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Feb. 21, 2009:
The beginning of the end…the night before Aaron fell out of his hospital bed in the front room and I had to call my brother in law to come over at 3am to help me lift Aaron off the floor and put him back in the bed. I “slept” on the couch in the front room, but probably got a half-hour of sleep after that incident. Family came over, I finally decided that it was time to contact a local funeral home regarding arrangements. August stayed up with him during the night so I could finally get some sleep.
Feb. 22, 2009:
Sunday morning. My dryer was still out, so I decided to go and do laundry. At 3:00 I had an appointment at the Long Beach Forest Lawn to start making arrangements. Nicole came over and had jelly beans. She gave Aaron some on the little bedside table he had and when she took one, he looked up at her and said something very cute (I think along the lines of, “you took my jelly bean!” in a British accent….I can’t really remember).
As Deb, Nicole, Vanessa and I were leaving the Forest Lawn, I got a phone call from the hospice nurse who had come over to the house to help with Aaron. She told me that Aaron was in the “active stage of dying” and had anywhere from a few hours to a few days. I broke down. I called his dad and step-mom and told them what they needed to know and asked them to come over and say goodbye. A hospice chaplian came over and prayed with all of us.
For some reason, Aaron was craving a Big Mac and a “dozen hot wings from Wing Stop.” Scott and Chrystal, god bless them, went and got those things for him. He actually managed to keep down 3/4 of his Big Mac, but none of the wings. For the first…and last…time I let him smoke in the house. He looked at me and said, “I have to be dying for you to let me smoke in the house?” and we laughed, but behind the laugher, we both knew that there was nothing but truth behind that statement.
My “family of choice” came over with Roscoe’s and hung out in the back room. My mother-in-law was very annoyed by this fact, but like I told her, they weren’t there for a “Superbowl” party, but there for me to support me however I needed them to be. Most of them left, but Lisa and Nicole made plans to come over the next day. Deb stayed up with Aaron while I got some sleep.
Feb. 23, 2009:
Monday morning was a beautiful morning. I woke up around 6 and relieved Deb of Aaron-watch. I spent the morning with him, just talking and fighting (if he could get into the wheelchair and go outside).
Eric, one of Aaron’s best friends, drove 8 hours straight and came down from NorCal to spend some time with Aaron. Scott was there and the three of them had some good laughs for a few minutes.
At the end, around 3:00 pm, it was a sunny, lovely, quiet afternoon. Deb, August, Scott, Eric, Tracy and Lisa were there as we said good-bye to Aaron and watched him transition from this life into the next.
I don’t remember much about the rest of that night. There were phone calls, emails, texts, tears, hugs and just plain ol’ sadness. There was a point, after Aaron had been taken out of the house, where a group of about 15 of us were sitting around and telling stories about the first time everybody met Aaron. I don’t remember anybody else’s stories…but I remember the love that was in the room. There was a moment where I had a breakdown and Lance was there to put his arm around me and help me through it. Lisa spent the night that night. I went to bed before everybody else left, and went into my room and called Aaron’s phone more times than I can remember and listened to his outgoing voicemail message just to have that connection to him for as long as I could.
I cannot believe that it’s been a year since Aaron’s been gone. There have been so many changes in my life since that day, so long ago. Some good, some awful, some wonderful. I’ve grown more than I thought I could. I’ve cried more than I thought I could. But everytime, the tears have stopped and I have continued to function.
I keep moving forward because I don’t have a choice. I’m sure I could stand still, wallow in my grief, but I refuse to live my life at a standstill. But today, I will take the time to remember–not only that day, but the many days before that, and the handful that have come after.
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The flashbacks are ever-present, especially these days. It’s the smallest thing that can bring them on–a song, hearing something on TV, the funny way the dog looks up at me when he’s being silly. The flashbacks always seem to be of the same time–the weekend before Aaron died and the day he died.
I’m so angry at myself when these flashbacks occur. Why can’t my memories be happier ones? Hawaii? The cruise? Our wedding? Something, ANYTHING other than what I keep getting?
In my support group, I’m comforted to know that I’m not the only one who has these flashbacks, but it seems like the other women are tending to have happier memories. I wonder if it’s because Aaron was so unhappy towards the end, and depressed throughout much of the last two and a half years. I wonder if it’s because I’ve been depressed most of the time over the last three years since everything happened. I don’t know–I just wish that the bad ones would ease up every once in awhile and give way to the happier ones.
I had the most comforting dream of Aaron last night, and I need to write about it before I forget.
(background: it’s been a tough week. Wednesday I had my first “I have to call Aaron and tell him…” in a few months. It hit me like a ton of bricks–again–the reminder that he is in fact, unreachable by phone. That night was my 1st support group meeting in a month, and a lot of painful memories were stirred, as we spoke of regret and guilt. I went home and cried myself to sleep. In the moments before falling asleep, I had one of my nightly conversations with my deceased husband, asking him to show himself to me in a dream or give me some sort of sign).
Yesterday I woke up feeling exhausted. The bags and dark circles under my eyes betrayed the fact that I had cried myself to sleep the night before and slept like crap, to boot. All day I felt numb, counting my blessings that clients weren’t showing up so that I could sit at my desk and stare off into the computer screen.
I got home from work and my plans for frozen yogurt with my best friend and god-daughter got a raincheck, so I put on a long-sleeve comfy t-shirt and jeans, watched the end of the Dodger game (woo hoo! Way to come back for a win in the bottom of the 9th with two outs, boys!), and spaced out on some more mind-numbing TV.
After dinner and a glass of wine, I decided that I was going to take a sleeping pill and crash out early. I curled up under the covers, grabbed a book I bought a few months ago, and started reading. As my eye lids started to get heavy, I closed the book, turned off the light and laid on my side. It was then that I could feel him there with me, spooning me. It was so warm and comforting to feel him there with me, because its been so long since I have had that sense of his presence in the room. I fell asleep, and then that’s when the dream occurred.
We were in a new house, the walls were brown like the wood paneling like the spare room in our old place. Aaron was there, lying down, pale and skinny like he was right before he passed. However, this was not a “before Aaron died” feeling. He was lying there, telling us (there was somebody else in the room, although I’m not sure who it was) about Heaven and the gift he had to come back and be with us again. I don’t remember all of the details of the conversation, but what stood out to me was watching him become reanimated (for lack of a better phrase).
As the dream went on, I remember trying to get up to get him something, and looked down and my foot had no bones in it. It forced me to sit still and just be with him, something I always struggled with before he passed because there was always something to do–clean, study, write a paper, take care of dinner, dishes, the trash, the dog…I sat there with my husband (!) and just was there. He told me he understood my decisions I have been making for the last seven months and was not angry with me.
Then I woke up, with the warmest feeling of peace in my heart. It was like he had heard me in my desperate cries the night before and came to help me get through this next phase of my grief process. Just knowing that I’m doing ok in his eyes, where ever they may be spying on me from, will help me deal with whatever comes my way next.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: dealing, grief, life without hubs, Mike
We went to dinner the other night and as I looked at him enjoying the glass noodle chicken soup with hot sauce this thought came into my mind: “He eats so verouciously. He eats like he could not. He enjoys the spicy chilis and all the other things he could not. He eats the way he enjoys me–fully, carefully, without missing a beat, and pausing to enjoy the really good moments.”
I hate comparing my boyfriend to my dead husband. Sounds crass, but this is the truth of my life right now.
This past weekend, Labor Day weekend, Mike, Dodger and I went to Big Sur for a three-day camping experience. We had a blast and Dodger got to play in the Big Sur River and stayed close to the campfire at night. Sunday we drove to Monterey and spent the afternoon at a British pub at Fisherman’s Wharf, and had a lovely time walking around, people watching and just enjoying each other.
“He does the things that he could not do. He couldn’t have walked up the hill, much less suffered through sleeping on an air matress in a tent.”
Tonight I am taking Mike to his very first Dave Matthews Band concert (this will be my 10th or 11th time…can’t recall) at the Greek. We’re meeting my friend Heidi for Mexcian food and margaritas before we walk up the hill to enjoy the show in the warm, end-of-summer air.
“He hated going to concerts. The last one was awful, with the cane and the stopping. He had a wonderful time last weekend, dancing the whole three hour show, screaming his head off to the lyrics…”
Next month Mike and I are going to Vegas for a friend’s wedding. We’re driving out, hopefully in a convertable (depending on money and weather) and we’ll probably crash with some friends in a time-share.
“He couldn’t stand overnight trips with my friends. He always bitched and moaned about everything he could…he never saw the positive in the situation, never tried hard to have fun, unlike him. He can have a good time almost anywhere.”
In this stage of my grieving process, I’ve been taking off the rose-colored lenses and am remembering the shitty, awful times that Aaron and I had to deal with. It makes me feel guilty, because so often we’re taught to revere the dead, focus on the positive and the love. But if you think about it, that does a disservice to their memory because it’s not authentic.
I just really wish I could get through this without all of the comparison. It’s not fair to either love.
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August 18, 2009 will be Aaron’s 37th birthday. It will be the first birthday he is not here for.
I miss you, baby. Every single day.
Over the last four months, three weeks and two days, I’ve experienced a number of “firsts.” They pop up on me, without notice sometimes, and most are unwelcome. Every once in awhile, there will be a number of firsts that happen on the same day or at the same event. The worst “first” was in March, when my first non-Aaron birthday fell the day before the first month anniversary of his death.
This weekend was chock-full of firsts. On Saturday, I went to a wedding for a friend of mine from USC. It was beautiful, held in her parent’s backyard, with the setting sun making a stunning backdrop for their vows. Saturday was also the first post-Aaron wedding I attended. I wasn’t sad the entire time, but there were moments where the sadness was crushing and the pain of missing him was almost too much to take. The first instance was after the vows, and before the reception started. The DJ played Jack Johnson’s “Better Together” which was the ringtone I had on my phone for Aaron. Then, during the bride and groom’s first dance, I couldn’t help but look at them and remember my own wedding (even though it was in Vegas and we never had a traditional first dance).
Yesterday I went to the Orange County Fair with Mike, Melissa, Josh and their little girl, Lauren. It was broiling hot (seriously, felt like we were on the surface of the sun…), and there were a few hours where Mike and I wondered around the fairgrounds by ourselves. The last time I was at the fair, I was with Aaron, Josh and Melissa (this was PL–pre-Lauren). Mike and I tried all the disgusting fair food Aaron would have never been able to keep down (fried Oreo’s, chocolate covered bacon, giant corn dogs), and had a great time. Then, during the B-52’s concert, I was thinking to myself, “The last time I saw these guys, I was with Aaron. The last time I was at the fair, I was with Aaron.”
Then there is the part of me that is so conflicted. All of these things I experienced as a first “without Aaron,” were also all things I experienced for the first time with Mike. At the wedding, I caught the boquet and he caught the garter. We slow danced for the first time together. Sunday was our first time at the Fair together. It was our first concert together. I had such a wonderful time with him, and yet I couldn’t help but feel conflicted and sad.
I am so lucky that Mike is such an amazing man who is supportive and loving and tender. He gives me my space when I need it, and is there to comfort me when I need it the most. I can talk about Aaron in front of him, process my feelings, talk about memories and share with him the love that I have for Aaron without him feeling threatened or jealous. I feel incredibly blessed to have found two amazing men to be a part of my life, when there are people out there who never experience these feelings one time. I’m just struggling to find that balance where my Aaron firsts and my Mike firsts don’t get too mixed up.
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It’s hard to believe that it’s been three months (and four days) since Aaron passed away. It’s getting easier to wake up in the morning, and easier to go to sleep at night. There are days where I have to force myself to get out of bed to come to work and nights where I can barely fall asleep because I’m crying too hard and my mind is racing.
However, in the three months since Aaron has been gone, I’ve been finding myself struggling with concept of moving forward. I’ve started dating again. I’m thinking about finding a new job out of state. I’m starting to look into apartments because I’m moving in late August. I rejoined Weight Watchers and have upgraded my gym membership because I’m getting squishy and don’t want to be. I’m navigating a new life that is Aaron-less and it hasn’t been easy.
Many people, especially my close circle of friends, have told me that they feel like I’m moving on too quickly. Many have told me that I need to be alone for awhile. While I understand what they’re saying and why they’re saying it, I also know that I have been grieving the loss of my husband for much longer than three months. I know who I am, I know what I want and I don’t understand why people think I need to be lonely in order to figure that out even more.
I miss Aaron more than words can express. I hate it when people tell me he’s in a better place because, quite frankly, he’s not–a better place would be him driving home from work, bitching about his day. THAT would be a better place. He’s ever-present in my heart and mind, even when I was on a date or travelling to Napa with the guy I’m dating this past weekend.
The one thing I’m not doing is moving on. To me, moving on means forgetting. Forgetting the love, the compassion, the friendship, the memories, the life that we shared. Moving on means forgetting his smile, his laugh, the way his hands felt on the small of my back, or the way my head laid perfectly on his chest when he’d hold me close. Moving on means that he didn’t mean anything to me when he meant EVERYTHING to me.
Moving forward, however, is different. Moving forward means I’m using the lessons he taught me about life and love and incorporating them into my life. Moving forward means I still call him my husband, and remember everything about him, about us, but I still live my life because I’m not the one who died. I’m the one who is left behind to keep his memory alive. I’m the one moving forward because that is what he wanted for me. That is what he told me to do. And with that, I think that is the most appropriate way to grieve his loss–I hold him close, and live my life.