A year ago, Richard and I were in Denver at what turned out to be his last appointment with Dr. Klein, his oncologist at the VA Medical Center. We looked over his most recent MRI. Dr. Klein pointed out that the rapidly growing tumor in his right brain looked stable, a surprise given his increasing difficulty using his left side, as well as new skin sores and other physical issues. His mind was still clear, his sense of humor quick, and his smile positively incandescent. But his body was clearly beginning to fail.
Because of that, she said, it would be best to cancel his monthly chemo infusion. “Are you okay with that?”
Richard looked at her, his gaze straight, understanding the implication. “I’’s not working, is it?”
She shook her head, and after a moment, passed a box of tissues. We all sniffled and blew our noses. Richard and I held hands.
“I’ll call to check on you in a few days,” she said, after asking if we needed anything. “You can always reach me.”
We hugged her and left, Richard walking slowly but confidently, using the cane he needed then for balance.
I think back to that day now as the wind howls and the temperature plummets; the weather reminds me of the drive home after that visit with Dr. Klein. A wintery wind buffeted our Subaru as we crossed the high country, as if echoing the grief chilling my heart. Richard held my hand even when he slept.
He and I were partners in ways that are difficult to explain without sounding trite or sappy. We let each other in more deeply and trustingly than anyone before or since.
That kind of heart- and soul-connection is rare and precious, a gift I didn’t expect to receive and one I don’t imagine will come my way again. Which is okay. I say that only to explain why I haven’t, as some have asked lately, “moved on” yet.
We had almost 29 years to grow our love and partnership, and those years and that deep connection are not something to move on from. It takes time to sort out what my life means without Richard, just as it took time to grow what he called the “body of love” that sustained us, especially through the journey with his brain cancer.
It’s not that I’m not living fully. But learning how to be me without him involves a lot of trial and error, thinking, and practice. Decisions that once would have been simple are not. The path forward isn’t clear.
As I was writing this post, I found a quote from the late Steve Jobs in my journal that’s the reminder I need as I feel my way forward….
Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
What do you truly want to become? How does your writing contribute to that you?