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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

I remember talking with a friend who lost her father suddenly, about how devastating it was for her.  I remember her talking about how she never got the chance to say goodbye.  I remember her asking which would be worse, watching the person you love the most slowly slip away, or losing them suddenly?  This question stuck with me for a long time.  Well into my wife's long battle with cancer.  I lost mine slowly.  I lost mine painfully.

This question came up with my counselor a year or so before my wife passed.  My counselor asked if I would believe that people who had lost theirs suddenly ask the same question.  This very thought surprised me.  It also stuck with me.  I find it hard to understand a pain that I haven't experienced.  I think a lot of us do.

For a long time I couldn't answer this question.  I spent more time thinking about it than it deserved.

My wife breathed her last on February 17th of this year.  She battled cancer twice in her life.  Endometrial in 2009, and Rectal in 2013.  At 47 it was all way too soon. Both were traumatic.  Both shook us to the core.  Both also allowed us to realize what was important in life.  Our Children.  Our Families.  Traveling.  Music.  Sports. 

These are the things we focused on.  We made a bucket list.  There were the kids sports (3 boys  ages 17,18 and 23).  There were the concerts.  There were the Bruins games.  The trips to lighthouses in Maine.  We even made a quick trip to Disney for one night, then rented a Camaro and drove up the coast.  Stopping at Cape Hatteras (she was a lighthouse fanatic).  These trips required wheelchairs, medical supplies and careful planning.

But all this was possible through her willpower.  She never gave up.  She never complained.  She would do anything for her family.

Years of surgeries.  Years of chemo and radiation.  So many trips to the ER.  So many nights trying to find some sleep in a plastic chair in the ER.  I find it hard to remember how we got through it.

She lost energy.  She lost organs (more than I can count).  She lost the ability to walk, even the bathroom became very complicated. 

Slowly and painfully.

Every person will have their own answer to the question.  After all I've been through there is no longer any hesitation for me. 

For me,  I'm thankful for the time we had.  Helping her through the most difficult and painful time was worth everything for me.

I never left her side for a second.  And she'll never leave mine.

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Comment by Athena53 on June 11, 2017 at 11:51am

I know, ShrileyB.  I was agreeing with Callie's post saying that she wouldn't describe death with advance notice as "lucky".  In this blog format it's not always easy to tell what post you're responding to- next time I'll address the poster by name.

Comment by ShirleyB on June 11, 2017 at 10:42am

@Athena53.  No, I don't think I actually said I was "lucky" to lose my husband with advanced notice.    I think what I said was I was lucky to have the time even with the terminal illness to make memories with him and my family.  I don't think myself or anyone here would consider ourselves lucky in any way shape or form having lost our spouse/partner.

I did want to clobber that person who told me at the time of diagnosis I was lucky.  I couldn't believe someone would have the gall to say that to me.  But the lucky part there was realizing what was important, making memories, saying I love you, righting any wrongs, hugging, spending time together, traveling... We were given time. And FOR ME- that was the only "lucky" part.

Comment by Steve on June 11, 2017 at 9:29am
Awww, sorry Diane, didnt mean to make you cry. Im sure we all have these moments, stories, in our life, they are a strong testiment how lucky we are and blessed to have shared our lives with our loved ones. To have found someone, we wanted to stick with through the toughest of times, faceing things together, knowing we had each other, no matter what. So many times, at my lowest points, when i had made a big mistake, was ashamed of myself, everyone might have judged me, but Mike was there, to face the backlash with me, not judge me, love me anyway, and he taught me to be the same.
He was older than i, just like now, im older than my current partner. Im trying to be the patient, loving, forgiving partner to Chris, that Mike was to me. I think Mike chuckles in heaven, when chris makes the same mistake i made in my youth, mike forgave me, loved me, taught me to make better decisions, now its kinda my turn. Lol. I think Mike gets a big laugh out of this. Lol.
Comment by Patience (Diane) on June 11, 2017 at 4:35am
Steve, I guess I needed a good cry today! I love your account of marrying Mike.. amazing that he found the strength to ascend those steps (even with help)! What determinination and testimony to love! Colin, your story of your wife is so touching! All of our stories are so important! My husband too found such strength toward the end of his life.
Comment by Steve on June 10, 2017 at 7:56pm
Hi Colin, thanks so much for your comment and thoughts, and for sharing that lovely story with you, your wife and son. Those moments are so special and seem to make life worthwhile. How amazing is that, she found that strength and was able to share that moment with you and her son and the entire crowd. You never know how those moments help others as well.
Comment by Callie2 on June 10, 2017 at 6:53pm
Colin, what a touching story. Bless all those who were involved in making such a tribute possible! There's a lot to be said of parents that support children involved in sports, it is somewhat a sacrifice to juggle time and other responsibilities but I think it can really pay off. Sports teach a lot and really does help prepare children for the real world. Some go on to earn scholarships and even careers. It is amazing how your wife could find that strength at that moment, sounds like you were all given a gift! That has to be a very precious memory.
Comment by kellygreenstrat (Colin) on June 10, 2017 at 6:24pm

Steve, that is one of the sweetest stories I've ever heard (if not bitter sweet).  Those are the moments that mean everything.  I can share something also.  My youngest son is a junior in high school.  He's a gifted athlete in 3 different sports, and he's well loved at the school.  I don't think my wife has missed more than a handful of his games through all of her sickness, with the exception of the games that she wasn't hospitalized for.  I've been wheeling her into games for years, often with a face mask if she were on chemo.   The last home game for basketball of the year is always "Senior Night" and the seniors each give their parents flowers (I'd prefer a beer) in a ceremony before the game.  The coach understood the situation of Charlie's Mom being so sick, and that this would be her last year.  They made him an honorary senior and captain so that he could give her the flowers she so deserved.  I knew about this in advance.   What I didn't expect was that when the time came, Vicky stood up out of the wheelchair so that she could meet Charlie at center court.  It really was a moment I'll never forget.  Vicky passed away 5 days later, after 8 years battling.  Where she found the strength I'll never know, but these are the moments we don't let go of.

Comment by Steve on June 10, 2017 at 2:03pm
Hi Callie and Athena. Callie, you are so right, i feel the same way, what a high price we pay for love, not only if it works out but also if it Doesnt. Yes i truly belive its worth it too. Athena, thank you for your comment, im glad that story touched you. It was so tough, yet such a beautiful day too. To have so many seemingly different people, all come together in just assistance for a brother, it was so touching, so beautiful to me, when for 30 years prior, it was hard to think anyone at times had any kindness or understanding about our particular Issues.
Comment by Athena53 on June 10, 2017 at 1:05pm

No, I'd never call it "lucky" to lose someone with advance notice rather than suddenly.  It's just one aspect that, in my case, made my husband's death easier to cope with.  If someone else told me I was lucky that we knew ahead of time, I might clobber them!

Steve, what a beautiful story about being able to FINALLY marry Mike in his last weeks of life.  My husband Ron was also extremely weak and skeletal- 6'2", 117 lbs.  And how wonderful that so many strangers helped you through the marriage ceremony.  I know how  long many of my gay and lesbian friends (whose relationships truly embodied "family values") waited for the right to be able to be married in the eyes of the state.  I'm glad you and Mike were able to have that. 

Comment by Callie2 on June 10, 2017 at 12:05pm
I'm not sure lucky is a way to describe a terminal illness as opposed to a sudden passing. They are different, that's for sure. My husband died suddenly and it was a horrific shock. I often wondered if that extra time some people have is a blessing or not, I guess it depends upon the situation and the couple involved. Shirley, it seems you took advantage of that time and used it wisely! It has to be a much better feeling to be able to look back upon that time positively rather than to have very upsetting thoughts and regrets of wasting that opportunity. Often times with illness, that window is very narrow. So glad you managed to do the things you did!

There are some here that were caretakers of their spouses or partners for years and that has to be exhausting. Fairly recently, two of my neighbors were caretakers for their spouses. Two very different situations both lasting well over a year. This is 24/7. The high price of the extra time is watching them slowly deteriorate and that has got to be really hard.

At a recent wake of another neighbor, the pastor spoke about life and how we arrive here and how we go-- neither of our own free will. You know, when we're young, thoughts of sickness and death aren't even on our radar. We take each day for granted as we feel our time is somehow endless. It takes getting older or losing a spouse to really think quite deeply about life's meaning. A lot of things we once thought to be important and even lose sleep over, really don't mean a thing. As painful as grief can be, can anyone imagine a life without love? We pay a high price for that love but it is worth it.

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