A year ago today, January 7, I was in a hospital room with Carrie as her body was steadily failing. The prognosis had gone from a fair chance of surgery which would heal her to maintenance of the spreading cancer to a few more months of life then, finally, to imminent death within a day or two all within two weeks. Often such is the course of this dreaded disease call pancreatic cancer. That day I recall the great difficulty Carrie had trying to communicate. The nursing staff—all that we had grown to love over the 70ish days in the hospital during 2011 and 2012—hustling around us. There were many visits by the staff to say good-bye over the previous 24 hours. We were preparing and waiting for the ambulance that would give Carrie her last ride home. It was a hectic time with so many questions from hospice; so many friends rearranging our home to accommodate the hospital bed and other medical equipment.
The long ride home in an ambulance and an open house.
I had to ride in the front of the ambulance per some company regulation but wished I was next to her. I remember one of our nurses expressing concern that Carrie might not last the ride home so I was concerned about not being with her. I remember trying to carry on a conversation with the driver, it was a struggle. I recall how strange it seemed that an ambulance was carrying us home from the hospital.
I vividly remember sitting in the passenger seat thinking about all who had been such a huge part of the adventure. I truly believe the idea of opening our home to visitors to come by to say good-bye was from God. I recall typing away on my smart phone and posting the invitation on the CaringBridge blog and on Facebook. I knew I wouldn’t reach everyone but hopefully the word would get out. And, for the most part, it did: visits, tears, hugs, prayers….and pictures. There are so many wonderful pictures of so many people, all honoring Carrie. These pictures still move me today.
How to go on, that is the question.
The death of someone such as a spouse leaves many questions about life. How does one cope? How does one stand under the weight of loss which is so heavy? For me, I continue.
Because I serve a risen Savior, I go on. Because I lived for Christ and not for Carrie, I go on. Because there is still so much life to experience, joys and sorrows to come, relationships to develop, lives to enrich, I go on. It is not “moving on” as if I’m leaving something behind. It is simply going on, a continuation of my life, my journey. For a season life was “our” journey. Now death has robbed that path. As much as Carrie’s presence became integrated with mine, so too is her absence being integrated. Her death is not an interruption, it is not a detour, it is simply a part of my life experience.
So I go on. I experience. I find joys and happiness, sorrows and pains. In short, I live.
Thus, the question for me becomes what is next?