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Thursday, 07 July 2011

I am a Widow Now

By Linda Carmi

It seems impossible that these words spoken silently to myself can be true. At 1:29PM, I was his wife, at 1:30PM, I became a widow. “Life can change in an instant.” I have heard that statement many times and now I really get it – up close and personal.

It was as if all energy in his hospital room suddenly switched over to slow motion. I was quite aware that it was all happening over the course of just a few minutes. I knew that the time had come - the time we had sometimes spoken of in vague terms.

But even as it was upon me, I felt as if I had been thrust into a swirling tunnel that was filled with thousands of images of our lives together. I wanted so desperately to reach him and tell him all how much he meant to me, even though I told him every day.

His heart rhythm on the monitor had been mostly running in the sixties all morning, when suddenly his nurse flew into the room at the same time I noticed the sharp, and rapid, drop. 60. 50. 40. 30. 20 and then the lines became a jumble and then the lines went flat.

By that time I was on his bed shaking his shoulders as I called out to him. At the same time, the room filled with nurses scurrying about. There was to be no extreme life-saving measure; this was a “chemical code” only which simply means no intubation or CPR, only medications to be given.

That conversation had already taken place between his doctor and me. He was quite simply out of reserve and I knew it. It was painful and surreal, almost out of body, to have the acute awareness of the finality of this irreversible change that was taking place.

In the days prior, as his condition had declined, I had been making plans to take us home so that his end of life could be in our home that he loved so much. But the choice was not mine to make - the time for him to leave.

His sweet face, the face I knew of such kindness and generosity and courage; the face that I caressed and kissed so many times; that face that had known such torment abruptly went slack as I held him in my arms as his final breath came. Just like that, I became a widow.

We both knew it would likely come one day, considering the significant age difference between us. Even so, it doesn’t come any easier.

We lived in the hospital for the last two months of his life. I had no idea when I packed a few things and schlepped 120 miles to our familiar emergency room for GI distress that we would remain for two months and, more importantly, that I would be coming home alone.

Our history with this hospital is extensive and I knew they would provide a cot for me to sleep on as in the past. I thought we may be there a week or possibly ten days. So, while my husband was propped and elevated in his special air mattress bed to prevent ulcers from forming on his frail body, I set up housekeeping in “our room.”

We had a large, west-facing window that warmed the room with afternoon sun and there was even a pleasant view of people scurrying to and from work at all hours.

It wasn’t long before I felt glad that I had the foresight to bring two changes of clothing and some yoga wear to sleep in. I became quite adept at standing in the tiny shower with my outfit of the day crumpled in the plastic basins provided in hospitals.

There was standing room only in the shower, so I “marched” in the plastic basin (think of Lucille Ball stamping her way through the vat of grapes in the wine making episode). This became my routine and kept me clean and reasonably tidy. I discovered that I am quite adaptable and can get by with very little.

My husband had a number of maladies to deal with, any one of which could have taken his life over the years. There was heart disease with the resulting congestive heart failure that progressed to become his end, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, renal impairment – and the accumulated 91 years of living a productive life filled with hopefully enough joy and sadness to balance things out.

We shared 14 years together that were filled with pleasures, challenges and many lessons that will stay with me always.

As this adjustment period continues, I keep thinking I’ll see him sitting in his favorite chair or hear him calling out to me. It just doesn’t seem possible that he won’t be here anymore for me to wrap my arms around and kiss his face all over.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

"At 1:29PM, I was his wife, at 1:30PM, I became a widow." That's a beautiful bit of writing that describes so well that single minute that changes everything. I'm sorry for your loss, and glad for the years you two had each other.

It was very intense for me to read your story. I too recently became a widow and understand how you feel. I have been blogging about my experience and find it helpful. Thank you for your beautiful expression of loss.

I too held the husband I loved so dearly as his life left him just a few days past seven years ago. There are so many layers to work through in addition to the intense pain, and we each travel that road differently and at our own pace. Blogging, or journaling for your more private thoughts, will help - it will become a place to put your pain. Mine took the form, without my thinking about it, of daily letters to him. It provided a form of connection which I badly needed. People are very supportive and kind initially but then they move on. And even our children, supporting and loving as they are, and dealing with their own pain and loss have their lives to live. They have lost their father/stepfather but not life as they've known it as have you.

If there is a bereavement group in your community it may be helpful. I also found that listening to audiobooks, especially during mealtimes, was helpful to me. It filled that terrible silence. It was a long time before I could read - my concentration got lost for a significant period.

For a long time I wanted to run up to couples I passed on the beach where I and they walked, where I had walked almost daily with my husband and say, "Enjoy every minute of your time because you won't always have each other."

I, like Mary, want to express my sorrow for your loss and my gladness for the years you had together. And I'm sending you a very big, long hug.

Ronni, thank you so much for sharing this experience so openly. I sincerely hope it helps with the process of dealing with your husband's absence.

Take good care.

-Derek
BrianLehrer.tv

Ronni, I am sorry, but I just noticed it was not your husband. My apologies for the mistake.

My thoughts are the same, however. Linda, please be good to yourself and thank you very much for sharing your experience.

Derek

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story with us all.

I have been a widow for 27 years and I remember the moment that I changed from being a wife to becoming a widow. You described it so well.

I am sorry for your loss and can only assure you that time is truly a great healer.

What a poignant minute in your life. Beautifully written and I hope the best for you in the future.

Thank you for sharing such a personal event. Nice to be in a circle of people who value each other and take time to keep the world in perspective. Peace to you in your life..


Thank you for sharing your beautiful love story with us.

I am very sorry for your loss.

What a beautiful tribute to your husband and your life with him. He was lucky to have you and you were lucky to have realized what a lovely man he was.

Linda, thank you for saying in beautiful words what many of us feel. I'm a widower since just a few months ago and had 7 years to say goodbye to my beloved who needed constant care over that time, still it came as a sudden shock.

The seasons of grief are shortened for those who have time to say goodbye compared to those who never had the opportunity.

Cry sometimes but also smile remembering all the great times together.

Joe

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