Surviving the Journey
By Shirley Thacker, NBCT
Death is like Grandmother’s heavy quilt that wraps around you until you can’t breathe any longer. It is like the thick, wet fog that comes creeping over you until all your senses are unable to feel- ANYTHING! Death is like the shattering of a glass, only it is your heart that is breaking.
Death comes to all living things, but each circumstance is different. Each death we experience affects our spirit, our soul. Yet, we grieve in different ways.
Death of a special pet, sibling, grandparent, or parent is difficult. But there are no words to describe the death of your best friend, your partner, your lover, your soul mate. My husband, Rich, died June 8, 2005- just short of our thirty-third anniversary. He had been diagnosed twenty four years earlier with cancer. He survived chemo and brain radiation. He was able to teach for thirteen more years. But the treatments killed good cells too. His balance was poor. There was some memory loss. He had torn retina in one eye, buckled retina in another eye, cataracts in both eyes, and Parkinson’s disease. NONE could dampen his spirit and his will to live. He was a true champion. He loved life and wanted to keep fighting until the last week. He had fought the fight and ran the race of life with patience. He was tired, SO VERY TIRED!
We held each other while lying in his hospital bed and declared our love for each other. He promised to be our guardian angel. He sang Amazing Grace and uttered his last words. Sleep/coma came next as he entered the death process. Seizures gripped him the next night as we sat with him and sang to him. His breathing was labored that last morning. He became calmer in the afternoon, when his last brother came to be with him. Ten minutes after he left, my love took last breath and then soared with the eagles.
The next few days were a blur. I was supported by family and friends. I became a robot going through the motions of life trying not to feel, but just exist. I tried to be the rock for our children and his parents and siblings. His favorite songs were sung at the funeral. The flag covered coffin and the sounds of TAPS echoing over the hills would have made him proud. I rejoiced in that!
Death can’t take away the memories, the love, or the hope and dreams of a better day and being together once more. Death of one life is the beginning of another. How do you survive the feelings of that heavy quilt, thick fog, or shattered glass?
You get up every morning and go to bed every night. What happens in between will vary from second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour. Some days you will creep along, like a turtle and life will race by you.
Some days you will bury your head in the sand like an ostrich, not wanting to face death or the decisions that have to be made. Some days you will hibernate like an old bear in a den. You will look at pictures, read letters, or think of fond memories of the special loved one. Some days you will walk through the thick fog and have short times of “normalcy”. Rejoice in those moments. They are few and far between. On those days friends may say, “Oh, you are looking great!” But they only see the mask that you allow them to see. Inside you are crumbling like a sand castle on a hot day.
Time is your ally. It takes time to travel on the journey. Everyone and every travel is different! I can say that after these many months, there are times that I have folded the quilt, watched the sun shine through the fog, and taped a few pieces of my heart back together. I know that I will NEVER, NEVER, be the same again.
Now. . . I can look at his pictures, read his letters, and think on the memories without crying every time. I can remember his laugh and chuckle. I can even sing Amazing Grace and smile. I can listen to the sorrowful TAPS and be proud of my all American husband. I am surviving the journey!