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May 25, 2014: Stella’s Last Gift

I crawled into bed and gave her a kiss goodnight. I thought she was sleeping, but she was awake.

“I need to tell you something before you go to sleep.”

“What is it? Are you feeling ok? Do you need anything?”

“No, listen. I think this is it. I don’t think I’ll wake up in the morning.”

“Don’t you say that. Not now. I’m not ready. Please hold on. Just a few more days.”

“Listen, please. It’s ok. I’m ready. But you have to listen to me. This is very important for you to hear. I want you to promise me that when I am gone, you will find someone to share your life with. I am not worried about dying. But I am worried about what will happen to you and the kids. I know you. You cannot be alone. You need to find someone.”

“No. Don’t say that. No way. I can’t imagine myself with anyone else. Don’t say these things. I’ll call the Doctor in the morning. Maybe there’s one more thing…”

“I know how you feel. I just want you to remember what I am telling you. At some point, you will remember this conversation. Now kiss me and say goodbye, just in case it happens tonight. I love you…..”

———-

I woke up one morning after the shiva. I was in pain that she was no longer with me. All the dreadful nightmares had come true in the end. But even as I felt pain at missing her, I felt a new pain.

I could not bear the idea that I was alone.

I hated getting up out of bed. I focused on the fact that I had to help the children. They had their whole lives in front of them. For them, I would live. But I hated life.

I would take the dog out by the water tower late at night and scream. I didn’t want anyone to see me. But I didn’t really care if they did. I would even put on one of Stella’s sweaters under my coat and look up at the stars and scream until I had no voice left. The dog would sit and wait for my rage to die down and we would both walk back to the house, drained.

I hated that no one, not even my closest friends could really understand how I felt. Many people tried to comfort me. But it was impossible. I felt more alone than I ever imagined could be possible. Beyond the children, what was the point of life any more?

There were times I wanted to die.

People came. People called. People sent e-mails. Everyone meant well. I could tell they were all at a loss because they didn’t really know what to say. But the truth was it didn’t matter. Words meant nothing. No one understood what it was like when you have to watch your life partner slowly and painfully dying…

But someone did.

I received an e-mail from someone who had read my blog post. And I knew instantly that she understood. Because she had also watched her love die from this horrible disease. She knew the darkness and the cold and the feeling of being utterly alone in the world, left with the responsibility of raising children in a world that no longer had any color.

She had been in the pit and somehow had pulled herself out.

I responded and we started e-mailing back and forth. Then, at some point, I’m not really sure when, I called her on the phone.

And we started talking.

All the time.

And during the times when I crashed and was laying on the floor thinking that life was simply too hard, she was the one I would call. And her voice could pick me up and get me back on my feet again.

During the darkest times, she was the one who could open the door a crack and let some light in.

And for days and then weeks, we would speak, every night.

And very slowly. I started seeing color in the world again…..

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