I Lost My Better Half
Perhaps some of you may be wondering why I haven’t posted anything for quite a while now when in the past I tried to write almost every day, or more specifically post an article every other day. A week ago from today, on Friday November 16 at exactly 2:00 pm local time I lost my better half. My husband of over 29 years, my best friend of 35 years, the great love of my life and the father of my children breathed his last breath on his hospital bed in Montreal.
We had checked in the day before at around noon when he started complaining of shortness of breath. He had cancer. The first time he was diagnosed was in 2009 and after two surgeries and intensive chemo and radio, and after beating it twice, the cancer had come back for the third time. He was once again undergoing treatment. Like his doctors he had such high hopes and was so positive. But on that day he felt so tired. He walked to his car to go to the hospital but unfortunately never walked back. There were some complications. That’s what the doctor on duty told us, me and my kids.
On the way back from the hospital, as I was driving, I told our kids that this was the saddest trip home. Sadder still when half an hour later his oncologist called his cell phone wondering why he didn’t show up for his appointment that day and his little girl had to answer saying, “My daddy passed away.”
My darling, your actions were louder than your words, you were always ready to lend a helping hand. When it came to your children’s needs and mine you used to jump on your feet ready to carry them out regardless of the time or place. We never heard you say you were tired or not in the mood to do a task or a chore, not even on the days you had your chemo.
You designed my weblog for me, you prepared an artwork every time after asking me what I was writing about, you didn’t even sign the artworks, you didn’t even want any credit for your work. So much talent, so much humility, so much understanding. You were my better half. We went through hell together, first during the war, and then afterwards in Dubai alone, trying to build a family. You gave me so much hope and courage and taught me that love is not only showering me with gifts and flowers on Valentine’s day, but holding my hand in the wee hours of the night when I was sick and looked my worst. But our good times outlasted our bad times.
When I asked you that morning if you were in any pain you said no but that you were tired and you wanted to sleep. Sleep has finally come to you. On your last morning, when the kids and I came to visit you, you sent your son back to university to sit for his exam. You couldn’t even wait for one more year to see him graduate from university. Unfortunately your time came too soon. In that one instant when you closed your eyes, your boy grew up to be a man.
On Tuesday morning when we saw you for the last time in your casket you had this smile on your face and the kids told me that daddy is smiling and he looks so peaceful. You hadn’t looked that peaceful since the day you found out you had cancer.
I am so grateful for the times we had together, for knowing you, for loving you. I am lucky to have met you and spent the best years of my life with you. You were the best husband and the best dad and the best friend and companion and soul mate I could ever have or ever wish for. You were my better half. You were my rock. I don’t know how I can live without you in this world. I feel such an emptiness already and pray that your memory will guide me to be there for the kids not just for myself but for you too.
You were an angel taking care of everyone around you, you are an angel now watching over us. Rest in peace my darling! Cancer cannot touch you anymore! You’re always in my thoughts and prayers, I will always love you and forever miss you!
You Might Be Around Somewhere
It’s been a week now since we put you to rest. A lot has happened since then. I don’t know how to say this but every time I sit in your car to drive the kids to the metro station or to go grocery shopping, I get this feeling that I’ll meet you somewhere and that you’ll talk to me in that comforting voice of yours and tell me that everything will be okay and that I shouldn’t worry. I look at all the people walking on the streets and think that you might be around somewhere waiting for me.
I got all these condolence messages and emails and prayers from friends, from relatives, from my students and my colleagues. Everyone thinks that I am strong and I can handle it, but little do they know that I was strong because I had you in my life. And now that you are gone I don’t know what to do. I try to stay calm in front of the kids, but left alone I break down and cry. The pain you left us with is way too overwhelming. In May 2011 before one of your surgeries you told me that if something went wrong with the surgery our lives will be messed up for good, and that hurt you. Even in those moments you thought about us and our grief. I am so sorry you are not with us, I am so sorry for all the things that you will miss, like walking your daughter down the aisle, seeing your son graduate and start a life of his own. Remember how you used to joke about them having children, your grandkids? If only you could have stayed alive to see your children get married and have children, and then you’d spend your best time in retirement with your grandchildren. You would have made a very caring and loving grandfather to them.
You left your sketch pad on the coffee table and an unfinished canvas on your easel. Your latest painting. You did the sketch, and then sat at your computer and worked out the colors. You told me that you were going to paint during the weekend, after resting for a couple of days. Your brushes, your paints are still scattered in the sitting room. Your paintings are all over the apartment. Those who came to our house after the funeral saw your unfinished work and were saddened by it. I don’t have the heart to touch anything, and yet I know how you used to care for and clean your brushes. If I leave them where they are they will be covered with dust and then I wouldn’t know how to clean them like you used to do. You were going to show your daughter something on the computer too over the weekend. Last week you read to me your friend’s email from India, one that you didn’t get to answer. Then he sent it again two days ago, and this time I had to reply and tell him that you passed away. God only knows how he received the news. It was just so sudden, so unexpected.
We were planning your birthday next month but instead your kids planned your funeral and bought your casket. I don’t know whether it’s luck or destiny or fate or whatever name people give it, it sure played a dirty trick on you. My darling when your oncologist called after you passed away, he told me you felt tired the last time you met him, just a week before. So I can’t seem to understand yet what happened and what went wrong that day. Is it true that if cancer doesn’t kill you, chemo does? I guess all that poison was too much for your liver to handle and so it just shut down.
I am scared to face tomorrow alone. At night when I try to close my eyes and sleep won’t come, I go in to the kids’ rooms and I watch them. I see you in both of them. And I get courage.
They say cancer and its treatment can go either way. Rest in peace my darling for it cannot go anywhere for you now. Even though the pain caused by your death is way too much, knowing there’s no more chemo, no more injections, no more ct-scans and MRIs and surgeries and hospital beds for you darling, makes it more bearable.
May you rest in peace and may your memory guide us and give us strength during these difficult times.
Until I Learn To Let Go
Ever since I was a little girl I hated goodbyes. If I happened to be at a place like the airport, and observed a random someone walk away leaving loved ones crying behind I would break down and cry myself. Departures not only saddened me but hurt as well to such an extent that for days I wouldn’t be able to sleep properly without crying myself to sleep. The simple thought of not being able to see someone you love anymore hurt.
So now that I put my husband to rest, I can’t seem to come to terms with the idea that this is the final deal. That not only won’t I see him again but that I won’t ever hear his voice, and that creeps me out. No matter how hard I try to come to terms with the loss, the harder it becomes to let go. In the words of the late Ray Bradbury:
“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at other times move forward with it.”
How can I move forward when part of me, the better part of me, is crippled? I know I am not the only one, and I won’t even be the last one, but it is still hard to move forward. At least for the time being. I know in my heart of hearts that I should move ahead and go on living. It’s just that the first steps forward are the hardest to take. And yet I have to somehow take a step. As Ray Bradbury wrote:
“Every time you take a step, even when you don’t want to, when it hurts, when it means you rub chins with death, or even if it means dying, that’s good. Anything that moves ahead wins. No chess game was ever won by the player who sat for a lifetime thinking over his next move.”
I remember decades ago, not long after we first started dating, when you my darling held an exhibition on Makhoul street in Beirut. Two of your paintings were of jackets. One, a jacket hanging from a nail on a wall, and the other a jacket left on an armchair. Then you started explaining to me the significance of the jacket in your life.
At the time the civil war was in its fourth year and the whole country was ravaged by it. There were lots of kidnappings and killings and explosions everywhere in the city, making it almost impossible to survive. So no one knew if after leaving the house they would ever come back alive. Hence the ‘jacket’ for you meant a husband or a father going out to work but never making it back.
Then afterwards, after we were married, you painted more jackets, in different settings. Did it ever cross your mind that one day it would happen to you? That you would walk out the door and never walk back? The day after we (the kids and I) came home from the hospital carrying your jacket with us, I hung it on the nail behind the door. Just like in your first painting. Ironically enough your jacket was green, just like the one in your first painting.
It’s true that life gives us what we want but then takes it away when we least expect it to. Our love, our happiness, our youth, our friends. One day we have it all and the next we have nothing, we have lost all. We only have to learn to let go, as Ray Bradbury wrote:
“Darkness gets it all in the end. It’s (life) lent to us for a while. Use it, let go without crying.”
And until I learn to let go…