Marking Time After Death
originally published online 10.5.16/edited from original
“The minute hand moves faster than you think it does” — John Mayer, Love Soon
On the 15th of October, around 10:25 a.m., I’ll be observing an anniversary of sorts that only a select group of people can fully comprehend and connect with. And one that only I internalize.
Six months of widowhood. I’ll bet Hallmark doesn’t make a card for that, do they?
For five months, I’ve wondered if anyone else in my husband’s enormous circle of family, friends, colleagues, students and acquaintances cries on the 15th. (Technically, for me, it starts the evening of the 14th, as that was the night rotating hospice nurses sat with me around the clock awaiting the inevitable). People generally honor days after death in annual anniversaries, not monthly ones. But when the half of your life formerly filled with a human is now simply a hole, the twenty-four hour and thirty-/thirty-one day cycles that mark the passing of time in life to the rest of the universe somehow morph into a series of disjointed and fractured miniature milestones that aren’t quite cake, card or flower-worthy.
Like monthly anniversaries of morbid events. The last time you saw him breathe. The last time he was able to hug you (the days you shifted his 6’4, barely-160 pound body in his hospice bed, his arms around your neck, don’t count). The final night you cooked dinner for just the two of you and ate it watching Jeopardy!, you on the sofa, him in his recliner. The last episode you watched of the Young and the Restless together after teaching. The last really good picture you took of him with your son, the net and the trophy after he’d won a district championship, the ultimate reward for his 35 years of coaching. The last night he slept in your bed before being carried downstairs to his new bed in the dining room by jovial and kind EMT workers.
These observances are what lurk inside those tidy, white squares on the calendar when you become a widow. Where others see penciled-in birthdays and bold-faced holidays, I see ghostly events from an alternate universe that don’t allow me to forget even when I think I’ve forgotten. It’s similar to those magic ink books my parents used to ply my sister and I with on long car trips. If you swished the pale yellow, felt-tipped pen over what appeared to be a blank space, a solution or answer would slowly appear. If I stare hard enough at the dated, empty squares on a calendar, some last memory will pop up, misty and gray, for only me to see.