But it wasn’t a week. It was three and a half weeks. The longest. Most agonizing. Dreadful. Unbearable three and a half weeks of my life. Every moment was hanging at the edge of a cliff face. So high I couldn’t see the bottom. Where my feet were not standing on the ground. But dangling. Toes barely scraping the dirt beneath me. And any moment, whatever it was that was holding me up, was going to let me go. And all that awaited me, was a big, terrifying fall. And a whole lot of pain- if I survived. I nearly went insane. And I was going into that last stretch of agony, as a woman battered. Bruised. At the end of her rope. Emotionally bankrupt. Physically distraught. Spiritually crumbling.
The first week went better than I thought. We actually laughed some. We tried to enjoy each other. Knowing this was goodbye. To end on a high. We got Dean outside as much as we could. We managed to coax him into a wheelchair and would walk him out to the foreshore.
“So many memories.” I heard him say under his breath. You could see them dance in his eyes as he gazed on the Esperance horizon. The backdrop of his childhood. Looking back on the many adventures. The stories he had once told me of. Fishing for squid at the jetty. Surfing in the bay. Practical jokes and pranks with his mates. The camping. Worship nights. The crazy motorbike stunts. His eyes lost in the bliss of savoring their aroma and aftertaste.
The second week, things turned.
To cope with the crushing emotional burden that i felt as physical pain, I walked. I walked for hours. Along the beach, by myself. I would walk. And walk. And walk. Thinking, not thinking. Trying to process. Trying to plan. Trying to look ahead. Trying to get a glimpse of what my future held. Something to grab hold of. Something to hope for. I would try to imagine myself happy. The boys and I living in a cozy home somewhere. With a new life. A new home. A promised land…awaiting me somewhere. Far away from hospitals and poison. From silent illnesses that crush your family members and steal them away.
At night I would crawl into bed next to Dean again. We would say our “I love you”s again. And pray that the torment would end. That he would be gone in the morning…
But I would wake up and he would still be warm, and it was so disappointing. The idea of another day of torture. For all of us.
The incontinence came. Most mornings I would wake up in a pool of Dean’s urine. He was so stubborn. About almost everything. In some ways it was admirable. In others, deplorable. He was so unsteady on his feet. We wanted him to relent to getting a wheel chair for getting around the house as well as the long walks. He would hear none of it. So we had to deal with his falls, which were frightening and traumatizing for all of us.
During the day I spent little bits of time with Dean, but it was becoming more than I could bear. Most of the time he was out of it. His thinking clouded by the fog of toxins in his blood. He would say bizarre things. Lost in a haze. Mostly unaware of what was going on around him.
And then, out of nowhere, perfect clarity. He would look into my eyes. A frozen moment in time. Where we each saw each other. Felt each other. Knowing we were being torn apart. Knowing there was nothing we could do.
My life hung in the balance. I kept seeing the doll house. Hanging by that thread. The fibers, unraveling. Getting thinner. And thinner. That little house. My life. Was going to smash. Utterly. Its eminent doom haunting me. It would be reduced to a million shards.
At. Any. Moment.
They were giving him drugs to keep him alive. To prop up his failing systems. And what was offered to me to keep me going? Dean could not keep going on his own, yet somehow, I was supposed to? What dark elixir could strengthen my failing heart? My failing systems? The process was being dragged out far longer than it should have been. And to what gain?
I needed a plan. I wanted to pack boxes. Organize air tickets. One day very soon, Dean would be no longer on this Earth. And somehow I was going to have to carry on. With my boys. For my boys. Somehow I was going to have to stand next to my boys and bury the body of their father. My lover. My best friend. And then keep going on this journey. Alone. So alone. No one understood how I felt. What I was going through. The focus was all on Dean. Trying to keep him alive. Believing that he would somehow keep living. Why would anyone want him to keep living? His body was bruised and broken and crushed from top to bottom. He was living in excruciating pain. He couldn’t do any of the things that he loved to do. And the boys and I were trapped. Forced to watch. In slow helpless agony. I couldn’t watch it anymore. My boys couldn’t live under the shadow of death anymore. It had to end. It was going to drive me insane. People looked at me as if I had given up on him. As if I’d deserted him. As if I’d hardened my heart and no longer cared about him. How could they know? How could they know what I felt? Thought? My desperate struggle to keep my head above the rising tide of grief. The excruciating sorrow that threatened to swallow me whole.