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.


Needing to Take a Second Glance in the Mirror and Other Needs

One day goes into another. No progress made. Just emptiness left. I am on this journey or drive to find how to live my life again. I feel as if no progress has been made. It feels as if no progress will ever be made. That I will forever be stuck in the haze or phase. I know that is not true, but it feels that way at times.

I went to the store a few days ago. Before going, I could not decide if I was up to walking out the front door and facing the world or not. So I kept putting it off. When I finally decided that enough was enough and I needed to force myself out of the house, I glanced in the mirror. I had not curled my hair or done anything to it. I have long hair, but it is fine and unless I curl it, put it up or french braid it, my hair looks greasy as if it were not washed. After glancing and seeing my hair looked as if it needed to be washed, I decided that if I took any more time to fix my hair my nerve to walk out the door would, well walk out the door without me. So I went out with my hair appearing dirty. It was combed. I had makeup on. I know I did not look my best but I was not trying to impress anyone.

I went to the check out at the store. The cashier was elderly. She was friendly and talked with me. There is no one on-line so we chat. I do not mention my husband or anything else. Rather we talked of sales at other stores, how cold it has been for the south, just small talk. Suddenly she said to me “If you curl your hair you would look so much prettier. You are very pretty but you are hiding your looks behind dirty hair”. Normally I would have told this person off or told them of my husband dying, invoking sadness from the cashier. But my life is anything but normal. I knew she was not trying to be cruel. She was telling me what she saw. She felt that through our small chat we somehow connected and she wanted to be nice. It did not make me feel good that a stranger told me how I would look better if I curled my hair. I know this. It really did not even hurt my feelings, rather it was somewhat of a shock to hear it.

Which got me thinking. Do I look worse than I think I do? Are my quick glances in the mirror enough to make sure I am at least presentable to the world? Or do I need to make the glance last a little longer, look for flaws? Am I allowing myself to not look my best out of habit because it took so much time to care for my husband I had stopped caring for myself? Are there other areas in my life I am not examining close enough? And just how bad did I look that a stranger decided to tell me to curl my hair?

There are a lot of questions I need to ask myself. There are a lot of answers I will be searching for. But I do not think the question of how my hair looks should be one of them. I need to start paying more attention to how I look. While I will still glance, the glance will linger, not looking into my eyes, rather at the reflection as a whole to see if there is anything that needs to be done. Then I need to fix the outside of myself. Make sure I am not wondering how I look on the surface or at first or second glances.

Fixing what is wrong on the inside will be a lot harder. I do not know what is wrong that I can fix. I know there are things wrong, such as my panic attacks or migraines that I really can do nothing about. But getting over the fear of walking out the door is one I need to fix and it will be hard. I am working on it. The small things that need fixing, many I am not even aware of, is where it seems to go from a journey to an endless journey. From hope to despair with each day nothing is done. I must try harder fixing not just is what is on the outside, more importantly I need to fix what is wrong on the inside. Only when I start fixing what is wrong will I feel a real sense of accomplishment, not just a hollow okay feeling. If anyone were to ask me if anything is wrong, I know I would answer without hesitation that nothing is wrong. I would not be lying, as whomever would ask would not be asking the questions I am trying to answer. Needing to get back my life is not just something I am writing, it is something that is essential to my happiness. It may be in baby steps, but I have to start somewhere. Tomorrow, I will curl my hair. It is not an earth moving realization, it is not even a superficial realization, but for me it will be a step.

Yet Another Type of Acceptance in the Mirror

There must be many more types of acceptance than I previously thought. I have written about two that were similar yet different. This one is different as well. This acceptance has to do with myself. More specifically how I am dealing with the death of my husband. How I am moving or not moving forward. How slow or fast this process is. How much I should rush myself and how much I should slow down. How I intend to do these things. How I am accepting everything. But I am not talking of just my acceptance, I am also talking about the acceptance or nonacceptance of others that makes this unasked for journey I am on much harder. I normally do not care what others think of me, but this is not only about me, it is about how I am dealing with the death of my husband and how it is perceived, accepted or not accepted.

It seems many want to give me their opinion on how I should be dealing with all that has happened. I am not allowing visitors, but I did allow two family members to visit during November and then December, each time for only a few days. As far as most that know me, including the two I let visit, they can only guess how I feel and am dealing from phone calls. I try to sound upbeat on the phone. I tried to be upbeat during those two visits. If I were to sound sad or show sadness it would only make others feel badly for me as none live close by. They would want to be near to cheer me up. I would not want that even if they did live close by. I put makeup on during the visits, part of the makeup was not actual makeup, rather it was to appear as if I am happy, a smile on my face, standing tall, head held high. I think I have fooled them as they think I am doing better than expected. I do something similar with phone calls, act as if everything is fine, joke about things, when a sad subject is brought up I think of other things in my mind so I do not sound sad. Once again I think this has worked as if these people thought I were not doing well, they would drive to see me, try to help me heal, which is not what I want. This is a journey or drive I must do on my own. I need to come out of this knowing I have done all I could to become whomever I turn out to be, my new self. I do not want the mirror to reflect what others want me to be, rather it should reflect who I have become. Now on to this different acceptance.

There are varying opinions on how I should be moving forward. It seems that to some, my behavior is accepted as normal after the death of a spouse. In some ways these people who accept what I am going through make it hard for me to push myself to move forward. If I tell them a little of how I am feeling (not mentioning panic attacks or anything other than my life without my husband), they immediately tell me I need more time. They tell me to take all the time I need to mourn, not to rush myself. That I will know when I am ready to move on. They know all I have been through. They know how taking care of my husband was a 24 hour a day job, with little if any time left for myself. They know that though I knew my husband’s death was inevitable, it was still a shock and I am now left alone. They are kind and caring in telling me how it will take time to get used to a life without my husband. They accept me.

I have a different group of people who think I have spent too much time mourning and should already have moved on with my life. They do not accept that it should take time to mourn and learn to live a life alone. Much as with those who accept my not moving forward make it hard, these people who do not accept my mourning make it harder. They do not accept the fact that I have not moved forward, they want to tell me how far I should be by now. These people seem to have a cold, uncaring attitude, as though my life with my husband should just be thrown out and it is easy to start over. No matter what I say they do not accept it. Instead I get lectures or examples of people they know who had a death of a spouse and were out and about, happy a week or two after their spouse’s death. I wonder how these examples of people who are thrown in my face truly felt about their spouses. If their spouse meant that much, how can it be so easy to forget them? Maybe they do not forget, just move forward and not think. I then wonder how they think by telling me of someone who has moved on will help me. It does not, it is hurtful to hear these things. It makes me feel less of myself that these people do not accept how hard this is for me. It also makes me wonder if I am taking too long to learn to live without my husband.

This acceptance is different from wanting acceptance of others. It is wanting acceptance from myself. By having two groups of people with different opinions of me, it makes it harder for me to accept that I am having a harder time then I tell others. With the group that do not accept, if I tell them something honest, that makes me sad, they tell me I am being dramatic, looking for pity. I have already said I do not want to be pitied. By telling this group anything I am just trying to buy myself time. Time to move forward without facing their nonacceptance. I need to stop telling this group of people anything, but that is really not an option. If it were possible I would cut these people out of my life for now, if not forever. I do not need to be judged every step of the way towards my new life alone. I am not a suicidal person, if I were this group would surely drive me to the thought of ending it all. I have been tempted to tell one of them on countless occasions that I am ready to give up and join my husband in death, but I know this is not true and this person probably does not care as much as they say. Or they would hear it as my looking for pity. I have to learn to accept this group as they will be in my life for the foreseeable future. Whether they accept how I am dealing has to be their problem. I need to accept this and just work on myself.

It has been a little over six months and though I have made progress, I feel as if I have not made enough. But then I ask myself, just how much is enough? I know there are more areas to work on. I know that neither group of people listed above are really my main problem. I know it adds to my problems, but it is not the cause. I am learning a lot about myself I thought I already knew in looking at what the mirror reflects. I need to keep learning. I also need to go back to the person I have always been, the one who does not care what others think of me. I need to accept myself for who I am. As for the others, it is their problem if the cannot accept any part of what I am going through. Most of all I need to accept that however fast or slow I move forward is acceptable, as long as I am moving forward.

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.

Misleading Mirrors

I do not like to shop. From what others tell me, I am a rare woman because I do not like to shop. My husband loved to shop. I also heard from others he was every woman’s dream as men do not like to shop. My thoughts on men and women shopping is that some like to, others do not. It does not matter if they are a man or woman.

After my husband was ill for a while, I had to shop. He was the one that did most of the shopping before. Now I had to struggle through this overwhelming chore. That might sound odd to someone who likes to shop, but it is how I feel. As I started shopping more, I found ways to shop less. I would buy for a week or two of food instead of for a few days. If either of us needed clothing or essentials, I bought enough to last a while so I would not have to go back to the store. Each time I had to shop, while in the store I would try to figure out how to spend less time shopping.

This is where misleading mirrors comes into play. With my husband in the hospital so often for long periods of time, with my sleeping in the chair to be near him, my ability to be able to find time to shop became less. But the longer he was in the hospital, my need for clothing started to increase. While before I might buy something that looked as though it would look nice on, bring it home, try it on and ask my husband how it looked. My husband had always been my mirror of truth, he would tell me if it looked good on, which was usually the case. He would also tell me if something did not look nice, explaining what he did not like. Then I would look in the mirror and see he was correct, which he was and I would return the item. The returning part was difficult as that meant another trip to the store, so many things were given away to friends, family, Goodwill, rather than returned.

Since I was spending so much time at the hospital, my husband as a mirror not on hand, I started going through the torture of trying clothes on so I would not end up with clothing that did not fit, were uncomfortable or did not look nice. I was not tying to look great, rather look okay and the clothes be comfortable. After all, I would be sleeping in the clothes many times. Most people in the hospital, by that I mean family members and frequent visitors do not look great, tiredness and worry start taking their toll, so many of us probably did not look at others or care what we looked like to others. The visitors that come once a week, mainly on Sundays, are usually the ones that look nice. They have time to look nice, after all, they are only coming once a week. They were the ones that sometimes looked at all of us who were there daily with our loved ones as though we needed a make over or something.

After my initial trip to the clothing store when I needed some clothes, while in the dressing room, the mirror reflected a nice image. I went back and bought every color or pattern of whatever I had just tried on. This would avoid another trip to the store and I would look nice, I thought. But the mirrors in dressing rooms do not reflect our image as it is. Many complain of this. How after buying something that looked so good in the dressing room looked terrible in person. I was just learning this. My husband was still pretty much aware of things and was still my mirror and when I arrived back at the hospital, he would point out that many things I had bought did not look that good on me, that they did not reflect who I was. I did not return the clothing this time around, nor did I give the clothing away. This time I felt, the clothes were comfortable, I wanted them to look nice, but no longer cared as much so they would have to do. I had no time to return them.

The first time it happened where I, myself realized something did not look good was at the hospital. My husband was having difficulty seeing as well as he normally did and had told me so a week or two before. I had tried a top on in the store and it looked so good and was so comfortable I bought every color they had. When I returned to the hospital I caught a glimpse of a woman in the mirrors on the hallway walls. This woman was in ugly clothing, she looked old and tired, slumped over and in clothes that did not fit well. As I walked I noticed this woman was walking at the same pace I was from the reflection. When I got to the end of the hallway and stopped, so did the reflection. It was then I realized the person in the reflection was me. It was quite a shock. Not a pleasant one. Though later others told me they liked the top on me, I could not get that reflection out of my mind. Was I the person I saw? Or was it just a misleading mirror?

Hospitals can be cruel with reflections. Not necessarily for the ill, but the loved ones sitting with them. My husband was always in a single room, but then I think all the rooms at this university hospital only had one bed per room which was nice, no strangers to look at me if I looked bad. While my husband’s room only had a few mirrors, when walking down the hallway the walls were so shiny, you could see your reflection. The elevators had mirrors, some hallways had windows which reflected. When you have spent a night or two sleeping in a chair, no matter what you are wearing, chances are you will not look your best. I tried to avoid glancing at anything that could reflect, but it is hard not to catch glimpses of yourself with so many reflective objects around. Before leaving the floor my husband was on, whether to go to the cafeteria or go home for a night, I would glance in the mirror to make sure my hair was combed. I cannot say I glanced to be sure I looked okay, as that would not be possible. I learned to accept that my looks were of no importance, only being with my husband was.

I am glad that I do not like to shop. I am glad I do not really care what people thought I looked like. I might not be so happy that I did not look my best, but I am glad I did not waste precious time to shop for the perfect clothes. Had I wasted my time trying to look perfect, I would have wasted the most important thing of all. Being able to spend as much time with the man I loved before the sickness got worse and eventually led to his death. I would have missed out on a lot of laughs we had, some of my choice in clothes included.