I Married a Dying Man
Tune in to our convo with Bryde and check out her blog post below!
Jeremie’s cough is definitely getting more intense these days. His whole body tenses when a cough forces its way out like and it sounds like the body of a 60 year old chronic smoker. It feels like it shakes the foundation of the house. My thoughts calmly turn to wonder how much worse it will get over the span of 12...15….[is it ridiculous to imagine he could have] 20 years? How old will I be when I become a widow? What will I be to his family when he’s gone? For how long will I need to be ‘Caretaker’ in addition to the other things I am to this person: ‘Friend’, ‘Lover’, ‘Wife’, ‘Shower Towel Retriever’?
I would guess that I remind myself on average twice a month that my partner will die and that I will probably watch his last breaths. Maybe it’s because I don’t like being unprepared. Maybe it’s because I believe that touching down on those thoughts regularly will make it less painful when it happens. Maybe it’s because we’ll be in one of those infuriating petulant relationship fights and it vengefully amuses me to imagine expediting natures process by running him over with our car….Just kidding, baby. In the words of Eveyln Couch, played to perfection by Kathy Bates in my favorite movie of all time, Fried Green Tomatoes, “If I was gonna kill you, I’d use my hands.”
I’ve lost my ‘best person’ before, fourteen years ago, shockingly unexpectedly, and a yoga teacher reminded me yesterday that my amygdala, the trauma center of the brain, is probably doing its work to protect me. “Don’t relax into joy,” it whispers chemically to my body, “If you love fully, you will lose and it will crucify you.”
Gratefully I practice slow, breath-filled movement to heal an injurious belief pattern like you might approach a physical injury. I imagine: I stand beside my husband, hand in hand, surrounded by our community of friends and family, his parents, his sister, our nieces. A compassionate doctor is there to assist in any way needed to help Jeremie chose his moment. We say our goodbyes. In present day my heart seizes at this thought and my breath catches and holds.
“Go to the point of sensation,” I hear my yoga teacher say, “Ease off a little. Then find your feet, your body, your deeper breath, and re-enter the sensation.” I imagine what my last words to Jeremie might be. I see myself trying to hold in my emotion until I’m alone, so I can send my best friend off with a brave smile. In this meditation I cry freely. “Let it move like waves through your body. Keep breathing. Do not be afraid of the depth of your grief.”
If you’re a regular listener of Sickboy Podcast, you know it’s mostly laughter in my life. I’m not a weeping would-be widow. I also do not move gracefully through each day, reverently appreciating that life is brief and of supreme importance. We get bored, we fight, we spend a lot of time many kilometers apart, living our own lives. Luckily we both have a yoga practice that helps keep us sane through all the ups and downs of life and it gives us tools to be great communicators in our relationship. For example, when Jeremie posts a video on instagram without permission of me crying because I’m too hungover and he’s laughing at me, I can say calmly and without accusation, “Hey babe...when you feel like posting embarrassing videos of me online, I feel that it would be considerate to at least use a more flattering filter, or edit out some of my weird noises.” And he understands, because he knows me so well, that I actually think it’s fucking hilarious. Pain of grief to joy of love, complimenting one another, balancing each other out to make this a richer, wackier, more inspiring life.
"The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love: it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment. To ignore this fact, or to pretend that it is not so, is to put on emotional blinkers which leave us unprepared for the losses that will inevitably occur in our own lives and unprepared to help others cope with losses in theirs."
- Dr Colin Murray Parkes, Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life