Since I don't have any energy tonight, I'll close out this year with my first journal entry after TJ died. For me, reading it both shows how far I have come, and yet how numb I still find myself...
"Night time and mornings are the worst. I don't seem to care about anything at all. Not a thing. TV, nothing. I just want to sit and zone out. I can't believe it's been a week. It feels like it's been a day. Nothing feels real.
I still feel like he's going to show up here. Meet up for family dinner. Or that I will go home and he'll be there waiting for me. I keep feeling like I should be crushed. It felt more real during the viewing and funeral but now that it's all over I am just numb. I guess I'm numb. I'm not sure what the hell is going on with me. I don't cry much. Just kinda float along. I feel like I should cry more. I often feel like I'm going to puke, but that 's only in the morning or night time. Except today. I've felt it all day today in waves. I received word on TJ's life insurance today. I really thought I was going to puke when I found out. I don't want the money. I know I need it badly, but I'd give anything to have TJ back. I cried for a long time about that. I miss him and yet I feel like I'm just on vacation or something. I have no idea when this is all going to come crashing down on me. But I do know that when it does, it ain't gonna be pretty.
I've kinda been hiding out in the house. I'm so not ready to venture out to do anything. My husband is dead. I am a widow. It is so strange to even think those words. I don't want to have to tell people anymore. I hadn't talked to anyone for the first time since Monday really until my aunt actually wanted to talk to me today. All of that pain came flooding back. I cried and cried. Hearing condolences from someone who I hadn't heard from yet sucked. Really sucked. And there are so many other people I'm going to hear from. For years, probably. That totally blows. J was saying today that he was glad that no one at work was asking about it anymore. I don't know when that will happen for me. When people will stop asking.
I've been getting so many phone calls from my friends. I know they want to check on me. But it is getting a bit exhausting to have to be constantly attached to my phone. I mean, I want to respond and yet I don't want to be bothered. For the first time in my life I have been doing exactly what feels right and not really caring what others think. It's refreshing to not feel guilt for telling someone that I don't want to hang out. They know I love them, I just need my time. It's freeing in a way.
I guess I should type out the story. I wrote it in my diary and I recorded on the voice device, but I feel like I don't want to forget it. I mean, how could I, right? But I'm still afraid. I want it to always be there. Somewhere. To remind me.
TJ came in to the bedroom in the dark wheezing and gasping for air. I heard him fumbling on his night stand for his inhaler. I flipped on the light so he could see and he took a few puffs. His breathing didnt slow down. I said "Do you want me to take you to the hospital?" and he nodded yes. I got up, pulled on my skirt and shirt and started rushing out of the room to get his pants. He said to me when I hit the door way "call 911" so I grabbed my phone and called. After I hung up I got his jeans and started throwing anything and everything into my purse. His shoes, his wallet, a bra, the mastercard... he'd made it to the landing and was holding the banister and leaning forward. He said he was sorry and I told him not to be. Then he said he loved me. I told him "I love you too, baby. They're comin". When the ambulance arrived he walked down the front steps to meet them; he was so desperate to get help. He fell into their arms at the foot of the stairs and they got him on a gurney and loaded him into the ambulance. As I locked the front door behind me they shut the ambulance doors. I walked up and banged on them with an open palm screaming "hey! hey!!" until they let me in. They finally opened it up so I could see him and they started asking me questions. They were talking to him and he was laboriously talking to them as best as he could. Mostly one word answers. He said at one point "Please don't let me die." That was crushing, but something in his eyes seemed like he was saying it for me. Like he didn't want to leave me. Like he wasn't ready. I know he wasn't ready to die. One EMT said it was too cold to keep the doors opened and asked me to sit up front. As soon as I got into the front seat, I leaned all the way around so I see TJ between the passenger and drivers seat. He was wearing an oxygen mask and they were getting the nebulizer ready. I saw his left arm flop off of the gurney and then his entire body slid to the left. They started shouting at him and pulled up back up onto the gurney, while at the same time dropping him down to lie flat. Then they finally started driving. I didn't realize at the time that he had died in our driveway. I heard at one point "you got a pulse?" from one EMT to the other. I didn't freak out, though. I knew that I had to stay calm for TJ, just in case they were wrong. I didn't want to cause him any more distress by flipping out if he could miraculously still hear me. When we got to the hospital and they unloaded him I asked if he was breathing on his own yet. They said "no." I asked if I could go with them to the room and followed them through the doors. I watched a team of 9 people jump into action, one of them cut off his sweater and another pulled the curtain in my face, keeping me out. I remember thinking how upset he'd be since it was his favorite sweater. Since I was forced to wait outside of the room, I listened as closely as possible. My senses were very aware. I knew he didn't have a pulse. I saw the crash cart. I could hear them yelling "switch!" during CPR. I heard the swishing of the blood in his heart on their ultrasound monitor. I had hoped that sound was his heart working on it's own, but it wasn't. A nurse came out a couple of times to explain that they were using drugs to try and start his heart but that weren't sure how it would turn out. After 20 minutes the doctor told me it wasn't looking good but because he was young they'd work on him for another 10 minutes. That's when they finally allowed me to go in to the room. I knelt on the floor by his side. Scooped up his left hand and held it with both of mine. I talked to him, I kissed each of his fingers, kissed his wedding ring. At one point I put his hand onto my chest and held it there. I will never forget how cold his hand already was when I got to him. My touch warmed him, though. They asked me if they could stop but I asked them not to stop until the Luck's arrived. I couldn't bare the thought of them arriving after he was officially pronounced dead. I'm glad I was of sound mind to make that decision. I am proud of that. He died at 7:35am. I'd flipped on the light at 6:20am. It all happened so fast. They let me stay at the hospital with him until 11am. The only time I left his side is when the medical examiner did his examination. And even then it was only about 15 minutes. I leaned on his gurney, ran my fingers through his hair, whispered in his ear, stroked his eyebrows. I ran my fingers over his lips, his face, cupped his cheek with my hand. They asked me if I wanted to take his wedding ring. It was hard to get off of his finger. And once I was able to get it off, the indentation it left was so visible. I ran my fingers over that empty space where it should be. There was no way I could leave voluntarily. I told the hospital liaison that she was going to have to give me a time limit or else I would never be able to leave. When I left I didn't know if my legs would work to walk me out of the doors.
Going home was awful. Seeing his clothes draped over the chair, his half eaten bowl of peas from the night before. When I got out of the shower I freaked when I saw his tooth brush, grabbed it and threw it in the trash.
The next morning I had to go back to get his clothes to be buried in. That was horrible. I couldn't stop shaking. I tried to just hurry and get it over with. Pack some more clothes for myself as well. At the funeral home picking out the casket was the worst part of that experience. You just walk in a room with samples and open caskets. My heart felt shattered. This is really happening. This is really real. The next stop was the cemetery. Picking out a plot. All I can really remember about that part was getting there first and standing in the sunshine. Allowing it to hit my face and warm my skin. How comforting it felt and how I could have stood there all day. Lastly was St Katherine's to meet with Father Keith. We planned the service, picked the readings and songs, chose pallbearers and other participants.
The wake was unreal. So many people. The estimate is 750 attendees. It was supposed to be from 2-4 and 7-9 but the first ran through into the second. We arrived first. It was pouring rain. Cats and dogs. We were going to wait for it to let up a bit but I decided I'd like to go in first. I am so proud of myself for that and thankful for that extra time with him. I had to make it count. I pulled up a chair and sat with him. Talked to him. Rubbed his fingers and the groove where his ring had been. I asked him for strength to deal with all of the people and all of the sadness. I did really quite well considering. At one point when it was evident that there would be no break in between wakes, Betsy stole me out of the room to get me some food and a mental break. Josh, Courtney, Barrett, Kristen, Betsy, John, and Allison came with me. Once I was there I didn't want to come back out. But I managed. I had no choice. I wanted to respect those who had come to respect my husband. After everyone left, my family stood by him, arms around each other, talking about things we loved about TJ. Things we were thankful for. Then they gave me some private time to say goodbye since this would be the very last time I would physically see him with my own eyes. It took me forever to walk away from his casket. I stood there, white knuckles grasping the side and kept saying to myself "you just need to turn around and walk away, you just need to turn around and walk away". Finally, I was able to make myself move. As I rounded the corner into the chapel I collapsed into the first pew totally crushed and sobbing. My family surrounded me and held me until I could calm down. By then it was 11pm. I shook hands with, and thanked, the three gentlemen from the funeral home for staying with us so late and allowing us that time.
The funeral was epic. That is the only word I can find to describe what transpired. The church was packed; so full people stood all around along the sides. The eulogies were amazing. Made me shake with tears and with laughter. I love my boys. All of them. I was able to address the congregation during the homily when Fr Keith asked the Luck's and I to stand and look around. I blew kisses to each section of people. I have never felt so overwhelmed in my life. Walking behind his casket on the way out I was alone. I kept trying to concentrate to make my legs work; to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I felt a strong arm around me and I fell into it as my legs gave way. It was Uncle Spud to the rescue. He held me and walked with me out of the church. We walked to the cemetery and the sun felt good on my face. The air felt clean and crisp in my lungs. I was so thankful to be able to walk. Get fresh air. The burial was lovely. I took flowers from the arrangement, wrapped my arms around the casket and kissed the lid to say goodbye.
I am so sad. Sometimes the breath gets caught in my chest and I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.
I am doing what I feel is right for me moment to moment. This will be a very long process, I know. I feel like there is something wrong with me when I am not crying. Tomorrow I see the Luck's for the first time since the funeral. It's going to be hard, I think. They look so much like him. But I love them so much and I can't wait to kiss them. They are so good to me. Good people surround me. I know I can do this. I am much stronger than I gave myself credit for in the past. Now, I'm just waiting for the crash."