You woke up in pain.
Your nurse came into your room.
You asked for medication.
She left the room.
She returned at 12:55 am.
She sat next to you for the next two minutes. Watching your breathing labor more and more.
At 12:57 am, while she held your hand, you let go and took His hand.
You were gone.
The phone rang at 1:06 am. I had only just gotten into bed not an hour before. I was spent. Jim, who could sleep through a freight train jolted awake and handed me the phone without answering. He knew. I didn't. It took me totally by surprise.
I thought I had prepared. I had spent months knowing the final outcome. I said good bye to you - asked you to put your sword down - just 27 hours before. But then I had this wonderful evening with you.
And now you were gone.
I had phone calls to make.
No time for tears.
I needed to call Bruce and gram. I had dropped her off at your house just 2 hours before. I didn't want to wake her. I wasn't sure I should. But I did.
I called Ted. He was mad at himself for not spending your last night with you. We thought we had more time.
I called your sister Chris - who lived 6 blocks away and asked her to call your siblings... Dan, Cath, Mitz and Ed. I wanted to be the one that told Mary and Nick. She understood. Then she made the most selfless offer - rather than coming with us to say good bye to you, she came to the house and stayed with Mantha.
Then Jim and I drove, what felt like the longest drive ever. It felt like a normal visit - only at 2 am - and then it hit me - just as we turned on Snelling. It hit so hard that I wanted him to take me home. I wanted to not go where we were going. I want it to not be true.
But he trudged onward knowing I wouldn't have it any other way.
Bruce and gram were there waiting. Ted and Theresa arrived just after we did. We gathered at the end of the hall. Waiting so we could all go in together. But then strangely, they told me to go in first. I think they wanted someone to break the barrier, to make it more real - to make it acceptable.
Because no one wanted to accept it.
I took on this role while you were sick. I became the informer and the enforcer.
I went to all the doctors appointments, asked the hard questions, pushed for more results and made everyone in your charge rue the day they came to work in less than fully submissive to kindness and gentle care.
I pulled the non challant Radiologist out of that first appointment and asked him flat out if you were dying. He tried to stay neutral, he tried to be overly technical - but he didn't know who he was dealing with. I remember the look on his face when I, barely 5'1", knocked his over 6'3" down to size - telling him I didn't to subtle, I didn't do sugar coated. I wanted the truth, and while he thought it was best for you not to know, it wasn't his decision to make.
I verbally chastised your Oncologist for arrogantly admitting he made a mistake when he didn't do a bone scan in February. And then I made him tell you your prognosis, and when he would begin to sugar coat it, I would glare him back into the truth. (He still doesnt like me by the way, but I dont care, I dont like him either - I refuse to see him when my I make my annual trip to the Cancer Center).
I took notes, kept a journal, emailed everyone, and made countless phone calls throughout your illness. I took advice I didn't want to, was yelled at for looking at the illness straight in the eye, and not pretending it wasn't really happening. I told it like it was, and called the naysayers out. I made sure that no one, and I mean no one, talked about you in third person - over your bed - like you weren't able to hear or understand what they were saying. I didn't allow myself to get upset or breakdown.
So it was natural to me to cross that threshold first, and report back that it was safe.
I took my time.
It was my turn to grieve.
My turn to be selfish.
I will never forget thinking you looked as though you were sleeping, mouth agape, expecting to hear sounds escape. But there were none. I wanted to crawl in bed with you and never leave. But I didnt. Instead I told you how much I loved you, and I prepared you for what was to come. I promised that no one and no thing could ever hurt you again.
Slowly the rest started filtering in. They didn't stay long. It wasn't easy for anyone.
As we sat together, in that room that people gather in, we all realized at once that this was it.
All I wanted to do was sleep. But I couldn't turn the phone off, I didn't think it was fair to those awaiting the news. I didn't sleep until that next day.
And then came the morning after - a full day after you were gone. I decided I would take Mantha to daycare and work on putting memory boards together. I dont remember the motions, I just remember that after visits to the local Target, Pier 1, Fabric Store and grocery someone finally got brave enough to ask me if I was ok. The night before I had gone to bed in sweats and a shirt that read "bite me". Apparently when I woke up that morning, I did nothing more than grab my purse and my daughter and leave the house. I didn't comb my hair, I didn't check the smudged make up. I didn't change clothes.
In my semi-upscale suburban town I went out shopping with a bang.
My cares were with you, not with me. I did it all for you.