Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Worst Day

There is actually a lead up to "The Worst Day"...the day I lost my boyfriend.  My love.  My life.  My Terry.  As many of you know, Terry's physical life was a struggle with chronic pain.  He had several back surgeries throughout his life beginning in High School.  His back was his main obstacle but after a car accident earlier in our marriage, his neck injuries left him in a constant state of pain.  We tried everything to treat that pain so that he could have some quality of life.  Pain medication, trigger shots, prolotherapy, exercise, and more.  Anything to manage his pain.

Terry always put on a great face for everyone.  He was more concerned about how you were doing than with himself.  His infectious smile may have fooled others (which was what he wanted) but, it didn't fool me.  I could always tell when the pain was raging within him.  It breaks my heart to think back at the handful of people who unkind to Terry because he was a little "off", or that he was slow (I'm guilty of impatience on this one).  Those who brushed him off for whatever reason.  His valiant spirit and strength to work and play through his pain.

He contracted pneumonia at least once each year.  It was always pretty bad.  His fever would rage into dangerously high numbers.  Many times we had to take him to the ER to get it back to normal.

The two weeks leading up to Terry's death he was not well.  I would suggest he go to the doctor but, he thought it would pass and everything would be okay.  But it wasn't.  The night before "the worst day" he was in bed all day.  He tried to come down to visit the girls and their husbands...and Eloise.  However, Melissa saw him heading for the stairs and told me he was up.  I rushed upstairs to turn him around and to head back to bed.  I gave him a glass of ice water and cooled his head and face with a cold washcloth.

I would often sleep in the guest room when Terry was ill.  That night was no exception.  After the girls left, I once again went in to Terry and refreshed his drink and cooled him down again.  I told him I'd check on him  in a while.  Then, around 11:00pm, just before I headed to bed, I went in one last time ("one last time" makes me so sad).  I found him kneeling on the floor by the bed.  It looked like he might be looking for something.  So, I went to him and asked "What are you doing?"  I was a bit perturbed that he hadn't followed my orders and stayed in the bed.  He didn't answer so I asked it again, maybe with a little sharpness in my voice, "What are you doing?"  Then he replied with the last words I'd ever hear from him:

"Well, maybe I was just trying to say my prayers."

 I felt like a heartless wife when he told me that.  Of course he was praying.  He always prayed before getting in bed for the night.  Why hadn't I thought of that and knelt down beside him?  Instead, I helped him back to bed.  Put the sheet on him and asked if we should go to the ER.  He shook his head "no".  I told him that if he wasn't better in the morning, we were definitely going to the ER.  He shook his head "yes" and I kissed his forehead for the last time.  Then, I went to bed.  And that was the last time I saw him alive.

The next morning, being President's Day, I slept in until about 8:30 before I went in to check on Terry. I quietly opened the door in case he was sleeping.  Sleep was always a gift for him so I didn't want to run the risk of waking him if I didn't have to.  I peeked into the room.  All was still.  Leo, out little maltese, was sitting upright by Terry's head.  "Good" I thought.  And I quietly closed the door to let him sleep.

Around 2:00 pm, I repeated the last scenario.  Nothing had changed.  Leo was still sitting in the exact same position as before.  This was very strange because Leo would have normally jumped down to come to me.  I knew that something wasn't right.  I decided to wake Terry to take his temperature again and to see if his fever had broken.  What I found there has changed my life forever.  It's the scene that has tortured my life since then.  I grabbed his hand.  Of course, I knew.  I knew he was gone.  I knew he wasn't coming back to me.  I didn't know what to do.  I still felt for a pulse.  I was hyperventilating.  How could this be?  I touched his face.  I looked into his eyes.  It was just a body.

I didn't know what to do.  So, I called my best friend, Kathe.  I remember saying something like "I think Terry's dead".  She asked if I'd called 911 and then quite forcefully told me to do it and I did.  The rest of the day was a blur.  People say that all the time and now I know what it means.  I have muddy memories of ambulance and police car sirens.  Of the EMT showing up.  Of the pity that was in their eyes as they confirmed that my boyfriend was gone.  Of people arriving.  Of sending people away.  Of the excruciating pain in my daughters's eyes...probably reflecting my own.

I remember that my son-in-law took on the difficult task of notifying all of Terry's children.  Bless him. I remember that Kathe and her husband made it to me in record time from Springville.  The calls, the texts, the emails, the Facebook notes...all a blur.  All I wanted to do was be alone and to go back to bed and to wake up again and find that this had all been a dream.

It wasn't a dream.  It was real.  I had lost the only man I had ever TRULY loved.  And the only man (besides my dad) who had TRULY loved me.  It was the worst day.  The worst.  I prayed and prayed that the image I had when I found that Terry could be taken from my memory.  It wasn't.  Even now, the scene replays in my mind and I feel like my insides are on fire.  Maybe someday it will be erased.

I love him, so.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Voice

This is not about my favorite tv show "The Voice" but rather it is a short post about the voice.  This morning I've been playing and replaying my voicemail.  I have six messages from Terry that I've never (or will never) delete.

His voice.

He had the greatest voice.  I'm so blessed to have heard it every day and night for 15 years. It is torture to listen to the messages.  Torture to sit here crying and longing for him to be beside me.  Torture to still be able to read into the words he was saying and know when he was sad, cold, nervous, optimistic, and (most tortuous of all) in love with me.

The message I repeat over and over contains these words:

"Hi!  I love you.  I just wanted you to know that.  I hope you've had a great day today.  We'll see you when you get home.  Bye bye."

Just 28 words.  How can I treasure 28 words above all other words I have heard spoken or that I have read?  His voice was like none I have ever heard before.  He had a great way of expressing himself.  He was a man whose voice could calm a hysterical grown child when injustice was served to her.  He was a man whose voice could reassure a daughter in the troughs of child labor to know that she could push that baby out because she was made with "Canadian blood" in her veins.  His voice could ward off questionable suiters yet be perfectly welcoming to the many young men and women who spent their youth in our home every weekend.  His voice could summon angels to the many family and friends in need of special blessing.  His voice could pray with fervent strength and thanks when he prayed.  His voice could always lift me when I was sad, make me laugh hysterically when I needed a laugh, and could help me fall into sleep at night with just a soothing whisper in my ear,  "I love you"

His voice.  I miss it.  And him.

I'll bet it was a GREAT story!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

One Last Date

Yesterday was the one year mark of the last date night I ever went on with my boyfriend.  Of course, it was Valentine's Day.  We went to Outback.  It was delicious.  Looking back now, I realize that I had some feelings then that I dismissed but have bothered me ever since. 

First, all of the good thoughts I had.   I remember looking at him sitting across the table and thinking that I was a lucky, lucky woman.  Here was a man who loved me without question.  Even when I was a brat or quiet or moody.  He was so polite and personable with the hostess, the waitress, the manager, the strangers sitting across the aisle from us, the couple who returned looking for a cell phone they thought they had left in our booth, and to me.  I felt proud.  Just proud that I got to be part of his life. To know that he loved me for being my flawed self.

Then came the confusing feelings I felt.  As my heart filled with an overwhelming love for Terry, I also had thoughts come to mind that THIS was an important date with him.  I looked at his hands intensely.  I love his hands.  I felt as though something way, way deep inside of me wanted to memorize everything about him that I'd seen a thousand times before but felt like I was just noticing for the first time.  Then, (and this is the weird part) I had this feeling that I wouldn't have him with me much longer.  He wasn't well.  He had been suffering from the flu off and on for a long time.  He also had been having trouble with his lungs...pneumonia! He just couldn't shake it.  But for that one night, he was there sitting across the table.  

He must have been having similar thoughts.  When I told him that I expected him to make it to our 20th anniversary, he just laughed.  He said "You know I won't last that many more years."  That only made me mad.  He had always told me throughout our entire marriage that he would die young.  His dad had died young of a heart attack.  His brother-in-law had died young leaving his wife to raise small children on her own.  The same with his nephew.  I always thought that he was merely saying those things because the odds were stacked against him.  And they were.  

He suffered silently for so long.  Of course, I probably knew him best and knew when he was struggling.  He put on a good front to hide all the pain he had the burdon of carrying since his High School years.  He suffered emotionally as he hoped and prayed that his children would make a connection with him after his divorce.  (which they did!)  He was such a good man.  He would always tell me that my job was harder taking care of him that it was for him to live with chronic pain.  Always thinking of others...that was my Terry.

So, this picture is one of the last pictures I would ever take of Terry.  It was taken from an app I had called "Action Movie".  He got the biggest kick out of it.  He wanted to see it over and over.  But, what was hysterical then, is morbid now.  You can film a short clip and then a bomb comes flying through the air and blows up the subject.  Like I said, not the greatest thing NOW.  But he did love seeing it.  I can hear his laugh now.  Oh, that laugh.

I love him.  I miss him.  I hope I can hold it all together over the next few days.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In The Beginning...

The other night I was looking through some files trying to find pictures of Terry from when we were dating.  I couldn't find any of them (but I will) and instead, I came across some cards and letters that I wrote to him throughout our marriage.  I found the love letter I wrote to him before we were married that he always declared as "The moment I knew I'd marry you!"  I found a letter I wrote when I was 16 years old "To my future husband"  (HA!).  THAT was interesting.  I found little notes I had written and put into his luggage when he had to travel to Portland for work.  I remember tucking them throughout his pants, socks, shirts, shoes, etc.  They are super corny and I love them.

Terry and I met at (of all the embarrassing places) at a single's dance!  After Terry had been divorced for a while, his bishop challenged him to go to a few of the dances so that he could get out and meet people.  My friend, Tina, made me promise to go to ONE with her.  I guess the stars were aligned when I met Terry at my first dance!  I remember dancing a couple of dances with him and talking a little about who we were.  You know, the regular chit chat.  I thought he was a nice guy (even IF the shirt he was wearing had a mandarin collar and he was wearing cowboy boots).

The next dance rolled around and Tina asked begged me to go again.  So, I did.  I remember that I was standing with my friend when Terry walked by.  I reached out and touched his arm and said "Hello, Terry!"  We spent the rest of the evening together.  He told me that no one ever remembered his name.  We ended up going to Denny's.  He had mozzarella sticks and I had fries.  We talked and talked.  And I really loved it when he asked "Do you prefer holding hands THIS way (fingers enlaced) or THIS way (hands cupped)?"  I mean, who asks that??  That became a running joke over the next 15 years.

When we got back to my car, he opened my door (as he would do 1000 times over) and gave me a sweet kiss on the lips.

And so it began...

The very first picture I ever took of my boyfriend.
(notice the sunflowers in the background?!)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl XLI

As most of you know, Terry's favorite football team in the history of football was the Chicago Bears.  He had been a fan since they won Super Bowl XX.  He had every Chicago Bears cap ever made!  It was rare to see him without a Bears cap on.  Seriously!  He actually had a "dress" Bears cap for when he went to "fancy places".  The way he talked, it seemed he knew every player personally...that's just Terry!

So, when the Bears returned to the Super Bowl in 2007, you can imagine the energy in our house.  The girls and I really weren't that big into football but we knew how much Terry was.  (I just wanted to watch Prince perform...or was it the artist formerly known as Prince?  Whatever.)  So, we all donned Bears shirts and hats, gathered every food that had anything to do with Bears, or was orange or navy, and put on a Super Bowl party of the year.

The Bears lost to the Colts 29-17.  (ya, I had to look that up)  But, Terry wasn't heart broken.  He didn't even swear.  He was just proud of his Bears!

We missed him today.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


 “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” 
--Ansel Adams

Friday, February 1, 2013

Turning Pages

I had no idea that when I woke up this morning, I'd feel the feelings I experienced all day.  When I went to my paper calendar, ready to turn the page to a new month, I couldn't do it.  I couldn't turn the page.  February punched me in the face and I froze.  If I turned the page, I would see that it had been a year since I lost my Terry.  Turning the page would make it real.  I would have to admit that I'd been a widow for an entire year.  So, I didn't turn it.  I left it on January.

I thought about Terry for the rest of the day.  I have been teary and sentimental and I don't think it will get any easier as the month goes on, regardless if I turn that page or not.  Last year on this very day, I had only 20 more days with my boyfriend.  I wish I'd have known that.  Maybe then I would have been  kinder.  More patient.  More affectionate.  More.

Erika needed my help with Eloise today.  I was more than excited to pick her up for a change of scenery...both for her AND for me.  Yesterday, I took her to the mall and to do a little shopping.  I wasn't sure where I'd take her today.  When we got in the car, though, I had a yearning that pulled me to visit the cemetery.  I honestly haven't gone very often.  Mostly for special days or on visits with the family.  So it was odd that I felt that need.

The cemetery was covered with snow.  Here and there were headstones that families had cleared and placed flowers, plants, the usual.  I felt guilty that Terry's remained under snow.  I found it easily because I had marked the grave with an Oilers windmill from my nephew Taylor.  It made me smile to see it poking out of the snow like a waving hand saying "here I am".

I carried Eloise over the snow and kicked off as much snow and ice as I could then set her down.  I uncovered his name and missed him more.  I didn't bother to uncover my name.  That's just too weird still.  I had El "help" me fashion two hearts out of snow...One from me and one from her.  It felt very sweet to be there with her.  When it was time to go, I picked her back up and started walking away.  I told her to say "bye bye".  She put her little hand in the air and waved and surprised me by saying "Bye bye, Pop Pop!"   I stopped in my tracks.  "What did you say?"  "Bye Bye Pop Pop!"  The tears came again.  I'd never heard her say that before.  I still can't believe it.  We talk to her about Terry as "Pop Pop" quite often.  But, how did she know to say it then?

I've resigned myself to allowing my feelings to manifest in any way they might during this month.  I'm not going to stifle them.  Sometimes I think that when I try to hide my feelings or say "I'm good" when people ask, that I'm only making things worse inside of me.  I'm sick of being strong and acting like everything is moving along swimmingly.  Yet, I suppose, that's who I am.  I can't publicly mope.  I can't publicly cry.  Like Terry would always brag "You've got that strong Canadian blood in you!" I will just go on.  I will pretend everything is fine.  But somedays it tears me up inside.

I returned home tonight determined to turn that calendar page.  When I stood back in front of it, I just couldn't do it.  So, for now, I'll pretend that January has 32 days and hope that I can turn that page tomorrow.

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