The moment before we begin walking forward
Today is October 17. In two hours, or a little more, it will be eight and a half months since the night and hour that my husband, Steve, died. I am not going to tell the story of what happened, beyond noting that at five pm he was alive, alert, talking to me and improving slowly from a cold. At about five-thirty he had what appeared to be a violent seizure. It was his heart going out of rhythm. And before seven he was dead, and I was sitting in a room of the ER with his body.
I could try to explain what that is like, as a truth, as the truth of my existence.
I could repeat what I said to the ER nurse who asked me if there was anything she could do for me once I couldn’t scream anymore.
–I asked her to kill me, please, if she wouldn’t mind, and of course she said no, and I explained that I had fully expected her to respond that way; I simply had no alternative in that moment but to ask, to see if there was any chance that I was wrong–
I could say that I was consumed by envy by the story of a woman who threw her body across her young sons, saving their lives from a Tornado, costing her her own mobility for life. I understood exactly what she meant when she said in her television interview that she would never have done anything else. The deep burrowing grief that I couldn’t have done that for Steve has become the blind and ancient dragon gnawing at the stem of my world tree. It chews at my heart and my guts every day, sometimes for a moment, sometimes for hours. Use of my legs would be a perfectly acceptable trade in exchange for my husband.
I actually hate telling people I’m a widow. I think I haven’t shaken the dreaded conviction that anyone I mention it to will suddenly see me cue a chord to the tragically draped minstrel behind me, raise a trembling hand to my temple and declaim “Alas..” Of course that’s ridiculous. Of course nobody who knows me would dream of thinking that I was scouting for some good Victorian Gas-light and Pantomime action. I don’t want this loss to define me, and I know Steve wouldn’t want it to either. I do not want to begin the story of my journey with his death. But I am journeying now, and I would never have embarked in quite this fashion if Steve had lived.
I am here writing this because it happened.