Screw the institution!!
Hey Babe -
I’ve been thinking about how we’ve been practicing saying “I love you” to each other everytime we parted and before we went to bed just in case something ever happened to us. This was important to me because the night my great grandmother had a stroke, I had gotten into a little tift with her and the last thing I said to her were words of spite. She had a stroke and went into the hospital that same night. She was paralyzed on one side and wasn’t able to speak or see anymore. She passed away a week later and I never had the opportunity to apologize. This was something I had to live with--it changed how I viewed life and how I chose to live my life. I was in my early 20’s when this happened and I knew I never ever wanted anything like that to happen to me again, so I always told you that we needed to tell each other we love each other when we parted and before going to bed just in case anything happened to the other person, so the last thing we heard the other say was “I love you.” But it occurred to me that we completely failed at this when it mattered the most. When you were on your knees trying to breathe, I kept telling you to stop breathing so hard and to not talk so you wouldn’t expense too much energy (something the 911 dispatcher told me to tell you). I sat next to you crying while we were waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Even when they brought the gurney, before you got on, you grabbed my shoulder and we both just stared at each other--speechless. I was in tears; frightened and scared while you were on your knees fighting to breathe, and you looked worried and scared. This would have been the perfect time to say, "I love you Babe." But, neither of us said anything, even when they were wheeling you into the ambulance. I just watched you get into the ambulance and I didn't even shout, "I love you Babe!" You would think that with all the practicing, we would just automatically say, “I love you” as they wheeled you into the ambulance (I mean wasn’t this what we were practicing for all these years?). Nope! Instead, we both just stared at each other blankly--speechless. I don't even think it crossed our minds to say, "I love you." I don’t think we said much to each other during the whole ordeal. I guess when it comes down to it, no amount of practicing could ever prepare us for that moment. I wasn’t expecting my husband to die that day, nor could I ever imagine that you could just wake up and die for no apparent reason. Now, all I have as a memory of our last conversation is you fussing at me about Jesse misbehaving. You told me to get him inline or else you will start taking harsh measures and I wouldn't like it.
After you passed, all I could think about was all the times I said these things to you,
“Stop eating all that those sweets, they’re bad for you!”
“Don’t drink soda, it’s bad for you!”
“Stop eating junk food, they’re bad for you!”
“Did you max out your 401k?”
Now, when I look back, I realize you should have eaten whatever you wanted and it didn’t matter if you maxed out your 401k or not since you wouldn’t need it anyways.
The irony is that you were perfectly healthy, you always liked to rub it in about how healthy you were compared to me. You always liked to say, "My doctor says that my cholesterol level is the same as a 20 year old." You also liked to tell me that you were going to outlive me because you were healthier and also because I failed PE (BTW, I didn’t fail PE, it was just my lowest grade! I never failed at any class in my life.) We used to sit and argue about who would live longer. I always said I would because I’m younger than you and you said you would because you were healthier than me. Now I realize, it doesn’t matter if you were healthier or if I was younger, at the end of the day, nobody really knows when it’s our time or not. We just have to live like today is our last day. I used to always think that I’m approaching my mid-life, but now I know that’s not guaranteed. I also keep thinking about how your mid-life was at 24.75 years old--it’s just hard to fathom when it’s put into that perspective. What if I’ve already passed my mid-life and I don’t even know it. Would it changed the way I lived my life if I knew I didn’t have much time left? Would you have done anything differently if you knew you were going to die at 49.5? I’ve thought about this a lot, and the more and more I think about it--I don’t think you would have changed anything. I’ve also thought about whether I would have done anything differently if I were to die tomorrow and the answer is no. We always lived our lives to the fullest with no regrets. We never let societal construct or norms drive our decisions or the way we chose to live our lives. We also did what we wanted in our own terms and in our own way. There was never a day that passed where we didn’t count our blessings--we knew we were lucky to live the life we had. We always said, “If we die tomorrow, we’d have no regrets.” (Except maybe finished our estate planning last year like we were supposed to so I don’t have to deal with probate--but then again, I always joke that you died exactly the way you lived--no advance notice, no detailed plan, and you left me to figure the details on my own. So, I think if we finished our estate planning, you wouldn’t have gone out in S style!! So, maybe it happened for a reason, but you had already told me what you wanted for the important stuff--pull the plug, cremation, and no funeral. I guess everything else I have to figure out on my own!)
You used to say to me, “I didn’t have a problem with turning 40, but I’m having a hard time with turning 50.” I keep hearing you say this in my head and all I can think about is that you won’t even get a chance to turn 50. You will never make it to your next milestone birthday and tell me how it feels to be 5-0!. We were just talking about what you wanted to do for your 50th birthday the week before. I also think about how we talked about throwing a party for our 5th year wedding anniversary--that will never happen either. We will also never make it to our 3rd wedding anniversary. Oh, and the estate planning lawyer confirmed today that in the eyes of the law, I’m single and could get married tomorrow if I wanted to. (I should see if Taye Diggs or Morris Chestnut is available to marry me tomorrow!) Now, I know what box to check legally, but I still don’t agree with it on a philosophical level. I said that’s fine, but in my heart and mind, I’m still married, and I don’t care with the law thinks. Don’t you think it’s ironic--before we got married, we didn’t believe in the institution of marriage and we said we didn’t need a piece of paper to tell us that we wanted to be together forever. Now, I’m saying I don’t need a piece of paper (your death certificate) to tell me that I’m not married anymore. I guess some things never change! We didn’t believe in the institution of marriage and now I don’t believe in the institution of death! I’ve decided that whenever there’s a box I need to check, I would make my own widow box and check that if there wasn’t one! I refuse to check a box that says you never existed.
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A grieving widow who is trying to find meaning and purpose from her tragic event.