Excerpt from Renewal …
I remember that day like it was yesterday.
It was one of those gorgeous, early fall days when there’s a freshness of the new season in the air—still warm, but with a touch of coolness—a very pleasant Sunday morning.
Bob had let me sleep in. I could hear him at work in the kitchen as I was dressing. When I came downstairs to join him, he ushered me out to the patio with a freshly brewed cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice, kissed me on the forehead, and told me to enjoy the beautiful morning while he “rustled up an omelet” for the two of us.
As I sat in the filtered light of the patio umbrella, I watched birds hop between the feeder and the water that Bob had put out for them. Small finches took turns bathing without any apparent concern that I was sitting so close and watching their morning ritual.
When the sliding door opened, Bob stepped through, carrying a tray with our breakfast. I noticed that he had taken the time to garnish each plate with lettuce, slices from an orange, and a bright, red cherry tomato. He was all smiles until he collapsed just three steps from the table. I saw the look on his face as he fell—a blending of surprise and pain. His left arm let go of the tray and reached up in the direction of his throat. Food and dishes seemed to fall in slow motion as he crumpled, and only the crash of breaking plates returned me to the regular flow of time.
As quickly as I could, I knelt beside him and examined his face. He was conscious, but his breathing was labored and unsteady. He grabbed my wrist so tightly that it hurt me. “Call 911,” he said and then released his grip. I ran into the house, and in less than two minutes I was back at his side, only to find him unconscious.
I didn’t know what to do—whether I should try to remember my CPR lessons, or whether that might injure his heart further. I put my ear up to his mouth and my hand on his chest. His breaths were shallow and rapid. I held his hand and waited for the paramedics to arrive, and although it was only a few minutes, it seemed like forever.
The time in the ambulance is a blur to me now. Looking back, it’s hard to believe how little I remember from that ride. I know there were things going on constantly, but I only remember how vulnerable Bob looked lying there with an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. Bob, who was always so energetic and active and full of life, was lying there on the precipice of death.
My life changed forever on that day. Nothing would ever be the same again. Nothing would ever be right again. I knew it. I could feel my heart go empty, and I knew that every smile ahead of me would come with a backdrop of sadness and pain.
That’s what it’s like when you lose your life partner. In a very real sense, your life—as you knew it—is over, and for what seems like a very long time, you are reminded of that fact every single day. It takes healing, support, and courage to look beyond your grief and realize that do you have a real choice after all: you can start again.