Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Text

from here

Flashbacks are terrible. Simply terrible. I hate them. And I certainly don't want to bring them on, and yet they remind me of those bruises I sometimes get that hurt to touch, but that I keep touching anyway. Can't help myself.

Thinking about the "dark day" is pain beyond words. And yet, my mind seems to want to play those memories across the backs of my eyes like a movie on repeat.

Some parts are lost to the segments of my brain dulled by shock, but other parts are crystal clear.

Sometimes I want to talk or write about the memories of that time regardless of how much it tears me apart. Sometimes I don't think I have the energy to.

All the time there are triggers. An ambulance shrieking past, a character dying in a movie, the sounds and sights of a hospital. 

The flashbacks don't surprise me as much as they used to and they don't seem to undo me quite as easily as they used to, but trauma has etched its patterns in my brain.

The other day, my childhood friend's husband texted me. When that text popped up, the previous text from June 4th, 2011 showed up too, right behind it. The last time her husband texted me was on the day Dave died. In fact, now that I look at the time stamp, it was about an hour after he died.

I don't remember ever seeing that text before.  It read "Cass, I don't know if or when you will read this but Stacey is on her way to be with you. Stay strong and know we are thinking about you and Dave."

When we knew that things were looking very bad for Dave, my local friends notified my long-distance friends. When Stacey found out, she booked a flight from Ohio to be with me, and her husband sent that text, not knowing that Dave had already slipped away. By the time she got to the airport, she'd gotten the news that Dave had died. 

Reading that text that seemed to travel right out of time, out of nowhere to my phone almost 11 months later, made everything around me to dim to a gray, silent blur. My ears rang and my mouth went dry. For a split second I forgot where and when I was.

And then, I was right back in that hospital, seeing him conscious for the last time. Then, the last time I would see him at all, lying unconscious in an impossibly bright exam room, his face swollen and  almost unrecognizable.

I remembered holding his wallet in my hands and knowing, regardless of the doctors' efforts, that he'd never use that wallet again. I remember curling up on that horrible waiting room couch, cradled by my friend, begging my other friend to pray for Dave, just in case I was wrong about my terrible premonition. Just in case there was anything we could do with our powerless little selves to save him.

(As I type this, my hands are shaking and my pulse is speeding up. It's hard to get enough air, but I'm so strangely compelled to continue.)

I remember the doctor's words. The words the last few hours had hinged on. The words I wished I could stop in midair and redirect, back into the man's mouth to be changed to "We have him stabilized and he's going to be okay". The words that brought my life to a screeching halt.

I remember. I remember too much. Even shock couldn't save me from remembering those nauseating moments.

It might help to press that bruise from time to time. It might help to purge occasionally. But, damn if it doesn't feel like I will fall apart at the seams to think of it.

If Dave had survived me, I'd want him to focus on the 15 years we had together and not the last 7 days of life. So, I don't dwell there too much, but on the other hand, maybe unearthing those memories helps to dull their edges just a little every time until their edges don't cut quite as easily.


  1. I think our mind replays the memories so our heart will eventually come to some understanding of what has happened.


  2. Almost two years later and the flashbacks are still as clear as day. Maybe not as often, but there nonetheless...

  3. Perhaps this is the way your mind is readying your heart for the one year anni of Dave's death. We relive those days, and keep wondering "what if..." over and over, at least I do.

    I have two dear elderly friends, widow and widower in their 90's, and they both wrote notes upon my husbands death, that I continue to reread 2+ years later.

    "I'm aware of the feelings that are now invading your life. They will temper with time and you'll be left with great memories". And "Happy memories will surface and time can be counted on for healing. May it fast forward for you and bring you peace". Moving forward in time seems to be the answer from both of them, where the good years are remembered more than the last days of anguish. The flashbacks still come, but they are less debilitating than early on. I often put my husband in my place, where would he be, what would he be like without me in his world? I would hope that he would be farther along than I, and that spurns me on to keep going for him.

  4. During the first few months of widowhood it seemed that everything caused flashbacks. Which makes sense - 'cause you're always encountering situations and events for the first time.

    I'm at 22 months and I'm finding that there are now 2 types of flashbacks. There are the ones that you flashback to voluntarily. For instance, I live less than a mile from the hospital Dave died in. I pass by it every day on my way to work and back, and occasionally if I'm waiting at a traffic light, I might look over at it and think about the last week of Dave's life when he was hospitalized. That's a voluntary flashback with a trigger I've become mostly desensitized to.

    Then there are the flashbacks that are involuntary - those with triggers you don't see coming. Like you finding that unexpected text. You're sucked into the flashback against your will. It's like you're looking at the shore and a rogue wave picks you up from behind and smacks you down into the sandy bottom. Then the saddest part of your life movie is replayed in 3D-HD against your will. Again. Finally the tears stop, you spit the sand out of your mouth, catch your breath and wonder how you didn't see that coming. That, my friend, was an involuntary flashback.

    I try to limit my voluntary flashbacks, as I feel that they only add suffering to my days. And the involuntary flashbacks can always be counted on to ensure I haven't somehow forgotten that I'm a widow.