My Michele was a resilient person and the best partner in life that I could ever have prayed to meet, or be blessed to journey with. In the words of my close childhood friend--who knew Michele well--I married up.
She was on the journey with her medical challenges (metastatic breast cancer) for over 20 years and 7 months of our 29 year marriage, and she fought hard for every extra smile with us. We participated fully in the latest scientific-medical developments and Michele contributed willingly and meaningfully to the development of improvements in medical interventions for the next generation through her voluntary participation in clinical trials. She defied the odds.
In her final days, she continued to become even more beautiful than when we met—and more perfect in her love for us every minute. Incredible. Her smile was still lighting up the room when the hospice folks were here at the house to help me keep her comfortable. It has been three months now since she crossed over, and miss her terribly, as she predicted, but I would not want to feel any other way. Our three kids were all able to get home to be with us for our last week together and she was fully aware of our being there at her side. I held her hand and prayed or talked with her (to her really) all through the night on 18 December and into the morning of 19 December when she just did not take her next breath. She was peaceful and was not in pain. And she knew we were there with her.
In the most recent in-patient treatment period, after she had been in the same room for about a week, she was pining for an adventure. Having seen the layout of the hospital while heading to and from various scans and tests over and over again, she was familiar with the logistics in that place beyond my imagining. Although she was tethered to the wall by an Oxygen hose, and unable to walk, she convinced me that it would be possible to escape the confines of the space for a little adventure. Verbally guiding me to the special storage closet where the oncology ward's bottled Oxygen is stored, she instructed me from her bed on the location of the wheel chair closet down the hall so that I could assemble the “escape chariot”—a wheel chair with bottled Oxygen. We timed our departure for the adventure between the nurses scheduled rounds and made a quick exit to her favorite spot: the ice cream kiosk near the lobby of the hospital. We splurged on two of her favorites. After slipping away unnoticed for a brief respite in the garden near the hospital to enjoy popsicles, we made our way back to the oncology ward and snuck back into the room. If they missed us, they did not let on. We had a great time. It was great because we were alone in the sunlight enjoying a quiet moment together. She smiled broadly with each taste of the strawberry popsicle. We laughed about our daring and joked about what they might do to us if they discovered us missing.
Some of our happiest memories in life come from those spontaneous events.
An associate at work said to me the other day that I was lucky to have had time to prepare for her passing. I suppose I am lucky when compared to so many of my new friends here who were not provided any advanced notice of their love's departure, but I don't feel lucky in that way. I only feel lucky to have won her affection and to have shared so many smiles with her. The part about being prepared just is not true.