Undoubtedly if you follow my blog, you likely looked for a new video montage marking the five year anniversary of Lisa’s passing in mid-february. However, as the day approached, I was counting it by hours and minutes believing I could not survive another minute without Lisa. I found myself at my trusted doctor’s office who has known our family nearly as long as she has been a primary care doctor in Olympia. Her nurse and herself never saw me this unhinged and I told them I am “fake and a fraud” – undeserving of any shiny crystal awards or a medal from the President. Just the stress of this realization whether true or not, made my body hurt all over. I kept myself hidden from my friends so they remained unaware of how serious this nickel anniversary was taking its toll on me.
For several days straight, I received nausea meds just so I could stop throwing up and take my regular MS meds. Finally I admitted to my doctor and her nurse, the two woman who have known me for 19 years, I didn’t think I could go on. That the children deserved so much more than I could give, in short they deserved and needed Lisa. I also told them of the story about my arrival in Connecticut just 2 days after Lisa was declared brain dead and trying to maintain Lisa’s final wishes and plan a funeral for my wife. Lisa’s Dad thought it would be a good idea to bring in hospice counselors he worked with to do a group counseling session with the family. Mind you this was on the day Lisa’s organs were being harvested in Florida and now I was in Connecticut a thousand miles away. As the family including her mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, paternal aunt, maternal grandmother and grandfather and the two well intentioned counselors – I sat on a couch and no one would sit next too me, finally Lisa’s dad did. The tension in that living room was palpable. The well meaning lady started off with “so how are you feeling”. I kept my lips shut and bit the inside of my cheek (this was not unusual for me in the presence of Lisa’s family). I was losing the love of my life, right at that moment, forever. I remained silent as everyone went around the room and said how they were feeling – and then all the eyes were on me. I was cornered when the question was no longer general but “Janice, how are you feeling” and I blurted out “it was suppose to be me” as I tried to keep in the tears and bit my cheek even harder. It’s true, Lisa and I always planned that it would likely be me who died first – but we would be old ladies on the porch drinking tea. The room fell silent – nothing was said to refute my feeling, the silence was the unspoken agreement God got it wrong and then the few ever so slight nods from some family members sealed the acknowldegment.
When I finally told my doctor and nurse that scene played over and over in my mind on this five year anniversary – all the “what if’s”. Lisa wouldn’t have missed a single basketball, soccer, or swimming meet even if she had a fever of 102. But that was the thing, Lisa was NEVER sick, ever. I let the tears finally flow in front of my doctor and nurse let the shame and humiliation of my personal weakness also flow with my tears.
The silent acknowledgement that day in Connecticut that “it should have been me” also smashed up against my brain that in life there are no “do-overs”. For those Eight Hours, I tried to memorize the four or five digit code to the door the few times a staff person went back. I tried following an empty gurney being put back into an ambulance and sneak through the double doors but was turned around and I acted as if I was lost. It really, honestly never occurred to me in all those hours to tell the receptionist I was Lisa’s sister. It didn’t even register that if I said that the magic doors would open. For 18 years Lisa and I lived our lives as a couple, a partnership and not in a lie and in those precious moments it never occurred to me to lie.
My doc and nurse listened for three days as I would get fluids in my port as I lost nearly 10 pounds which caused my MS fatigue to ravage my body. Finally with just 3 days to go before the anniversary, I let the doc tell my best friend what was going on. She came to the clinic to get me as soon as I was ready and took me home, without scolding me for not telling her sooner. On the next day I told my other best friend as she waiting for the liter of fluids to go into my port. She too listened without judgement.
February 19th came, it was a Sunday this year – but for me, I lost Lisa on February 18th, it was the last time her eyes were open and the last day she wasn’t in a full coma. David wanted to go by himself to Lisa’s niche and he called from the flower store and asked again what color roses – and I told him “yellow or pink, mom hates red ones”. The girls pretended to not notice the weekend and spent as much time with friends as they could. One did make mention on her FB page, it was the anniversary of her mom’s death. My biggest “what if’s” are about the kids – how would things be different if Lisa was in their lives. My family called on the anniversary to check in, though I let all calls go to voicemail.
The hardest realization is that I’m not Lisa and try as I might, I can never fill her shoes. I think my journey now is to believe in myself and what has gone alright in the past five years. It’s not perfect by any means. Lisa’s death changed everything in my world. It taught me who I could trust and strengthened my resolved to speak out about how Lisa was treated as she lay dying. I wish all you blog followers had met Lisa. Hopefully as I write our life story in my memoir, you will in some way know her.
Five years, I never thought I would get to this point. But with the help of some very caring friends, I did survive as did the kids.