Remembering The Last Days
At this time one year ago, Simon was readmitted to the hospital for the fourth, and last, time in a six week period. The doctors finally sat us down and told us Simon had days left. Those brave medical professionals knew it was inevitable but were drawing figurative straws on who was going to break the news. We had accepted that a miracle was not coming but now had the finality to prepare for the permanent loss of his presence in our everyday lives.
Some moments stand out clearer than others, like the text I received as I was tending to our children at home while Simon’s family spent sacred time with him at the hospital. Simon’s sister messaged me: SIMON WANTS YOU HERE NOW. I left the kids with relatives and was beside his hospital bed within six minutes. Simon knew the end was near and had decided his pain was unmanageable; he would be administered increased dosages of morphine within the next day. We all knew that meant communication with him would dwindle to near non-existence. Simon wanted his whole family around him for a final discussion.
At first, it was a flurry of business: song choices for his funeral, which keepsakes to save for which child, passwords for his Hulu and Netflix accounts, location of the keys for our document safe. Then the talk went bigger and deeper. We all talked about heaven, about living life well, and about dreams. We created a peaceful ambience in the room, turned on soft music, and hung a huge Texas flag on the wall. We talked for a few hours as Simon drifted in and out of consciousness.
As night approached, Simon turned over his last personal possessions to me: wallet, phone, and keys. He wanted me to keep his wedding ring but not take it until after he passed. He thanked me for our marriage. Then he told me to go home and be with our kids. He gave me a kiss and said he loved me. And I left to go be with our kids as he asked.
I have never felt so sick to my stomach or so filled with peace at the same moment. I was experiencing something that people have nightmares about: losing the person they love most. Yet, we – his wife, children, family, and friends – were all getting the sweetest gift of closure and gratitude. Simon said repeatedly that in his short life he had gotten everything he ever wanted. He was ready to go home.
That next morning, my older brother sent the following message.
“What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie is by far the saddest song I know. I always skip it when it comes on. I just can’t handle it.
The message is solid though. We can plan all we want but we really don’t know what will happen.
The final line is the real kicker.
“I’m thinking of what Sarah said, ‘Love is watching someone die.’ So who’s going to watch you die?”
I hope that when it’s my time to go… that I’m surrounded by this much love. This many people who won’t turn their heads. Won’t look away. They’ll watch – and be there for me and my family – because they love me. Even though it’s painful to watch. So wretchedly painful.