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.