the fourth

So, I don’t feel like hiding under the covers but I am still not up for sending best wishes for the fourth. Today, four years ago was David’s last day on earth. I woke up this morning and assessed my feelings. Like stretching muscles the morning after strenuous activity, I stretched my heart, my soul, my spirit . . . something inside . . . to see how I felt. How much I felt. What I felt. And what that feeling felt like.

No searing pain. I didn’t expect any but I was still relieved to be without those sharp pains of loss. Without thought, I have been preparing and testing myself for the last week. Without thought, I re-constructed the last days, remembering what we ate, the yellow dress that Julia wore that fourth that was bought to a bar-b-Q in Jersey, how hot it was and whether I went to church that Sunday.

The other evening I went to a movie with my neighbor and afterwards we had dessert. For the first time, she told me about the night that David collapsed and was taken into the hospital for the last time. I called 911 and then I called her and asked her to stay with Julia. She came right over and I did not return until the morning. Julia was asleep when she came over and she expected to camp out on my couch, but a bit later there was a thunder storm and Julia never slept through thunder storms in those days. Julia called out for me and Maria went upstairs. She knew that Julia would be startled to see her and Julia greeted her with, “Go away.” Maria talked to her for awhile and they went downstairs and watched Howl’s Moving Castle. Julia never went back to sleep and was up and playing when I came home in the morning.

I had no idea that there was thunder that night. I was only aware of the struggle — the ER docs did not know what to do for David’s pain which seemed to increase by the moment. There was a scramble to get in touch with the heart team, and then when they knew it was an infected gall bladder, they did not know whether to operate or try to stem the infection. In the end, surgery was deemed to risky although in retrospect . . . . well, the antibiotics just didn’t do the job.

They re-started the heart at least once that night, something I didn’t find out about until after David’s death. Not that I was not told. I expect that I was told, I have no memory of it.

Two other things from that night which was actually the week before the fourth. One, I had been on a longish fast, more than 4 days although I don’t remember how many more. As I drove to the hospital after the ambulance left our house, I started to have sharp stomach pains. I have always been careful about fasting. I’ve never fasted in times of stress. I knew that I was in pain because my body could not respond the way it wanted in the fasting state. When I got to the ER, I made it into the registration desk and sat down. I told the nurse why I was there and then asked for juice. The nurse asked something and I told her about the fast and the pains and she moved very quickly to get what I asked. A container of OJ and the pain disappeared. It was a lesson for me in vulnerability and understanding. A lesson that I would be learning over and over in the days to come.

Second, as I drove home from the hospital in the early light of morning, reeling in feelings centered on fear, I felt an injection of power straight into my veins. My ability to handle crisis and stress had been tested but for a first time, I acknowledged my ability to cope with what was thrown at me. I remember feeling that there was nothing that I could not do. I had gotten David to the hospital when he needed it and he had survived the night. It would be the last sense of power that I would feel for a long time although I can see now that there was power in everything I did for the next three years. Power that supported and kept me going. It feels good to recognize it and name it, even four years later.

4 thoughts on “the fourth

  1. Suzanne, your ability to convey feelings and emotions through words is inspiring. David always was so proud of you and I’m sure if he could see you now he’d be doubly so. It doesn’t make it easier, but thought it’s worth saying. Wishing all the best.

  2. such beautiful and suscinct prose, Suzanne. It seems to me that the pain of loss of a loved one doesn’t end but mellows bit by bit into loving remembrances. Bless you and your girls.

  3. Wow… Beautifully written, Suzanne! Truly, such inspiring words, I don’t know if you realize that you are an inspiration to me!! Thank you for your vulnerability! Here is what I know, you are a very trusted person because we are never given more than we can handle! Such a great testimony of the grace that is available to us!

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