Nothing prepares you for the exact moment when you see your loved one take their last breath.
Nothing prepares you for the utter, complete silence that follows.
That damn beeping coming from the machines that helped give them life stops. As their last breath leaves them, you might inhale and then gasp.
My wife, Jamie, died a few beats before 2 o’clock in the morning on April 24th. Six months and one day before she would have turned thirty. Four years and six days after we were married. Less than two days after we were attacked.
Mythology lends itself to grand gestures and closing thoughts.
Thomas Edison allegedly said, “It’s beautiful over there.”
John Green wrote, “I found myself thinking about President William McKinley, the third American president to be assassinated. He lived for several days after he was shot, and towards the end, his wife started crying and screaming, “I want to go too! I want to go too!” And with his last measure of strength, McKinley turned to her and spoke his last words: “We are all going.”
I did not find any such eloquence in my final words to Jamie in the early morning hours of April 24, 2013.
Jamie and I were blessed to have the opportunity to speak for a few minutes prior to the ambulance arriving to pick us both up after we were attacked. And in those final moments the overwhelming emotion was love. And love alone. Nothing else mattered.
When I have told friends that I have learned that money is bullshit, it is because right before I arrived home on April 22, in those final ordinary moments before everything changed, I was worried about the fact that we had just paid a substantial amount of money in taxes.
As we waited for the ambulance, that went out the window. As did everything else but love. That is why it is fair to say that most things are bullshit. In the end, love is all we have. It sounds hokey in this cynical age, but I can guarantee you that death is the most clarifying experience you will ever discover. When death washes over your family, when you lose the person you care for most, you will realize that love is at the core of the human experience.
You will remember the laughter. The night you had two bottles of wine. The way sunshine would come through your window while you rolled over to embrace them. The sound of your shoes hitting the pavement as you wenton a run together. The way that you felt the first time that you kissed. The way that they made you feel safe.
You will remember the moment when you realized that they chose you — and that love really is a choice.
You will not remember the bills, the deadlines, or the petty drama of everydaylife when you say goodbye.
You will only remember the way that you felt when you were with them.
And you will find yourself feeling as if your entire soul, your whole being, the essence of who you are, was ripped out when they died.
And two years later you will realize that the hole remains.
But today I also see some light shining in through the cracks in my soul, because Jamie’s love is still a part of who I am.
And this morning when a dear friend sent me my favorite lines of Tennyson, I found myself smiling and looking up at Jamie, wherever she might be.
“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
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