“Hold me ‘til I die.
Meet you on the other side…”
- Pearl Jam
Except with the two friends that were with me, I have hardly talked to anyone about what happened the night Todd died. I don’t even know why I am writing about it now. I suppose I am worried that, one day, I will forget the details. It’s a bit counterintuitive actually. For nearly three years, every time my mind’s eye wanders back to that bleak, cold, January night, I find myself shutting off my memory like a light switch.
It was a Monday night and I had just gotten my 6-month-old twins to sleep. I was exhausted but felt a little less so having left my job two weeks prior. Two of my oldest friends were downstairs waiting for me in the kitchen. It was calm and peaceful in the kitchen – it felt warm even. I was hungry and sat down to a nice meal the girls had prepared. At that moment, the hospice aide came in to tell me Todd was having trouble breathing. I looked at my friend Nina (who happens to be a doctor) and we both went into Todd’s room. His breathing was labored. It was awful to hear. We made the decision to give Todd some more morphine, which Nina assured me, would make him more comfortable. I knew as I dropped the morphine under his tongue that our time was running out. I waited with him for a while until his breathing calmed down. I left him briefly to check on the boys and eat something. I sat down and my friend poured me a glass of wine. With panic in her eyes, the hospice aide came out again and asked if Nina could check Todd’s pulse. I ran into his room and climbed into his bed. This was it.
Nina held the stethoscope and calmly gave me a countdown as she listened to Todd’s heart beat its last beats:
”Amanda, you have maybe one more minute. Thirty seconds,. Amanda, you have about ten seconds.” And that was it. He was gone. I held him until he died.
Anyway, as I wrote, I am not even sure why I am writing this. Except to share that when you actually hold someone until they die – well, that fucks with you. Maybe ‘fucks with’ isn’t the correct term. But, that night has stayed with me for obvious reasons but has also left a mark in me that I wish were sometimes visible on the outside. As with anyone who has suffered loss, I have gone through the grieving process and come quite far in a short period of time.
I have gotten so dark and low in my despair that the agony of Todd’s absence and the finality of death felt like knifeblades stabbing my stomach. In the darkness and stillness of the night when the boys were sleeping, I would find myself standing in my room in the exact spot Todd once stood. I let the pain stab me until I couldn’t breathe. Finally, the time came when the sharp pains dulled. I could tell the wound was healing but could still feel the tremendous scar.I carried on, stiff upper lip, as I have always done. I made it through the first year and was entering the second year when seemingly, all at once, the fog lifted.
I felt good again on my own and apart from the crutch of joy the boys provided. I listened to music again. I went out with friends. I was having fun.
My memories of Todd no longer made way for the void; instead they seem to wrap themselves around my shoulders like a warm blanket from an old friend.