A couple of Saturday mornings ago, Marty visited his dear friend and former boss, Larry, for what turned out to be the last time. On our way home, he looked over at me with tears in his eyes and said, “We have so much to be grateful for.”
“I know,” I replied, stroking his arm. “If Michael’s death taught me anything, it’s that we have to be grateful for every day—for just being together—because everything ends.”
Before my husband died, I never realized the truth behind this truism. With ten years difference in our ages, I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that I could lose Michael one day—that life as I knew it would slip through my fingers, but I insisted on living as if we would never end.
After several terrifying incidents in which he suddenly had trouble catching his breath, Michael was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation; Doctors told us he was at high risk for strokes. He spent so many days in the hospital during the ensuing years that I joked that we should start having our mail sent there. And although I watched him swallow pills by the handful, and we sat in more doctor’s offices than I can count, I still refused to see the handwriting on the wall of our lives. I refused to believe that Michael and I were dealing with a condition that could be fatal, and when he died suddenly of a massive stroke just as we sat down to dinner in our beautiful new home in Mexico, the bottom fell out of my world.
A psychologist would probably say that all this denial was a defense mechanism—a way of dealing with things I wasn’t ready to handle because I had to survive the day-to-day challenges of being a husband and care provider. Whatever the truth, all this taught me was that every day, every experience, is precious—even the bad ones.
These days, a Sunday drive or even a trip to the fast-food joint up the road can feel significant because I now understand they are the pieces that make up a life. I glance out the car window at the people walking down the sidewalk or finding a parking space at the local big-box retailer, and suddenly, I’m glad that I’m still here to be a part of it. I know that all this will go on after I’m gone, and, strangely, I think I’ll miss it somehow. Because, after all, even the little things are worth celebrating.