January 23, 2020
“I can’t imagine, any greater fear. Than waking up, without you here. And though the sun, would still shine on. My whole world, would all be gone.”
– Sara Evans, No Place That Far
It has been both the shortest and longest year of my life. So much of it feels like an absurd dream that I just need to wake up from, because… really, seriously, WTF?
I wanted you all to understand why it’s so hard when people tell me at least I have my memories. And the best way I can really do that is share two photos which I haven’t shared before, from 5 days before she died, and 2 days before she died. They’re at the end of this post. And, yes, they’re going to be hard to see. But it’s how I see her the most when I think of her. (I’ve put them behind a “see more” tag, but because this is a scheduled post, I won’t know if it worked until it posts.) I thought about this for a long time before I included them. (Please know that the red you can see on her gown in one of the photos is melted popsicle, not blood.
These images are seared into my brain. And it’s not just me; I have read from many widow(er)s that it’s because our last memory of our soulmate is death, or close to death. They are for me, some of my most prominent visual memories. These images, and worse. In general, I’m actually not really good at picturing anything I get told to picture. The phrase “mind’s eye” I never got because people would say, “visualize …whatever” and there’s nothing there for me. Just blackness. But these visuals? They’re always there. I have photos of her legs too (not included here), where they “treated” her lymphedema by essentially scalping her legs every few days. You know what fixed the exact same problem in 2017? Removing the damn tumor.
I have photos of her bed sores (no, those aren’t in the ones below either), which went untreated until they were stage 4. Which is unconscionable. I remember this. I remember the way her room smelled. I remember how she screamed and cried in agony at the “treatment” she received. I still hear her. I cannot forget the smells. These memories are what are firmly, permanently imprinted. This is what happens when doctors give up on you. This is what it looks like when doctors are too afraid to help you, and unwilling to help you transfer to doctors who know more, who aren’t afraid.
During the years, I got to meet a handful of T’s family and childhood / young adult-years friends.
Some people we got to see a lot of when we visited her Mom (whom I love very much), and it thrilled Teresa to get to catch up (times with Jimmy C. & Lori E. especially come to mind – especially Lori’s willingness to drive hours out to Oakdale to go to an Italian restaurant with safe gluten free options). And I loved getting to meet Uncle Frank & Aunt Anne. And Christine and Gene. And Jeanne and Michael and Tim (and his girlfriend; my apologies that I’ve forgotten her name). Enjoyed getting to know Frankie better when he and Anita came down to the hospital in November 2018. I’d still love to meet more of her family. And friends. Or visit with those of you I already know. I’m back in Roanoke now, and not terribly far from I-81, if you’re travelling up/down that interstate. I have guest rooms.
Maura, Maria, loved the time(s) spent with you; hope there will be more.
And I sincerely apologize if we’ve met and I’m not remembering right now. (This is also why I didn’t include individual names of her cousins/double cousins in her obituary, because I knew I would accidentally leave someone out.)
I’d love to go through her huge photo collection with any/all of you all and have you tell me who people are; to hear your versions of stories she’d been telling me since our very first date.
To keep the stories of Teresa alive, when she can’t be. Help me come back to my good memories of T. Help me learn your good memories of her, so that the awfulness of her time in the hospital isn’t there blotting out everything else.
And I want to thank those of you who checked in on me, in one way or another, on and off over the past year. It meant the world. And to my friends (and new friends) who helped me not just stay home all the time. And to Lana for convincing me to join the Franklin County Community Chorus.
After T had been in the hospital for awhile, I got to listen to some recordings she had made a few months before she went in the hospital. And she said the past year had been both the greatest and worst year; greatest for getting to spend every day with me. The worst because of being diagnosed with a cancer only 6 out of a million women a year are diagnosed with, the worst for being turned down by surgeon after surgeon and being told chemo was her only option, when all the literature says surgery is what you need for LMS. The worst for so many reasons. But getting to spend every day with me, she cherished. And that she was so glad I’d gotten the chance to become friends with several of her friends, because she knew they’d be there for me if there ever came a time when she couldn’t.