A couple of days ago, Maddie asked me if she had seen her daddy die, and I told her no, that she had been asleep. She took that news with no visible emotion.
John died exactly six years ago today. I'm sure I've written about this day before, more than once, but this is how I remember it now, six years out.
I didn't tell Mads that the door to the twins' room had been open, the distance between there and our room, where John died, a matter of only a few feet. That whole day, it was not clear to me what John could hear, feel, or understand, but I left the door to our room open always, so that the sounds of our life could drift in, just in case. I remember almost nothing about the daylight hours of April 11. The twins went to daycare. I think I ran a few errands. I think a hospice chaplain came to visit John, although maybe that was the day before.
The evening, though, I remember. My mom was with me. We fed the twins, gave them a bath, got them ready for bed, took them in to give John a kiss. It was clear he was going to die soon. We put the kids to bed and called the hospice nurse, and she came, and we sat with John and waited. As with all of those big moments in life, that period of time between when the kids went to bed and when he died seemed to last both an eternity and no time at all.
It was liver failure that killed John, the inability of his body to rid itself of toxins that invaded his body, including his brain, taking away his ability to think clearly. This kind of death is slow and undramatic. He never seemed to be in pain. He was sleeping. Unaware? Unconscious? I don't know. He was sleeping, and his breathing just slowed, and slowed, and slowed, and then it stopped. The hospice nurse then listened to his heart, which kept beating for a while, much longer than I would have expected. And then, she pronounced him dead.
I don't remember crying much. Instead, I remember feeling almost manic. I had an odd, giddy sense of relief that John's suffering was over. For the first time in weeks, I was ravenously hungry. People from the funeral home came, and took John's body away, and then I went to bed. I'm sure I woke up early with Maddie and Riley, and I remember taking them to daycare and starting the wrenching process of letting people know that John had died.
Six years later, that condo has been sold, I've had two different jobs, I've moved across the country, and bought a new house. The twins are in first grade. I'm over 40. The part of my life I lived with John feels dreamy and unreal, certainly not overly rose-tinted, but just so intense that I have a sense of disbelief that it happened and that I kept myself together through it all.
John's brother and his fiancée are coming to town tonight for a long weekend. I like that they are arriving on this day, and I'm looking forward to the time with them, extra time with the twins, an overnight trip to the beach, dinner with my parents.
I never feel the way I expect to feel on this day. I'm never as sad as I think I'll be, but I'm always more preoccupied, unfocused, slower, more patient, more kind. I wouldn't have the life I have now without having had what came before. I don't know what I'd be doing or how I'd be feeling if John hadn't been sick, and at my core, I'm a pragmatist, so I know it's fruitless to try to imagine what would have been.
I've never been much to live in the past; I tend to live too much in the future, thinking about and planning for what's to come. All my thinking and planning had to be radically altered when John got sick, and my grief after John died was very much focused on the loss of the life we didn't get to live together. Today, though, is a day to be in the present, and to remember John.
Love always, Goose.