarian two weeks ago. I would say our pet, but I am the only one here left to care for him. This is not the first time I have taken him or his brother who died in December 2013 of a form of cancer. Since my husband became sick two pets have died and are still missed. This pet is my last connection to the life my husband and I led the last three years. This may sound strange, as I have family and friends that would say they are connections. I have memories that will always connect us. This is different, the pet was here every day through every part of his illness. If I was at the hospital and came home he would be so grateful to see me. I started napping on the couch for part of my time home before returning to the hospital, as the pet was lonesome. I left the TV on for him as he was sad and lonesome when my husband and I were at the hospital or doctor visits. He watches the TV, while I do not know if he understands it, he does express when something he likes is on or at least it seems that way. At any rate it seems the TV took some of his loneliness away while we were not here.

While at the veterinarian this time I knew this was a serious matter. He is no longer young and has been showing signs of age for the past two years, but in the past month he has really started to show age. He has lost a lot of weight. He had started crying as if in pain. The noises he made to let me know he was happy had stopped, but that was addressed at a previous visit a month ago. This time the doctor wanted to use anesthesia on him so she could get a better look to see what was wrong. I was warned he might not survive the anesthesia, but I felt he needed to be checked and if died, it was meant to be. I definitely know I would not have him put down, that is a choice I could never make. He was taken to the back and I was left in a waiting room alone to wonder if he would be okay.

As I sat there worrying, I heard the veterinarians shoes walk to the door, stop and then pace back and forth. She blew her nose several times. I became more worried hearing this. I assumed he had died or a terrible diagnosis was about to come. My mind wandered in that short amount of time. I could hear the vet as she wore high heels. I thought how impractical to wear heels in her profession. I then thought of all my husbands doctors and realized many of the females doctors wore heels too. In the short time I had to think, I kept thinking how it seemed not only impractical but also unprofessional. That female doctors should be wearing more practical shoes. Not high heels. High heels seem to signal a party or somewhere other than a doctor’s office or hospital. Before I could think much more there was a knock on the door and vet entered. She apologized for taking so long and said she had been outside the door with a runny nose from allergies.

The vet had a possible diagnosis and a definite one. The definite: my little guy was getting older and probably has lived his full life span. His teeth though were the possible diagnosis, they might need to be ground down. I talked with her for a while, the surgery to have this done was going to be very expensive. I no longer have my husbands income and I need to start getting one of my own. I wondered how does one put a price on life. What price is too much? I know if it were my husband I would pay any price. But this is different, this is a formerly abused pet I rescued that is past his life span. I have given him a good home for over five years. I have made sure he has all the food, treats and toys a pet could want. Some say I spoil him. To me, it is not spoiling, it is trying to make his remaining days happy, make up for the abuse he suffered before he came into our lives. The vet was not sure it really was his teeth, it was just a possibility. She was not sure he would even survive the surgery. Even if he survived surgery, it might not be his teeth and he might only have days or weeks left to live with or without the surgery. I would still be responsible for paying for the surgery. My decision was a tough one. I decided not to allow her to do the surgery. I asked her to give me something for his pain so he lives out his remaining days as comfortable as possible. I see him fading each day. The medicine helps the pain, it does not stop his weight loss, growing smaller, looking older. Each morning I awaken expecting him to have died overnight and am glad when I see he is still alive. I know one morning soon I will awaken and he will be dead. Or he could die while I am holding him. Or he could die during any given moment. At any rate, I know from looking at him his time is near. I am trying to make him comfortable.

After returning home from the vet I thought of the heels. I thought again of the doctors were who treated my husband. Some wore “sensible” heels, other high heels and some wore flats or sneakers. I had never noticed, as much of the time they walked on carpet and I did not hear it. I thought to myself that they should all be wearing some type of shoe or sneaker with no heel. Then I realized that I was being unfair. That I would not expect a man to wear certain clothing or shoes. (Though I would prefer male doctors not wear ties as they can be a way to pass infection to patients, that is a health issue, not how I perceive a doctor should dress). I want people to look at me and be fair. Yet here I was passing judgement on what type of shoes a woman doctor wears. In my life with my husband I rarely noticed something as insignificant as shoes. I have never expected anything from doctors other than to treat my husband and do the best they could. While I still think comfortable shoes would be more functional for a doctor, it is not for me to say. I always have thought I was very fair in my judgements of others. I now see there are some areas that need work. Starting with accepting a doctor has every right to wear heels if she wants. If this is turns out to be my biggest problem in moving forward, I will be lucky. Until I move forward, I will not know if there are other things I am not fair about. I am still learning.

In writing this it brings up many moments of the last few years with my husband. Though his illness was not age related, he too grew weaker each day. Though the memories of my husband are mostly happy they are also sad, as the end result was the death of my husband. What I am dealing now with my pet is similar to the last week of my husband’s life which is what makes it so sad. No he cannot communicate, but in his little eyes I can see the fear of what is happening to him. I guess when we love someone or something unconditionally there will be pain when they die. For now, I will make sure my little guy has all he needs and makes sure he knows he is loved. I know when he dies it will be hard. I will truly be alone. My only true connection with my husband, even if it were only because he was here though it all, will be gone. I am not looking forward to that day, but I will know I have done all I can to try to make his last days happy ones.

Three Widows in a Mirror

I have 2 friends whose husband’s have died in the last year. It would seem logical that we all must be dealing with it and suffering in similar ways. That our pain is all-consuming. That we cry. That it is hard to go on without our husband’s. That each day is a challenge. That the way we deal with our lives alone would be similar. That we are learning to live alone. That we are taking similar steps in finding out where we now fit into the world. This would not be true. The only truth would be we are all widows.

I will start with the friend whose husband died a year ago. Her husband died in his sleep. He was not ill. He had not been ill. He was about the same age as my husband, maybe a year or two older, but he was not old. She was living in a different state when he died. In a very nice house surrounded by many close friends. She awoke one morning and noticed her husband was not breathing. She called 911 and told them. They told her to try shaking him as he might just be in a deep sleep. This is the part that bothers her the most, he must have been dead for a few hours as she described something I would not want to have to remember. She cannot get the feel of how he felt out of her mind. He died from a massive heart attack. It is driving her to drink. She is trying to get out of the pain. She told me at first all her friends came to visit, then with time, they stopped visiting. That is when she started to really feel alone. She threw all her husbands things out. She wanted no reminder of what happened. Though she does not realize it her next move was quite brave. She could not forget awakening to her husband like that, it bothered her to live in the house. So, she moved. Not a short move. She moved halfway across the country, to the state I live in, about an hour away. She has one distant family member where she has moved to. Though she is basically alone, she is trying very hard to regain her life. She has gotten a job. She does not like the job but she goes in every day. Though she is still drinking to mask her pain, she has already done something to deal with the pain by moving. Some might call that running away, I do not see it that way. I see her as a strong woman, brave enough to get in her car and drive halfway across the continent to start a new life. I do worry about her though. Drinking might mask her pain, it might make it more intense. She tells me it helps her escape sometimes and helps her sleep sometimes. I have talked to her a little about her drinking. She told me she thinks she is becoming an alcoholic. While the thought had crossed my mind, I felt hearing it would only make her pain worse. I also do not know that she really is an alcoholic. So I told her that she is using alcohol to lessen her pain, which was understandable. When she is better she will quit drinking, as she will no longer need it. I then warned her of the dangers of drinking and driving. She is an adult, she knows, but I felt if I were to in some way be telling he it is okay to drink, I should also add how dangerous drinking and driving are. She told me she has only driven drunk once. I told her once is too many times. She could kill someone’s husband or wife or child, then not only would she have to pay the price with jail time, but she would also have to live knowing she had taken a life and that she now has given another the pain she is in. She promised she would not drink and drive. I also worry that maybe her life is spinning out of control, that she is having mental issues and only tells me what she thinks I want to hear so that I can tell her it is okay. She has extreme mood swings. Sometimes very up and happy other times almost hitting rock bottom mentally. This makes me question her mental status. But then, who am I to question. She is at least trying to get on with her life, even if she is using alcohol to help.

My other friends husband died nine months ago. He too died suddenly. This friend is my neighbor. I have known her and her husband for ten years, talked to them both on a regular basis but never really spent much time with them. I should mention she is a pastor at a church. One day 9 months ago, I saw many people coming to her home. They had casserole dishes, flowers, the type of thing one brings to a person’s home when someone has died. My husband was still alive. I asked him to check the online obituaries as I thought her mother who lives with them must have died. Her mother is in her late 70’s. It was not her mother who had died, my husband informed me it was her husband. He was 3 years younger than my husband. He died during a church service, while she was giving the sermon she saw her husband seemed to be asleep but did not look right, she stopped and walked to wear he was. EMS was called. Her husband died from a massive heart attack also. It has been 9 months and she still has all his clothes and everything else that was his, no matter how insignificant it is. The thought of getting rid of anything he owned is unbearable to her. Much like my other friend, in the beginning she had many visitors, they soon would dwindle, eventually stop coming. But she still has her mother living with her. That must be of some comfort I would think. When we talk she tells me she has two things that keeps her going, her church and her faith in God. I wonder if her faith in God makes it easier on her. She cries all the time. She tells me that every so often she goes through a day without crying too much, but those days have just started and they are not often. She also tells he how unbearable her feeling of loss is, but then goes on to say that God will get her through this. I worry for her too. As I mentioned her mother is growing older. If and when her mother dies, she will be left alone. I wonder if she will still feel that her faith in her church and God are enough to comfort her. She has no family nearby, but considers her church her family. I do not know what it is like to have such faith, but I wonder why she has not thrown or donated her husbands things if she has so much faith. She should know that there are those in need that could use the clothing. But it is not for me to judge her, she is in pain.

When my husband died, I went into shock and to some extent I still am in shock. While I was at the Hospice Home with my husband, I had heard others who had someone die. They would cry, loud and uncontrollable. Someone with Hospice would drive them home. When my husband died, I did not cry. I was unnaturally calm. I was not offered a ride home. In fact after getting home, I had to go through my husband’s clothes, drive back to bring them to Hospice as his body would be picked up and the clothes, shoes, etc. needed to be there. He had written down his wishes. He wanted to be buried in another state. I needed to pack. But first I needed to make phone calls. I do not remember who I called or what I said. I do remember being calm as I told each person. There were two calls I remember. One was to my husband’s uncle, I got his answering machine, thinking another family member must have told him, I left a message so he knew I had thought to call him. But no one had told him, he found out by my message. I will be forever sorry that he found out that way. The other was a call to me from my husband’s half-sister. I was in the middle of trying to get his clothing to bring back to Hospice. She was calling to see how he was doing. I told her he had died and I had no time to talk to her and hung up. I feel bad about that call too as I know I was rude at a time when she must have felt his loss. After bringing his clothes to Hospice, I drove home, made more calls and started to get my clothes packed. I noticed my neighbor whose husband had died was outside, I walked out to tell her of my husband’s death. Another neighbor walked up and I told him too. I also told them that I wanted no visitors and asked them to relay that message to all my neighbors. I would be flying to where my husband wanted to be buried, when I returned I wanted to be left alone to process all that had happened. That I wanted to come home, curl up into a ball and cry, sleep, cry more, sleep more, until I was ready to face the world. I told them I would tell them when I was able to talk with them. It will be six months in two days, I have not told them they can visit, I am sure they do not think of it. While my friends missed their visitors, I never had any to miss. I did not want any, to be honest, I still do not. When I arrived home from my husband’s funeral, the first thing I threw were his mirrors. The next thing I started to tackle were medical things, such as his hospital bed, wheel chair, etc. I made arrangements to donate them. Then I started going through his clothes, putting them in bags to donate. Clothes meant little to my husband, though he liked to be well dressed and probably had more clothes than I do, they were for appearance. At work he had to dress well. In his own time he liked to dress well. He was someone who liked to be in fashion with his clothing. But they had no sentimental value to him. So it was easy to get rid of them. I found a place that helps addicts get back on their feet to donate his clothes. I thought that my husband would be happy to know that his clothes were going to someone who really needed not just clothing, but a second chance, a job. My husband hired a lot of people in his life time and he always said how someone dressed was important. That does not mean he did not hire anyone who did not dress well, he understood not everyone has dress clothes or the money to buy them. But he would tell me, these people had to prove themselves a little more. He hired several through the years that were dressed in ripped jeans and tee shirts. The fist thing he did was to call a uniform company and get them the proper clothing. So I knew this place was the best place for his suits, etc. The place told me they rarely got clothing for men and were extremely grateful. It gave me a brief moment of happiness to know that his clothing were going to good use.

What I did not do when I got home was to cry. It took a month or so until I cried a little, but it was more crying for myself that I no longer had the one thing that meant the most to me. I tried for three years to show strength through his illness, I do not know how to let go of that feeling of strength even though I no longer feel as strong. I know I need a good cry. I cry a little every so often. I never know when it will happen which is bad, as I like to be in control. I do not want to be out and start to cry. Nor do I want to cry around others. I have become skilled at stopping the tears before they start if I am with others. What I feel the most is my heart breaking. They say there is no such thing as heartbreak. There is. Out of nowhere it will hit me that I will no longer see my husband again, ever. I cannot breathe. Not in a panic way. Rather my heart hurts so bad, I am holding my breath. A deep sick, sadness fills the place where my heart is. If that is not heartbreak, I do not know what is. Sometimes anything can remind me that my husband will never be back. The feeling of loss is terrible. At night I cannot sleep. Some nights I stay on the computer all night doing nothing in particular, just trying not to think, suddenly I will notice the sun has come up. I mentioned how social media had become my good friend, now it seems too much of a bother. Most nights after hours of twisting and turning I get up and try to sleep on the couch. It is not comfortable but for some reason I fall asleep easier there. I will awaken after a few hours, sore from the couch, stumble back to my bed and go back to sleep. If there is anything I know is that my life cannot go on like this. I am trying to get my life back, not to what it was, but what it will be. I do not know what it will be or what it will look like. I am having a hard time as I try to get there. But the realist in me knows that it will happen at some point. I just wish it would hurry and get here. I want to live my life again. It will be minus my husband, I will miss him forever, but at least I will be living, not sitting here sad, confused, wondering and wanting a life.

So in the mirror are three widows. I have described each. I think it is evident that we are all trying to find ways to deal. Which is the correct way I do not know. At times, I think how nice it must be to be able to drink the pain away. Then I think of the migraine I will get the next day and know that is not for me. Other times, I think of my neighbor who has so much faith. I think how nice it must be to have such faith, to be able to let faith lead the way. Since I struggle with faith or my faith is limited, that is not an option. I have just given descriptions of two widows that are not me as well as a description of myself as a widow. I wonder if asked, how the two would describe me. I would guess they think I am strong and doing better. They have told me so. It is the impression I give, the reflection. I think they might also take note that I have isolated myself in my house with little contact with the outside world, then again they are dealing with their own grief and may not have noticed, but I can also say they both limit their contact with the outside world to some extent. As told above, the reflection they would see does not resemble me at all. I think if they really looked at me, they would see no reflection, as I have not found yet who I am, now that I am alone.

Illness and Aging in Mirrors

When I was a young teen I looked older. I had no problem acting older and everyone around assuming I was older, wiser. As time went on my looks and age started to catch up and I appeared the age I was. As time went a little further I began to look younger than my age. I am not one to focus only on my appearance. I would rather people see me for who I am, not what I look like or what age I look. Many would be surprised to see I am nothing like what I look like on the inside. On the outside is a very composed woman, on the inside is one struggling to regain her life.

My husband was one year older than I am. When I first met him he looked older than I was, it must have been in the stage where I looked my age or younger. As time went on, we both aged. He probably aged more than I did in his appearance. Yet, if asked if he felt old he would have answered no. He never felt old until he became sick, even then he said he felt so much younger than his age or how he appeared. I, on the other hand if asked would tell you I feel much older than I look. I would have told anyone that if asked when I was just a teenager. I have always felt old.

During my husband’s illness I think we both aged. He aged a lot more than I did as he was the one that was so sick. I aged from the stress of worrying about him and the work put into keeping him well. At some point it seems we both aged a lot in looks. I would guess this is a natural occurrence that anyone dealing with illness or being ill takes. Illness is a harsh reality. One that brings everything into a clearer focus, a focus we might not want. Yet the alternative is not preferable. So we take our aging with a grain of salt.

My husband had many doctors. As time went by, more illnesses would affect him requiring new doctors in different specialties. Some illnesses were side effects from the medications he needed to stay alive, some were just unrelated or were just progression of the illness affecting other parts of his body. After one such new illness we went to a new doctor. The nurse checked us in (I will probably use the word us, as he never went in to see the doctor alone). When she was done with his info, she mentioned it was nice that I brought my father to his appointments. I told her I was his wife. She had a very odd look on her face and quickly replied “you must be much younger”. I did not bother to correct her as it would only bring more attention to what I not only felt was uncomfortable, but I did not want my husband to be upset by it. He on the other hand told her with a big smile “I got a real looker when I married her”. He did not see that she had been pointing out our looks and ages, rather his impression was she just thought I was pretty.

I am not going to say it was unprofessional of the nurse to have said what she did. I think people are too sensitive when others speak their mind. We need more people who speak their mind, not just tell us what we want to hear. Not be cruel, but be honest. The nurse was just saying what reflections of us looked like to her, she meant no harm. Had I been the one she thought looked older, I would have felt the same way, I would not have been upset. The nurse was not trying to be cruel or offensive. If that were the case, then I would have spoken up and she would have listened. It must be hard for nurses as well as doctors to meet and get to know new patients and their significant others, caretakers.

Another new illness sprung its ugly head almost a year later. This meant a new specialist. Once again after the nurse had checked us in she made a comment. This comment was different. She thought it was nice my husbands granddaughter was taking care of him. Granddaughter? I know he had aged, I know I had aged, but had he aged that much in one year I wondered. I mentioned to the nurse I was his wife and she apologized profusely saying she did not mean to offend my husband. I told her it was okay. By this time my husband had started to pay attention to anything but the fact that he was in the doctor’s office for another illness. He was busy trying to make sure what he said came out correctly, he wanted to be able to joke with the nurses or doctors to make them feel more comfortable and yes, to make himself more comfortable with all that was happening as well. He never heard the granddaughter remark.

He did on occasion catch glimpses of himself with all the mirrors and reflective surfaces in the universities clinics, which are located and attached to the hospital. Sometimes he would ask me if he looked as bad as the reflection. This was a hard one for me, as when I looked at him, I did not see a sick man or an old man, I saw the man I loved. But if he asked then I would have to look at his appearance. I did not want to lie. So I would tell him how we all reflect badly in the surfaces there. He was satisfied with that answer. There were other times he saw things and was more specific with his questions. An example would be, if he looked as skinny as the reflection, with this I would answer he had lost weight but the reflections were still distorted. It was hard to catch a glimpse of myself. It must have been extremely hard on him to see himself in the reflections.

I wonder how many people go into the hospital for long stays with serious, life threatening illnesses come out looking no different then when they first were admitted. I know from my experience, there were some in rooms near my husbands whose loved ones started to age while they were there. All the ill near my husband’s room did not have such long stays in the hospital as my husband did, yet their weariness was evident in their appearance. I never mentioned it to any, they were going through enough worry. I am sure many felt like I did, no longer caring what we looked like, just wanting our loved ones to recover and come home with us.

Now that my husband has died, I wonder if my appearance looks as if I have aged more. I wonder if my face has got the look of someone who is so tired and worn out that even the thought of doing anything makes me feel worn out. I wonder if the blank stare I feel I have all the time appears to others. There are also times I wonder if I look the same as before. For some reason, looking the same is not a comforting thought. It should be, but it is not. If I look the same, I feel as though all that we went through together left no mark on me. As though it never happened. As if my husband was just a passing thought not an every day, important and essential part of my life. For now I will not know what I look like. My husband was my most truthful mirror. He is not here to tell me. As for the mirror, I am not ready to look into one quite yet.