On becoming a widow

A post today got me to traveling down memory lane, going back to the day, 13 years ago, that I found out my second husband had cancer. I’m in tears, remembering him, my beloved soul mate, even after all these years. I still ache for him though I’ve since remarried. I miss him so much right now . The scar that I thought was healed is opened again and hurts anew. I know the writer of the post didn’t mean to, God knows but reading his fresh pain made me remember.

I was 28 when Andy was diagnosed with cancer. We had been together for a while, seven years that flew by so fast. We were so in love. We went almost everywhere together and were always finishing each others thoughts. I got to where I couldn’t remember a time when we weren’t together.

I had gotten a job in another state and had to be away from him for a month. When I came back, he looked horrible. He said he had a cold or something but a few days later I noticed a lump on his neck. It was horrible looking, the size of a golf ball and purple. He went to the doctor and got it biopsied a day later. February 14, he got the call while I was at work. At 11 am I got slammed with a feeling that I needed to get home. The feeling was so intense that I almost passed out. I told my boss I was sick and went rushing home. When I got there, Andy was sitting on the porch, crying. I had never seen him cry before! I raced to him and took him in my arms. He didn’t have to say anything, I just knew.

A week later he went in for a Sigmoidoscopy. While he was in recovery, the doctor came in to talk to me. As he entered and sat down, I said “he has cancer, doesn’t he?” He nodded and said yes then showed me the pictures of the tumor.  He asked me if I wanted to tell Andy and I said no, I couldn’t but I did want to be there when he did. He agreed and while I waited for Andy to wake up, I made some phone calls. The first to my mother at work in another state.

A few days after the scope, he had his staging done. It took hours and Andy was exhausted by the time they got done. I remember on our way home he asked me what I was going to do. “what do you mean, what am I going to do?” I asked. “Well, I don’t want you to stay here and watch me die. I want you to go back to your mothers” he said. I pulled into the next parking lot and parked the car. I looked at him, angrily “How DARE you!” I growled “How DARE you suggest that I leave you NOW, after all we’ve been through! You expect me to leave you, NOW, when you need me the most?!?!” He pulled me to him and hugged me tight, tears in his eyes”no, baby, no. God I’d never tell you to leave. I was only asking because I needed to hear those exact words. Please don’t leave me!”

After we found out that he was stage four, the doctors all told us that he only had 6-12 months left to live. He started chemo and every day, while he was in treatment, I was there beside him. I worked nights and first thing in the morning I would take him for treatments. I remember one day, about two months in, the nurse asked me if I was ok. I’d been working 12 hour shifts in the factory for two weeks straight, 6PM to 6AM and getting him to the hospital at 8. I’d get home 7ish, get him into the car and get to the hospital, sit there with him till noon then get home around 1 and sleep from 2 till 4:30 or 5 then get back to work. How I did it is, now, unimaginable to me! She told me, when she heard that, to lay down and sleep on the bed they had in the room till he was done. That became our routine after that. He’d get hooked up to the chemo and I’d lay down to sleep like the dead till he was done a few hours later.

About two months into his treatments, we got a call that we’d waited two years to get. We had been on a waiting list to adopt and they had finally found us a little girl. After I told the lady at the agency what was going on, she asked if we still wanted the girl. I spoke with Andy and he said he didn’t think it would be fair for the child to get in our home, just to lose her new daddy soon after and that it would be hard enough for me, alone, to deal with things. I agreed and called the lady back to tell her to give the girl to someone else. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done in my life.

The day the doctors came to me and told me there was nothing more they could do was interesting. Our family doctor was very involved in the treatment team and he came to me, in Andy’s room, the third time he was hospitalized. He asked me to step outside so we wouldn’t disturb Andy while he slept. I knew what he was going to tell me, in my heart I steeled myself. He walked me to the nurses station and, taking my hand in his, looked at me with tears in his eyes. “There isn’t anything more we can do but make him comfortable. As you know, we opened him up and after seeing what they saw, just closed him up again. It’s too advanced and nothing we’ve been able to do thus far has even slowed it down. I’m sorry” By the time he finished, he could barely talk. I hugged him and, calmly said “It’s OK Dave, you did everything you could. I know this and I thank you. Andy knew this was going to kill him. He’s always said that I would bury him and that he would die from cancer. He knew a long time ago that this was going to be the way it would end.” He looked at me and smiled sadly “Yeah but it doesn’t make it any easier”

The next morning Andy asked me to marry him! I laughingly said “now? Heavens sake Andy, you could have made me a decent woman before this! Why would you want to do it now? When you get better….” He stopped me there, with a look. “We both know I’m not going to get better and I want you to at least have my name.” I smiled and nodded, knowing this to be his last wish. I left him and went to the county office and told the clerk the story. She agreed to come to the hospital the next morning to talk to him. She had to make sure he was mentally capable of getting married. He went without his morphine so he could be “with it” when she got there and after she left, I started looking for a minister to wed us. The hospital chaplain couldn’t because we were both divorcees. After numerous calls, I found one, a Methodist pastor, that could wed us. He cancelled a class he was giving, just so he could!

I had to go and get a dress. Luckily I had seen, only a few days before, a dress that I thought would be excellent and, when I got to the store, the lady was marking it down! I told her the story and she took another 20 dollars off the price as a gift to me. When I returned to the hospital, Andy told me that the wedding would be covered by the news! I just about fainted. When we got down to the garden area at the hospital, there were reporters EVERYWHERE and, of course, they interviewed me. It was surreal, to be truthful. Our family doctor, his attending, was the one to give me away.

Two weeks after our wedding, in a small room in the hospital, my beloved husband lay dying. I had been at his bedside almost every day. The only time I left was when I went to the store to buy him some angora socks. He told me once that he always wanted a pair but they were always too expensive. I remember going into the shop, you know, the ones that sell really expensive suits and stuff for men. I walked in, looking like hell I know and the lady behind the counter eyed me suspiciously. When I told her what I needed, she said “they are about 20 dollars, you sure you can afford them?” I smiled and nodded with this explanation “My husband is dying from cancer. He only has a little time left and his feet are cold. He’s always wanted socks like this and, if they were a thousand dollars I’d still buy them for him because I love him.” With tears in her eyes, she rang them up at half price. Wordlessly, she put them in a box and handed them to me. When I got to his bedside, I put them on his feet and, for the first time in weeks, he smiled at me.

He asked to go outside for some fresh air so the nurses helped him get into a wheelchair and I took him outside. As we sat in the warm evening air, we talked about things. He told me that when he passed, I was told to find another to love. I was NOT to stay alone in my grief. “you are so young and I’m sorry it’s come to this. Remember, I told you that you’d bury me.” He said as he held my hand “I remember, sweetheart and I’ll try but, you know, you’ll be a hard act to follow.” I answered, choking up. He smiled and kissed me so sweetly. He finished his cigarette and I took him back to his room and tucked him in. He thanked me for the socks saying “At least I’ll die wearing something nice.” He looked at the ceiling and smiled “I see my father, love. I’m tired and I want to go home.” I took his hand in mine and kissed him tenderly “I know dear, it’s ok… I know it’s time and it’s ok. I love you so much and I’ll miss you. Say hello to your dad and our son for me. Close your eyes and sleep now”  This was to be the last day I was able to talk with him because, shortly after returning from outside, he slipped into a coma. Two days later, he passed in his sleep.

That night I had slept in the bed beside him, more dozing than sleeping. At 3AM I was jolted awake by a shock that traveled into the arm that was over him. I left my arm there because it wasn’t painful it was…. comforting in a strange way. The shock went into my arm and back out then again up my arm and thru out my entire body twice before leaving thru my arm for a last time. It was at that exact moment that Andy drew and exhaled his last breath as I lay there, looking at his face. I knew it was him, telling me goodbye. I kissed him one last time and said goodbye then got up to tell the nurses that he’d gone. They came and did the “official” time of death stuff as I stood in the corner watching. It wasn’t till I called my aunt a little later, to tell her, that I started to cry.

He and I had, months before, made plans to go to a car race the night that he died. I went.

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