One year ago, today was probably the most difficult day of my life, and I hope never to face one that rivals it. In reality, it may have been the 12 days that preceded it which were cumulatively the worse experience I have ever encountered. Unfortunately, Thanksgiving Day this year will be the one year anniversary of my Wife Rita’s passing.
Each of us who gets and remains married will ultimately face the loss of their spouse or leave one behind, unless some tragedy takes both at once. In that sense, one might think that the burning down of my home nearly 13 years ago, was the more shocking and usual event. It isn’t merely an untimely death, but often the circumstances surrounding the event that make it so much harder to digest. Of course, it would be difficult and cumbersome to get into all of that. Let’s just say that this time of the year, leading up to the first anniversary, has been an emotionally difficult season.
I’ve heard it well argued that relationships are the key to meaning in life. I have had no experiences in life to give me cause for doubting that. As such, one can find themselves attracted to other people, and being interested in cultivating new relationships, yet discovering that you can’t compensate for the loss of relationship merely by plugging in interactions with new people. You can’t save snapshots of time in a bottle, nor can interactions with people become meaningful without time and experience transpiring to grant them character and meaningfulness. That’s what was lost from my temporal experience last year. I have to live out the reality that’s set before me, in principle, the same way a poker player has to play skillfully, the hand they are dealt.
A familiar adage is an admonition to be careful for what they wish for. I must admit that there were tough times when I wondering what it would be like to be unmarried. That notion which I harbored, came into port from a stormy sea. As difficult and trying as some of those times were, I would gladly endure them to regain what I’ve lost. Over the last several days, I’ve had a haunting feeling, as each day mirrors one a year ago when Rita’s fate remained uncertain for me. There is something both sad and strange about having a loved one hospitalized, with the notion that you might never see them alive again.
The day before Rita died the hospital Chaplain called me and tenderly explained that he had talked with my wife when she was first admitted to the ICU. He told me that her condition had deteriorated significantly since then. He told me he was very impressed by the profession of faith she had made in her health care directive, but that I should consider terminating life support measures. Later that night the hospital called and reported a change in Rita’s condition indicative of brain damage. I consulted with one of Rita’s daughters, and we opted for no additional diagnostic procedures.
The next day Rita’s two daughters and I were permitted to see her for the first time. When we viewed her condition for ourselves it was a unanimous decision that we should end the life support. At approximately 11 AM we allowed nature to take it’s course. As we awaited the inevitable, I remember looking into her eyes. I did not see the eyes of a woman barely clinging to life, but rather lively and vivacious eyes of the young woman that was captured in several pictures I had enlarged, which were originally posted at her funeral. Finally, at 2:47 P.M., Rita took her last deep breath and expired. She moved to heaven and I became a widower. Directly afterward, the eldest daughter and I went to make the arrangements. As it turned out, my battery was dead and she had to jump start my car.
But Thanksgiving is first a foremost a time to be thankful. I’m alive and doing fine. Had many unique experiences the past year. My wife is getting better comfort now than I ever could have provided. The glass is more than half full.© Robert Meyer
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