Tonight it has been one year since Lewis’ unexpected death…

All so sudden.  So frightening.  So impossible.  So devastating to what had seemed to be the certitudes of family and marital life:  that we would be able to care for and love one another forever, that we would each live to see our children and their children through to their adult years.

Everything changes in the blink of an eye, in the knock on the door. 

We must go to see him for one last moment in time, lying there, unresponsive yet warm as the life force continues to disappear from his body.  There are scratches, mild ones, and it seems surreal and that you should be able to touch him and bring him back to life with just a simple caress.  It is futile, and nothing can change the snatch of death. 

There is a pressure to go through the last goodbyes and while you know this is your last opportunity to do this with your beloved, you also know that you don’t even know where to begin or end your thoughts, there are no words, only the compassionate glances of those who love you and the kindness and gentleness of the emergency room staff who keep a thoughtful distance to those in grief’s clutches.

You begin to face the truth is that you must eventually leave and you must begin to make all the decisions that are so overwhelming to even grasp and hold in one’s mind.

Slowly, inevitably, time moves you forward.  You have no choice.  You must take the steps of your recovery, like it or not, and you are never prepared.  You cannot turn back time.  You think to yourself, “Well, it was just hours ago” this or that…..(thought or reality)….but now it is all changed, immutably conforming to nature’s laws.   We all die.  We all lose loved ones we need and cherish.  Our turn has come.  We must release our hands from the wheel of life and accept that it runs its own course.

I became quickly desperate to try to “do the right thing” for Lewis, for others–his patients, our friends, our colleagues and staff.  “What would he have wanted and liked?”:  you ask yourself this over and over again, never really knowing the answer, but guessing as best you can and listening carefully to what others offer as their own thoughts and heartfelt concern. 

Many of your friends and loved ones have important answers to some of the questions that haunt your days and nights:  what to do with his things, how to dispose of his vehicle, how to deal with financial matters, how to put together a service of remembrance, and how to come together in the unremitting progression of mourning his loss.

Everything he did and said flashes back through your mind.  Each gesture, each hair on his brow, the sound of his breath and the sensory experience of his touch, laughter, wisdom and wit.  Day by day, more and more is remembered.  Pictures are reviewed, letters re-read, friends are found, and nearly every day there is some unexpected surprise, some remembrance, some offering of solace and support.   Your last days and moments together are reviewed in slow motion or in a sudden fast speeding fragment.

Now, a year later, his absence is claiming its victims still.  Someone drops by to see him, or calls to make an appointment.  Shock and surprise.  Change and death comes hard and exacts a price.

What do I miss the most?  It is always this memory:  how he would often peel with laughter until his face would turn bright red, laughing far longer than I could ever imagine possible, on and on and on.  And then just as quickly and sometimes with a reflective comment he would return to the task at hand, consciously present and ready to address the need or process, never blinking an eye or turning away. 

He had the ability to get lost in the mystery of life, the touch and innocence of a baby animal, the joy of reading his favorite novel or of giving undivided attention to his children and grandchildren. 

Life was his oyster on the half shell.  Exuberant and exacting life.

I was blessed to share it with him.  He was a holy man.

We were both blessed.

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