The Obituary

There is no time for processing. There is only the cool business I must attend between random outbursts of sobs, while I check things off one list and begin another.

Then I am calm again.

Days blend together; and though I’ve only been here less than a week, it feels like years. Time expands and contracts like someone lazily stretching a rubber band.

So much has been done already, but there is much left to do.

Then there’s the obituary.

Most people read the obituary and quietly swept the last three bumpy years under the rug. After all, an obituary is not a shelf on which to display marital problems.

However, a few friends, after reading what I wrote, have asked me loving, specific questions such as: “Uh? Huh? Wait. What?” They don’t quite know how to connect the idea that I could honor the man who gave me nightmares.

The fact is, the obituary is for the man I lost years ago.

Through the years, there became two distinct sides to my husband. People don’t often believe it, because socially, he was a decent, hard-working, witty guy. He loved his family. He proclaimed Christianity. But there was a defect in this man. Wiring I was not qualified to repair. In the privacy of our home, that man with the “dark squirrels,” as he called them, slowly gained control.

Yesterday, I recieved a frantic call from my sister-in-law. She had read the obituary the funeral home had posted, and I could hear anger shaking her voice as she spoke. The obituary basically said: He died. Nobody cares.

I marched into the funeral home where the secretary was filling out the final paperwork. I sat at her desk and helped her get the details straight. I grabbed a piece of paper and began scratching out a new obituary. It was the standard fare: he is survived by so-and-so. He worked for Company A. He lived in City B.

Then my son ran to the car and brought back old photos to use in the obituary; and I was face-to-face with the man I had loved and married. The man who could navigate with a sextant and the stars. The pilot who flew me in a cessna across the Cook Inlet for dinner at a restaurant on the other side. The man who was fun, who made me laugh, who wielded hand puppets in Sunday school, the man who was beside me when each of our four children were born.

I missed that man. But I had lost him years ago.

I don’t know what kind of stress or perhaps medical/psychological issues had altered his mind. It was a slow descent into what he would have called a box canyon: the most dangerous for a fixed-wing aircraft. Once you fly in, there’s not enough room to turn around to fly out. You simply keep flying, until the passage closes in around you.

Some people think if I had been a godly wife, prayed more, had more faith, or if I would have stayed with him or tried harder he would have been okay. But there is no video replay of the past few years. No hidden camera showing me crying tears into the floor of my closet. I persisted in hope and faith for 20 years, until the breaking point, where it became dangerous for me to stay. I lost faith in God. I lost faith in my husband.

He would have to fix himself.

Being in his apartment and meeting people who knew him, I did see glimmers of hope in him. The fact that he would go to the movies, or text me links to silly youtube videos showed he was reclaiming a bit of the humor he once had.

He was adamant against divorce proceedings, but we still managed to develop good terms again, though nightmares always plagued me, even after a mere text message. He would text once or twice a week, just to check in. Often, I felt I was his only friend. I had been his best friend, for a very long time. You can’t just bend a conduit like that as you would a garden hose.

Thus, faced with a funeral home who didn’t seem to care this man was a retired Lt. Colonel with four kids and a devastated family in Ohio, I sat at the secretary’s computer and wrote in a blind fury. It was my way to honor and protect the memory of the good man who had been long gone from our lives.

I wanted the kids and our family and friends to be proud of him. At least because of his service to our country. I think about the lives he saved, and I am certain those people would be grateful to him. His life demands respect.

While I’m glad the scary man is no longer here to haunt my dreams; I do miss the good man with the crooked grin and curly hair. I can finally grieve his loss. I spent half of my life with him — I am allowed to shed tears, to be sad for the life we could have had, if not for this persona that took over his mind and body.

Some might find the obituary to be insincere. It is not. I wrote it for the man I had married.

I am a very positive person. Maybe it makes me a good victim, I don’t know. I’m certain my trusting nature has caused me to pay hundreds of euros in unnecessary car repairs over the years. To me, it’s worth it. I like thinking the best of people. Sometimes they rise to that expectation.

There will be a time for writing about the past few dark years. But for now, the kids & his family & I are grieving. I am not bitter or angry. Just sad.

I am not pretending everything was wonderful, and now I am the distraught widow with one wrist to her forehead (enter stage left).

However, after treading in negativity like water to the point of exhaustion, it’s time to hoist myself from the pool, stretch myself out in the sunshine and rest.