I’m on the other side now, in the club that no one wants to join.
I have grieved before, but this is different. What we have done these last three weeks – what we have had to do – goes against nature. But it happened, and we go on, not knowing what that really means.
I still can’t believe she’s gone. I know she is because the house is ridiculously quiet now. It wasn’t just the soft hum of her machines: it was her voice. “Mom! Mom!” As soon as I walked in the door, she called for me. Sometimes it was loud (thanks to the mic), and often it was very soft…but I always heard it. She knew that I needed to shower after work before I could touch her (no germs allowed), but she insisted on seeing me and sharing the latest thing. It could be a new toy, or an old toy doing a new thing. A new hairstyle or dance move. There was always some new drama (with her toys), a new observation, a new word. The supply was endless, just like her love.
And that’s the hardest part – knowing that there will never be a new anything. What I work on now is memory, legacy, meaning – some new direction that honors who she was. I will share this with you when it takes form. I want something big. Julianna didn’t do anything timidly or half heartedly, and I won’t either. Not anymore.
In some ways, I think that I’m doing too well. I went back to the office after one week. I could have taken more time, but I wanted to go back. It’s good to focus – hard – on something else. I’m more patient now, a better listener. It will make me a better physician (and person), I think, but the price was too great.
I know now what heartache is. It is a literal ache. I have felt it before, but it was fleeting. This unnatural event has made it settle. It’s a heaviness, and it’s oppressive. I have to concentrate to take a deep breath. It doesn’t leave, this physical ache, until my mind focuses on something else. And when the defenses are low, it’s not possible. So I go to sleep, but not for long. My body clock is reset, it seems, and it doesn’t want me to sleep much. This horrible loss has to be acknowledged and worked out, so it demands that I grieve.
They say that anger is part of grief, and it’s true. I’m not mad at God, and I’m not mad at any person. I am mad at CMT, mad at our situation. I am grateful for the eighteen beautiful months we had in hospice – it was longer and more delightful than anyone imagined. It was a gift. But I wish that we didn’t have to make that choice.
Choices bring me to the here and now, and they demand action versus languishing in the “what ifs?”
We love talking about Julianna, so we do it – a lot. Little Alex continuously wonders out loud what she is doing and shares new memories (Julianna had a lot of “secrets”, it seems, and they were adorable!). This weekend, I chose to make cauliflower fried rice, the last meal Julianna watched me make. I wondered if it was wise (should I really be chopping vegetables with eyes full of tears?), but her voice popped into my head: Come on, mom. You can’t cook many things. You have to make it!
Some things hurt too much and I choose to ignore them – for now. Recordings of her voice, video clips…she was so alive. It’s too much right now.
Choices…intent….connections. And always, love. Those are the things that matter.