The summer of 2019 found my wife, Mary, and my brother, Kent, on hospice care for cancer. While I stayed with Mary in our home, I corresponded with Kent by email. A week after Mary’s death, I sent this email to Kent.
Oh, my. Oh, my brother. You say you are slipping. Oh, my. Oh, my brother.
You say you’ve taken some falls. When Mary felt unsteady, she slid down the wall and sat on the floor. I’d find her or trip over her and gather her and shuffle her to bed or plop her into her wheelchair. What was I thinking? I could have sat with her and held her and comforted her. That’s what she needed. I could have, but didn’t.
I tell myself this is not about me, whether I did it right or would’ve if I weren’t blind. This is about Mary; this is about you, my brother. But so much begins and ends with me now. I need to know what’s in the cupboards because I’ve become a household of one. What is this? Do I need it? How does it work? Man, I can’t even see it! Use my gadgets, call the helpline. Then I think, my God, do I run every phase of life like a business? Arrange an aide for Mary, schedule the meeting with hospice. The devil’s in the details and where’s the humanity?
But I’m OK. I went with a friend to the Salvation Army and bought four table lamps, then to Menard’s for bulbs and shades. I now have nine table lamps, five floor lamps and two nightlights in this apartment. Even in daylight, I use them as beacons, like a jet landing at O’Hare.
Yes, I’m OK. From what I hear and read, I’m functioning within normal limits for a person in my situation. I read an article about depression, how symptoms differ: women withdraw and become listless; men get irritable and really busy. I fit that profile. I have projects and, when I run out, I think of more.
Oh, my, do I miss Mary. I hear a comment and want to tell Mary and share a laugh. Or she’ll come home from Goodwill and we’ll have a fashion show. I’ve heard from so many people whose lives Mary touched and I hear the love in their voices. I feel proud that I offered something she valued when she was so valued by others. I feel joy that Mary told friends she was so happy being my wife. And I am happy to hear how our laughter and joy were contagious.
I hope this will be a peaceful weekend for you. I hope your vista brings you the same light, openness and connection that I feel from the vantage point that nourished Mary’s spirit.
My brother and I continued to share thoughts and feelings until he passed away on October 24. He was a good man. He was always there for me.
“Goodbye” by Patti Griffin, from the album “Flaming Red”
“Goodbye” by Emmylou Harris, from the album “Wrecking Ball”
“Amazing Things” by Megon McDonough, from the album “Spirits in the Material World”