Sep 30, 2010 - 3:54 pm
I lost my wife to colon cancer July 29th. I post here a few times a week and more when she was alive battling her cancer. We would have been married 32 years this August 26th.
It is therapeutic for me to share what losing a spouse is like from a man’s perspective. Perhaps it is not that different for a wife but since I am not a woman I will never know for sure.
I had worked that last day of her life. She had called me and was barely coherent. I came home to find her half lying on the couch with the telephone on the floor. She wanted help to the bathroom. I got her into her wheelchair and lifted her onto the toilet. It was a few seconds after helping back to her chair that her head tilted back and she was unconscious. I knew at that point the end was very near. I tried to balance her head while pushing her chair to the couch and struggled to get her back on the cushion. I remember how hard it was to try and get her pajama bottoms back on – her dignity was still very important to me. While I knew this moment would eventually come I was numb and in disbelief that it was happening in front of my eyes. The hospice nurses came to the door and helped me elevate her head and give her morphine. She sighed with every breath, as if she had just finished a marathon and was exhausted. It was barely 30 minutes later that she let out her last breath. The funeral home was at my house quickly. The emotional part was seeing the gurney leaving our front door. I declined to walk with them to the hearse-I was afraid of being seen by neighbors and being exposed was overwhelming at that point. I called our only daughter who was in Disneyworld – she knew what the call was for. She had said her goodbye a week earlier and countless times before when we thought the end was near only to see Esther with her grit determinations prove everyone wrong.
The funeral was affirming-standing room only with people sharing how Esther had impacted their lives in positive ways. I was touched and thought how we all do things good and bad that have ripple effects that we may forget, but others remember for years. Her burial was in Magalia California overlooking Saw Mill Peak. It’s beautiful. I touched her casket and whispered “I love you” before leaving.
It has been two months. I had my ring cut off last Monday. It was time. I have it in my safety deposit box. Every morning when I get up I see a portrait taken of us back in 1985. In my humble opinion that is when we were both at our most attractive, but she is absolutely stunning in that portrait. But it is painful to look at it. I remember after that portrait was taken we were both so enamored with eachother we rushed home in a driving rain and that afternoon our daughter was conceived! So it hurts to see that portrait hanging on the wall every day when I pass it. It hurts to see her toothpaste in the bathroom. It hurts to see the photos of our family she put up on the refrigerator. Everything in the house has her imprint. There is no where I can go where her DNA isn’t left behind. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like my own home, it feels like a house where two people once lived, one died and the other left the same day.
Dating? I admit I think of women. It’s hard to be alone and I miss female companionship. I told myself I would never get married again or date, yet I cannot deny the agony of being alone each day. I can be in a room full of people and yet still feel alone. I look at women differently than I used too. I ask myself “Would this person be a good mate?” Then I realize how absurd the question is because she is married with four children!!!!! I am insecure too. I wonder if I am still attractive? I got lazy being married; I did not have to worry about gaining a few pounds, snoring at night, getting spinach stuck on my incisors. I am running more now, I am thinking of lasik surgery. I feel a bit self centered about it but my wife is gone and I am here and I am lonely-it sucks!
It helps to work- it occupies my time yet I feel detached from that as well. My mind drifts. It’s as if everyone else is now speaking a different language but me. Deadlines, interactions at the job which are normal seem distant and I confess unimportant. There are days I could not care less about conference calls and production, it seems foreign to me.
My daughter is getting married in a year. I don’t know how I will plan it without my wife. That would have been the single most important day she could ever experience and she won’t be there. I wonder how my daughter will feel about it. I guess we will deal with it like we both have been, one day, hour and minute at a time.
A week ago I met someone for coffee. It wasn’t a date but we talked about how we ended up single. Her situation is different than mine but just as much loss and pain. We talked for an hour and a half. I admit I was attracted to her but then felt as if I had invested so much personal information with a total stranger that I felt almost in a state of panic. It was as if two people had survived a plane crash and were bonded but that is all they have in common and they will have to find their own way of surviving.
People tell me “Dave, be good to yourself.” While I know the intent is well and good I don’t know how the hell to do that-it would help if they would tell me how to do it.
In the end, the death of my wife is the single most painful event I have ever had to endure. I cannot even fathom loss of a child. But the death of my wife took away my identity and part of my soul. I am different now and I can never get that part back.