Saturday, January 22, 2011

Addendum to "Happy 7th annivesary, Creej."

"Chris loved audio production, and had just been hired by Car Talk, on National Public Radio, one week before he died. He got to work there once before he became too ill to hold a job. Even though this job was a breakthrough achievement for Chris, he was no stranger to the inner workings of the radio business. He had been producing and performing his own show on Allston/Brighton Free Radio, once a week, for a little over a year. That show was one of his proudest accomplishments. He fully acknowledged that he probably had one, if any, listener, but that didn’t matter to Chris. Talking on the radio, playing the songs of his choice, made him beam.

The other morning, I left to drive myself to the train station where I catch the red line to Kendall Square, which is where I work. I have been taking this particular routine commute since I moved in with Jonathan, five months ago. I plugged my iPod into the adapter, as I always do, scrolled through my song lists until I found my last voice lesson, and began to play back my vocalizations, practicing on my way to work. My brief daily car rehearsals make a huge difference in my voice quality, and help me to steadily improve.

Suddenly, through my car speakers, I heard, “You’re listening to Allston/Brighton Free Radio!”

I was confused. I wasn’t listening to the radio, at all. And even if I was, my radio is regularly tuned to NPR, not Allston/Brighton Free Radio.

I stared at the LCD panel, trying to figure out what was happening. My iPod began to play songs in random order. My confusion lingered for a mere moment before I realized that Chris was saying hello to me, the day after our wedding anniversary, and on the birthday of his beloved deceased grandmother, Edna.

Tears of joy came quickly, and my entire being filled up as it always does when Chris reminds me that he’s still with me, that he always will be.

I have only one explanation for how my radio took over my iPod, only one time since I have owned the car, broadcasting a show I don’t even listen to, a show that isn’t even available in my city, on which Chris broadcast his own personal program back when we shared a life together.

He’s here. I rarely have doubts about his continuing presence in my life, and whenever I do have doubts, something spectacular happens to assuage them.

How lucky am to have one husband across the veil, and one soon-to-be husband right here with me on earth?

There is love on every side of me. I know it, because I feel it coursing through my veins.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy 7th annivesary, Creej.

"I do believe the soul cannot die."
-Tom Tom Club

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day, 6 A.C. (after Chris)

I remember the last week of 2004 through a series of ominous vignettes. Waking up, Christmas Day, to Chris sitting on the bed, telling me he thought it was time for me to take him to the hospital, the pain in his stomach finally too much for him to bear. I remember him telling me to relax and have some coffee first, his way of denying what he probably knew, that the end was near. I remember Chris in the passenger seat of my 1996 electric blue Pontiac Sunfire screaming every time I rolled over the slightest of bumps, and I remember how guilty I felt for not being able to avoid them. I remember the orderly at Brigham and Womens Hospital taking him away in a wheel chair telling me not to worry, that he would take good care of Chris.

We spent Christmas day in the ER where Chris was given Ativan and pain killer, and I remember him saying how great he felt, that the pain was completely gone. We felt hopeful, thinking maybe the pain really was just caused by adhesion, scar tissue from his surgery the month before.

I remember calling my family, who had gathered at my father's house for our annual Christmas Day dinner. Nobody understood what was happening. My father suggested that I come by alone for a while to get my mind off of what was happening. He didn't understand. My husband was dying. How could I leave the hospital and join my family in celebration? I think everyone was in denial to some extent.

Chris was admitted to the hospital that day, Christmas Day, 2004, where Bonnie, Chris's mother, and my friends, Carol and Robby, joined us. Chris' regular doctor was on Christmas vacation. We sat with Chris as he slid in and out of sleep. I tried to believe the other doctors when they said Chris had only a blood clot, but believing was difficult when doctor after doctor walked into the room, looked at Chris, and shook his head in pity. My Chris was dying. They knew it, and they weren't telling us.

I don’t remember what day the doctors, Bonnie, and I gathered around Chris' bed to tell him his treatment for cancer was being stopped. I kept the poker face I had become so good at maintaining for Chris’ benefit. I never wanted to cause him any feelings of guilt by crying. He looked at me and I smiled at him. Then he said, “You’re taking it well.” And I smiled again and said, “I’ve known.”

At the urging of a social worker I tried to involve Chris in his own funeral planning, but when I asked him if he wanted to be involved, he said, “In what?” I whispered, “Your funeral.” Chris recoiled, a twisted expression on his face, not ready to believe what was happening, himself. I remember feeling as though I had delivered the final insult to a man who had already been delivered a life sentence, and I had to leave the room and try to forgive myself.

Even though we remained at the hospital until Chris’ discharge three days later, I don’t remember much else. I remember he thanked me for always looking out for him, and although I can’t remember when, I smiled at him and said, “We had a good run.”

At some point, I entered the hospital chapel, fell to the floor and lay there sobbing, uncontrollably, kicking chairs and rolling around on the floor. I called my mother in the middle of it all, for some grounding.

We left Brigham and Womens Hospital on December 28, Chris and me in the ambulance, and Carol and Robby in my car. My sister, Teri, who had been washing my clothes all week, brought me some fresh ones because I had been wearing the same ones for four days. I still remember the smell when I removed my hiking boots.

I rode home in the ambulance with a very thin, very gaunt Chris who, although under the gracious influence of morphine, still could not get comfortable. He pulled at the blankets and at the fastened bands holding him in place on the gurney. I joked with the EMTs, as the first real feelings of finality began to seep into my consciousness.

I didn’t know that the Tsunami had hit, or that a horrendous snow storm had taken Boston during those few days we spent enclosed in Chris’ hospital room. All I knew was my own bubble of fear and sadness.

Once home, Chris tried to jump off of the gurney, not realizing how high up he was. The EMTs caught him and helped him over to the couch, where he rolled over, his face in the back of the sofa, and fell asleep.

The rest of the week Bonnie and I remained on high alert, Bonnie feeding Chris morphine to control his pain, and both of us trying to keep him safe from falling, as he wandered around the apartment in a haze.

I invited all of Chris' friends and family to come be with him, offering everyone a moment alone to talk with him privately. We laughed with him, teased him, and recalled the past with him. He knew he was dying. He told one of his friends so.
January 1, 2005, Chris got out of bed and stated, “I want to sit in my chair.” We helped him move from the bed to the futon chair and sat with him until his breath changed, a tell tale sign that it was time for us to gather and say goodbye.

Chris' family, some friends, and I sat with him as his skin cooled, holding onto him until the undertakers came with their big black SUV. I watched as the two black clad gentlemen wheeled carried Chris out, loaded him into the truck, and drove away. I stood on the sidewalk, which was iced over from the snowstorm, and stared.

It was over. Our Chris was gone.

Six years has passed. Today is the dreaded anniversary, New Year’s Day. My Chris knew how to go out in style.

I’m sitting at my computer writing this as Jonathan practices his newest Mozart sonata on the piano upstairs, and I know I have come about as full circle as I’ll ever come. I still cry. I will always cry. Jonathan will always understand, and he’ll always love me, hold me and tell me it’s okay, that Chris loved me very much. He allows room for me to grieve.

Despite my best efforts to love like I'll never get hurt (Ellis Paul), I now know that husbands die before their time, but I try not to think about that too much. I just enjoy the time Jonathan and I have together, and I tell myself how lucky I am to have fought the good fight and to have rebuilt a life I never saw coming.

I’m as happy as I can be and, truth be told, that's pretty darned happy. I am eternally grateful for my ability to be resilient.

Happy New Year.