Friday, March 18, 2011


Photo from here.....

I was asked yesterday how Jeff died. I am often able to tell the awful tale involving the screams, the CPR in the parking lot and the confusion of two little ones without flinching or crying. It is now just regurgitated information that I have been required to tell so many times that I think I could tell it in my sleep.
But there is one part of the story that always makes me cry...if I tell it. It's a strange part. It's not the part where I watch the nurse lead my little daughter away by the hand with my tiny son on her hip.It's not the part where I am begging the doctor to help me do CPR. It's not the part where I realize that Jeff is gone because his eyes have gone cloudy. It's not the part where I am begging the doctor to help me do CPR.
The portion of events that make me sob happened during all the crazy and terrifying moments. As I attempted to breathe live back into my husband, I would take a breath and look up. Each time I lifted my head I'd scream out with fear and anguish. Each time, my eyes would meet a man in the parking lot.
He was holding his cloth grocery bags. Watching. Being entertained by the last moments that I ever spent with my husband. He was most likely not enjoying what he saw, but he wasn't, couldn't, help in any way...And still he watched.
Each breath, he was still there. Over the shoulder of one of the doctors I'd see him staring. Witnessing the most intimate moment I have ever shared with my husband - the moment he left this world.
And for that, I illogically and possibly unkindly hate this man with all my might. I can still imagine all the things I would love to say to him. How I would tell him to get better cable service.
I realize that I may be pouring all my anger surrounding this terrible event into one unexpecting being....But I still can't quell my fury.
To appease myself, I ensure that I NEVER stare at car accidents when I am unable to provide any assistance. I beg others to do the same.
But still, when I tell the story, this is the part that makes me cry. That one person was entertained by the loss of my husband. And that still hurts so very badly.


  1. Jackie, thanks for sharing that intimate moment and it is an intimate moment. Like you, I've become pretty good at telling the "story" of Jeff's (my husband is Jeff too) death. What I don't tell them is probably more important to me than what I do tell them. I don't tell them about the 8 days in the ICU where there were unspeakable things and they probably couldn't handle it I did tell them. I can, in my mind, see their eyes roll back in their heads as I try to explain how truly awful it was. I don't tell them about the second or third night when I slept fitfully in the cot next to Jeff when they decided to change the bed in the middle of the night (why do they do this?). When the orderly was flirting with the nurse over the bed as they rolled him from side to side. Yes, they were flirting and talking about their lives as they mindlessly moved my husband's body back and forth. That's the angry, sad, infuriating moment that I don't share, but I think about often. I hated those two people who were only doing their jobs. I wanted to shriek at them to get out and never come back, but I didn't. I laid there and cried quietly until they were gone, but I can never forgive them altogether. I'm sure they are as unaware of their profound effect on me as your observer is.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Jackie and Lyn,
    My heart just breaks reading your stories. Know that you have so many friends, people you have never met, here on this site that wish you peace. I am so sorry that these memories are part of an already horrible burden to bear.

  3. Jackie, like you, I have told my story over countless times as well. I, too, was attempting to breathe life back into my husband after he collapsed so suddenly. But all this happened in the privacy of my home. Unlike you, I didn't have to steer my anger toward any particular stranger. But like the post from Lyn, I was very angry and still am at the medical professionals, the paramedics, who routinely and slowly climbed the stairs that night and unloaded their medical bags as if they were attending to a broken pipe. Despite the screams from both myself and my daughter, they didn't even attempt to display any urgency. Just another 911 call in the middle of the night.

    To this day, one year later, I will never forget these individuals and am sorry that, at least, for my own sense of closure, I didn't speak up about their lack of empathy.

    Thank you for your sharing!

  4. After reading this post, and the comments, it is hard for me even to find words to say. How traumatizing it is to be in the middle of a terrifying crisis and have someone staring, when everything feels so out of control. You just want someone to do something, and to empathize with what you are going through. Sometimes it takes longer to deal with the anger and the events which took place during the crisis than the death itself. I've been there, for a prolonged period. It took everything out of me. I hope you can someday find peace, I know it's hard. Thanks for sharing a very difficult and personal time.

  5. Thank you for sharing the comments.
    I too have been able to share the details without crying - sometimes I feel like the eyes of those asking are searching my face looking for the tears, wondering why I don't cry and I don't cry now because the story is not our story it is just . . . the week before.
    The one that I replay is when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and a very young, very inexperienced social worker came into our room in emerg and without asking how we were feeling blurted out how people diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour often consider suicide. We stood there in stunned silence as she rambled on and on about the support that was there and the drugs that would help and her face got redder and redder and eventually she just turned and left. After the door closed my husband and I stared at one another in shock, he said " I have something so horrible that peoples first response is to want to kill themselves?" I just cried and held him even tighter.
    I was so shocked, so incredulous that anyone could be this callous and try and think of it as "help". Over and over I think it would have been so simple - she didn't have to say anything, she just needed to ask "what do you need right now?"
    With time, I have come to feel some compassion for her - she was so obviously out of her range of experience, she couldn't read our body language, she couldn't really take us in at all.

    But at the moment I wanted to slap her face and say "how dare you! How dare you come in here and plant that piece of poison in his mind!"

    I find peace in knowing he lived ten months longer than his diagnosis and that he was laughing and joking just days before he died.
    I find peace knowing that he was so loved, that all he wanted to do was live longer.

    I am not angry at her anymore, just sad anyone could be so ignorant and uneducated. Hoping that she never does that to anyone again.

  6. After everything I have read on this blog over the past few months, you are all absolutely correct, this is the stuff that hurts the most, and these types of events are the stuff that made me almost insane with anger during the illness and especially after the death, because there was no going back and no fight left to fight. I had numerous experiences of "professionals" displaying indifference, disrespect and incompetence. Some of them, I reported to their supervisors. The last year was the worst, because I was in a state of constant horror, panic and fear and it was like my brain became paralyzed. All I can do now (that I have gained some sanity back) is try to choose my physicians and hospitals carefully, not go back to anyone who makes me uncomfortable in any way, and do not hestitate to report those who fall short. Their work is too important to let the slackers slide. Even HOSPICE let me down, the gold standard, believe it or not. The medical system sucks now, it is a big business money making machine, and we all need advocates to look out for us. I am really sorry for all of you and your departed loved ones, and for me and mine, that we are left with this burden of angry and sad memories. Hope we can all find our way back to the light. Love and blessings, I will pray for all of us.

  7. oh Jackie, this is heartbreaking and I am sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks for you. Totally "get" your anger with the stranger watching.

    Weirdly, for years I have got so angry with people rubbernecking car accidents and like you make a point of not looking.

    Love, Boo xx

  8. Jackie, that is infuriating all right. It is too heart breaking that things like that happen too often. I wish more people had more heart.

    All the best to you and the kiddos, -Sachi & Gopala