Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Like a Hurricane

It’s been 812 days since I last kissed my angel. After she was diagnosed, we were lucky to live life large for 850 days. Like so many other difficult things (dealing with chemo treatments, watching her deteriorate over time, holding her that day, her death, living without her), it is so hard to get my head around how much time has passed; it’s been nearly as many days as I’ve coped with It happening as days we coped with It coming, denial and all.

The start of this journey, just before January 5, 2007 (the day she was diagnosed) can be compared to the intro of a Michael Bay action movie with a slow-motion, stop-action film capture of an explosion:
Frame 1 (very early December 2006): A little flash.
Frame 2 (early December): Hmmm... That little flash is getting bigger.
Frame 3 (mid December): That’s no spark. It’s a FIRE!
Frame 4 (late December): Oh my gosh! Something is very wrong!
Frame 5 (very late December): WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON??
Frame 6 (January 5, 2007): OH MY GOD!

The next weeks were absolute misery. But after the shock and after the surgery and after the first chemo treatment (which thankfully started working immediately), things started to get better. She was stronger. She wasn’t in the hospital. She wasn’t dead. We were still together. I won’t call it nirvana but I’ll sure call it a time that we were both very, very happy to be together. Maybe it was borrowed time. But nonetheless, things got a lot better compared to the first few opening frames of the movie. And that was how it all started: with a bang that just about knocked us down and broke us. Then we began rebuilding.

Little did we know that we didn’t just survive some big explosion. No. What we really had done is survive one wall of the hurricane. And for a good long while, we lived, love and played innocently inside the eye of that hurricane. The weather there was nice and the company was wonderful. I wish we could have stayed there forever. Then the other wall of that hurricane hit us and hit us hard. It was relentless until…. Well, you know how that ended.

The day It happened I was numb and tired and had nothing to give other than just give up. The waves of the hurricane had bashed me about and beaten me into passivity. I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I was numb. Even physical pain didn’t hurt any more. I just didn’t care. What could life possibly throw at me that even compared to the pain that I was feeling? I wished I could sink into the ocean and just dissolve.

Somehow unnoticed, time passed. Months, even. When I came to, I found myself lying on some floating debris, one arm holding on while my body dangled into the still thrashing ocean. I was tired, dazed, angry, sad, and still didn’t care if I lived or died. At best I was conscious only part of the time. Days and nights smeared together while wave after wave of salty, cold water stung my eyes, choked me and threatened to dislodge me from my float. I didn't fight. Why should I? My love was gone. What reason was there to live?

More time passed. Months, even. Eventually I found myself floating near a beach, neck deep in water and feet dragging on the bottom. I was sore, covered in deep wounds, emaciated, and confused. Waves still pushed and pulled me up and down, forward and back while I choked on the briny water. My body was numb but my eyes were clearer now; I could see what looked like a shore. Despite being tossed about, I put one foot down flat against the sand and pushed. I took my first step. Then I fell.

But my first step turned into my second. And my second into my third. Every other step was a trip or a slip back into the cold water. Coral sliced my feet. Waves choked my breathing and stung my eyes. But I kept putting my feet down, one after another, and pushing, while still holding onto that debris to keep me afloat. As I stepped, the water became not neck deep but chest deep. The coral still sliced my feet almost every step. And the shore slowly inched closer. But I still fell often. I was exhausted.

Today, 812 days after It happened, I’m lying on a sand bar alone covered in bruises with bleeding feet looking out at the horizon and the waves wondering what the hell just happened. I remember it all but it seems like a dream. I’m thirsty and hungry. I hurt so much but nothing’s broken. I’m scared and confused. I still don’t care if I live or die. I have no idea where I’m at or how the hell I’m going to get back to… back where? Back to where? Where is home now? For the last 812 days, my life has been the ocean, the waves, the sand and that very, very special piece of debris I clanged to which saved my life. Where is home now? Even if I knew where and even if I made it there, she wouldn’t be there. So I sit here on this sand bar, alone, wondering, what do I do now.


  1. Your last few lines sum things up so well. Now that I have gone through all of the legal details etc...I keep wondering what do I do now? As my husband and I went through this journey together, I kept focused on what was best for him and the thought that if we just got through this next step, test or treatment "everything would be ok". That same phrase has gone through my mind a million times but even as I get through each task things are not ok because he is not here. So what do I do now, alone and isolated on this emotional sand bar called my life?

  2. Chris, what an appropriate way to describe the grief process. Reading what you have to say seems like reading my own life and journey even the words you have used apply to my life so much. My husband was a lobsterman most of of marriage. I almost lost him to the ocean one day, but he survived only to die to cancer after a 3and a half year battle with the first year being hopeful that he would survive since he was responding to treatment very well, but then it came back and 2years later he was gone. He has not been with me for about 2 years now and I too am wondering where is my home, the place I can feel safe and protected from the worlds evil? I too sometimes wonder waht is this all for, why keep going, but as my husband would say whenever anyone would tell him how brave he was, he would say what choice do I have it is this or die. I must go on for my two daughters who at least need one parent. But it still is so dam hard and often times I am still hit with a wave and knocked down. I just want to be able to stand on solid ground again and actually enjoy riding the waves, not just survive them!

  3. We hold on.
    Just one more day.
    Even if we don't care if we live or die.
    We hold on.
    Because if we go too . . . the memories of the ones we loved when they were alive, die too.
    We hold on.
    And remember.
    Despite the unending ocean,
    The pain beneath our feet and in our hearts.
    We hold on.

    Thank you Chris.

  4. Grief is hard. With our spouse gone the future planned with our partner isn't an option. Figuring out the next chapter without the person you planned spending it with isn't easy. And I have found that sometimes the past seems so unreal and a blur, even at times the memories are difficult to grasp. Other times memories crash into the present unannounced. Each day begins with the knowledge I am alone.
    No fun. Not easy. Moving on is hard.
    If it helps please know you are not alone.
    And we can come here....
    Thank you....

  5. wow.what a great analogy.thank you for sharing!I keep thinking"when will the pain ever end?the waves quit tossing me to and fro?"up 1 day,down the next.some days the waves are really high,others a little lower,but each day,there it is,the waves of losing my lover,the best friend I ever had,sweep over me.I'm tired of the pain,missing him.watching my children hurt.I vow each day to dig deeper,hold on tighter,stay afloat.but it is hard.

  6. Chris, thank you for sharing your deep feelings. 16 months and although I have traveled far on my raft, there are still days when I feel like the waves could easily take me under. I just hold on to the raft tighter because survival is a must. My children need me and my husband would never forgive me for leaving them.

    Truly, physical pain cannot begin to compare to the weight of the broken and empty heart I carry around each and everyday.

  7. Excellent analogy. I'm at 21 months, and when I feel the way you are feeling, I pull back and remind myself to take one day at a time. It's the only thing that helps. I don't look into the future, I'm not ready to. It just makes me miserable. I take a 24 hour chunk at a time. Just get through the day, hour or minute.

  8. Great analogy. Thank you, it's exactly how I feel. I don't know how or why I go on but I do. Just one day at a time, I still feel like I am existing in this world and haven't lived since the day he passed, 23 months ago.