Monthly Archives: August 2020
My intention is to write this until it’s done. I don’t know how long it will be. I have an idea of how hard it will be to write.
As I’ve said before, I am writing about the end of Julienne’s life because I need to, for a couple of reasons. One of them is for me. I’ve thought about these days, these moments, every day for a year now. The pain, the heartbreak, the quiet moments, all of them, every day. I’ve thought about writing this for a long time, just to get it out of me and onto “paper”, a way to let the pressure off of my soul, just for a little while. I have no illusions about how long any relief this act brings will last. But any relief is welcome.
The other reason is because I believe Julienne would want the truth of her story told, all the way to the bitter end. For a time, some months before August, she’d become obsessed with the facts of how she might die. She knew in the end that it would be cancer, of course, barring any kind of unforeseen accident. But what shape would it take? That question consumed her. She assumed it would be one of her major organs failing, but which, and what was dying from that like? Most of the people that she knew with cancer seemed fine, then fell out of contact for a few weeks, and she would find out they were gone. Each was a hammerblow to her. Death was mystery enough, but she had no idea what her final days could be like.
Tomorrow marks one year since Julienne’s passing. I have no idea what the day will be like, or how I am going to feel and react, or what will happen. I appreciate all the love and support given to me by family, friends, and strangers over the last year. I especially appreciate you for taking the time to read this. It means so much to me.
Again, there will be no Otter Breaks. I’m sorry.
I love you, all of you.
Saturday, August 3rd 2019
After sunrise following that long sleepless night, I asked Julienne if she wanted to lay on my chest. It was harder for her to breathe when in any position except almost upright (or bent forward at the middle), but I had remembered her being able to sleep that way after her lung collapsed (and before we knew that fact). She nodded and settled into her familiar spot on my right side. I held her as she slept until I myself dozed off.
This, obviously, comes out of chronological order with the story as it stands. I should be writing about our wedding, the happiest day of our lives. It’s been challenging to start, though. In order to do these well, I need to put myself back in the mindset I was in at the time. Most of the time I can. I can feel the emotions, see the world as it was then, smell the air, all of it. Sometimes I can’t, and when I push through and write it anyway the end result is flatter, less colorful, like the hazy and disconnected recounting of a dream. It’s important to me that when I write about our wedding day, I can do it right, do the day justice.
It’s been impossible for me to get there, though. The depression has been really bad lately, the type that makes everything hard to do, every task seem insurmountable. From my birthday through July has been especially challenging, because of the memories. I’ve been reliving the last days and the searing pain of last year. I can’t conjure up the magic of our beautiful and perfect wedding day. Not right now.
As I write this, a year ago today I sat beside Julienne, took her hands in mine, and told my brilliant, kind, beautiful wife that her body was shutting down and she would be gone in days. It is a moment I will never forget, a weight that will never lift. I held her as we cried, as I’d done almost exactly 4 years before when I told her that they’d taken her ovaries and the children we’d wanted so badly.
So I can’t write about the wedding. Instead, I am going to try to write about the end.
Also, there are no otter breaks. I didn’t take any. Sorry about that.
In my head, August 1st 2019 is forever the Last Normal Day. It was the last day of Julienne’s life that did not begin and end in terror. It was the last time that we woke up and did our normal routine. It was the last time she left the house in anything other than an ambulance. It was the last time she would see her parent’s house, the home she grew up in, the one she still referred to as Home very often. It was the last time we’d perform our normal nightly ritual, Julienne in the bathroom washing her face as I filled her water glass and heated her lavender-scented neck pillow to the exact temperature she liked, then got her settled into bed and comfortable before I checked her breathing with a stethoscope again to make sure she didn’t have a lung collapse. It was the last time I settled in beside her and we drifted off to sleep together, looking forward to another day.