Wednesday, October 06, 2010
It's been one year today since Tom left. It seems like one day.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about those last hours in the hospital with him. I knew the inevitable was coming, and that I would have to be strong because he needed me to be strong. I also knew that he was aware of everything going on around him, even though often it looked like he was sleeping.
I held his hand throughout that last night, couldn't sleep, knowing the hours were slipping away. The nurses kept checking on us, aware that Tom was leaving soon. Actually, they were checking on me - they'd become my temporary family, and they were there for me if I needed anything.
Tom's respirations were slowing, and he was peaceful. I'd talk with him, and he'd move his hand to let me know he'd heard me. Just before dawn, he confounded both his nurses and me with an unusual response. His respirations began picking up, getting stronger - not exactly what dying people do. At the time, it was confusing and disheartening. I wanted Tom move forward, to let go and to find himself in that wonderful place we call heaven. For reasons only Tom would think of, he wasn't quite ready yet.
Dawn came and went, and his breathing had strengthened for no apparent reason. Typical Tom - he was doing it his way.
My brother Andy showed up unexpectedly, walking into Tom's room in mid-morning. He said "Hi Tom!" and settled into a chair to visit. Andy lives more than an hour away, so I was surprised to see him as he hadn't mentioned he was coming. He told me that he hadn't been able to sleep (he works the afternoon shift) and so he decided to come see us.
Andy hadn't been there two minutes, and suddenly I realized that Tom was squeezing my hand really hard. He knew Andy was there. And he knew he could finally go home. I asked Andy to give us a few minutes alone, because I realized that Tom was saying goodbye.
Seconds after Andy left the room, Tom died. It took a few moments to sink in - but I suddenly realized why Tom hadn't died during the night, and why his respirations had increased so unexpectedly.
You see, Tom always had a sixth sense. During our 21 years together, he'd often tell me about his "thoughts". They weren't dreams. They were just "a feeling" he'd have about someone, usually someone he personally knew, about something that was to come but hadn't happened yet. Most of the time, his "thoughts" turned into reality, as if he was able to accurately predict the future. I just called it his sixth sense.
Somehow, Tom knew that Andy was coming to the hospital. And in true Tom-ism, he didn't want me to be alone when he died, so in the middle of the night he decided to wait around until Andy showed up. It's was Tom's final act of love for me, making sure that I had someone who loved me to be there when he chose to move on. That final long and hard squeeze of my hand told me everything - that he knew I was in good hands, that he loved me very much, and that I would be okay.
It's a beautiful day today, an Indian Summer kind of day, warm, blue skies and trees turning colors. It would have been just the kind of day we'd jump in the car and ride back country roads for hours, roaming around with no particular place to go, enjoying the day. So that's what I'm going to do today. I'm going to roam around, enjoy a good afternoon, and then go visit Tom. He's at this lake, one of several places I've left his ashes. It's a wonderful, quiet place, a favorite lake where he fished for perch and trout.
Thank you, all my family and friends, for calling today, writing me emails, and letting me know you are thinking of me. Although it's a tough day, I'm ok. There's tears, but the good memories are out-weighing them.
Thank you all for your love - it's meant everything to me. May you be as blessed as I was for 21 years. He was a wonderful husband and a great friend. I was lucky enough to have the best.
Miss you, Thomas. xoxox