Wrung out….inside out; my emotions on this day are visceral and potent. Like a hurricane it sweeps down on me; not totally unexpected, as the forecast of this date; the date six months ago that my life was thrown into havoc and would never be the same; I knew the storm would come, just not sure how to prepare for the inevitable chaos in my soul and the messy aftermath to clean up later.
Waking up to the emptiness of our bedroom, as I do now every day, I peer over to his pillow, the one he would always sleep with when he wasn’t draped over me as a heavy, sometimes too warm, comforter. We had struggled with my menopause symptoms for several years and now he knew exactly how long I could tolerate his body heat before I would gently nudge him off and turn on my fan, apologizing for the disruption in his slumber. He would kiss me and say “O-K…” in that sing-songy voice that always made me laugh, he would turn over and put on his “Darth Vader” C-pap mask and promptly fall back asleep; while I would lay there in hot-flash misery for awhile. Eventually he would steal all the blankets…totally unaware; and I would end up shivering instead. I kept a spare blanket by the bed just for these occasions; we always had the same conversation in the morning…he’s there all rolled up, like a cocoon in all the sheets and blankets as I’m getting up for work…”You did it again; the bed is all catawampus!” one of my favorite words to use to describe the upside down way he always would configure the sheets and blankets…”I was just sleeping, I didn’t mean to wampus..” he say apologetically with that mischievous glint in his eyes; laughing at me and my morning rant…”Is there coffee??” His usual method of getting my mind off the issue was to divert my attention, always with gentle humor and a quick hug and kiss on the forehead…”Okay…it’ll be ready in a few minutes” and I head downstairs while he jumps in the shower; I could always hear his rushed footsteps going back and forth from the bedroom to the bathroom and all the little noises you are used to hearing from your partner that are the daily routine of your lives; you get used to it; it’s comforting…and it’s one of the many things I miss so much now. Our house is silent; I make very little noise compared to Ray…you just knew when he was around; the house just vibrated with his presence.
As the realization of the date dawns on me again, I gently touch that pillow, smooth my hand over the surface…wistfully imagining him still hugging it, like he used to. As tears start to roll down my cheeks, I clasp the pillow to my breast, wrapping my arms around it as if it held his essence and his warmth. It still smells faintly of him, the aroma I desperately seek as I bury my face in it and cry my heart out…until I can hardly breathe; it is at once both painful and cathartic…my eyes are swollen, my throat is sore, my nose is blocked. Ok, I can’t let this emotion strangle me; he would not want that. I get tissues and wipe my tears , gently lay the pillow back in its place, and glance about…the bedroom is full of all things “Ray” His clothes, where he dropped them six months ago as he got ready for that fateful appointment at the hospital. His C-pap machine next to the bed, the contents of his pockets from various days, knickknacks he collected over the years; pictures of his kids and grandkids…and of course, the art. The art of “Reynaldo” is everywhere. I blink back more tears, and feel so alone. Not so much alone as in lonely; but the stark reality of being only half-of-a-couple-alone. Missing Him. Missing Us. Missing My Ray. My Rock. My Soul Mate. My Always and Forever.
I cannot work today; I am fragile and feel broken inside. I am feeling very old and tattered, every part of me is hurting…grief hurts; physically hurts. But I alone can nurse my wounds, no one else is able to do this, Ray was my nurse, as I was his. We took care of each other; comforted each other; protected each other…but I was unable to protect him from this ultimate tragedy. I felt helpless, lost, impotent…and somehow guilty of not finding a way to stop what happened that day. I know it wasn’t my fault in any way, but that doesn’t prevent me from still feeling that I could have…should have done something, I wish with all my heart that I would have had the intuition to stop him from going through with that procedure; at least that day, the outcome may have been different another day; why couldn’t I see into the future…that this was not going to end well; that it would be his last day with me.
The path not taken, the fork in the road…what if?…these are painful thoughts that haunt me, although I try to push them away, they sneak up on me and ambush my peace of mind. I call a truce in my embattled soul…to catch my breath and to attempt to see my path through the fog of these past difficult and dreary months. I am working on his tombstone…it will be beautiful; but it is just a stone. It will mark his final resting place on Rainbow Road… His parents will come and place flowers as they do with his sisters and other family who visit the Sanger Cemetery.
I wrote this on the morning of the sixth month since that day…it was too raw and powerful for me to share at that time; today is month seven…I am still in disbelief…I still get a shock when I realize I am starting to look for him…and then I remember. It is the obliteration of our plans; our goals, our dreams; no more bucket list of things to do and places to see…it is only a downward spiral of reality; gut-punching me at the most difficult moments…pulling the rug out from under me when I think I might be able to struggle to my feet…all I can do is hold on while the storm thunders through my soul; repeating his name as a mantra…"I miss you my darling; Rey, I miss you, I miss you…I love you Rey; forever and always…always…always ~