About a month before Jon died my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer. At the same time, we were preparing for the passing of his grandfather, also as a result of cancer. At the time, it seemed too much to deal with. But Jon was my rock. Even though he was expecting the death of his own grandfather anytime, he was there for me anytime I felt sad. Then after his grandfather passed, just two weeks before he would, he grew even more supportive. I went to see my grandmother everyday and he told me each time, to take as much time with her as I needed because he wished he’d have had that opportunity with his grandfather. It meant the world to my grandmother.
This weekend I received the news that my grandmother had taken a turn for the worst and it probably won’t be long. While I feel that her passing will be a blessing for her and will end her suffering, it’s still a difficult inevitability to swallow. I’m still dealing with the loss of my partner in life, the person who made everything bad seem not so bad and now I have to add to that the inevitable loss of my grandmother. And I have to deal with that without him here to comfort me. His memory gives me comfort. I can think of what he would say and do and that gives me comfort, but it’s not the same.
This all makes me wonder why in the world everything good in my life seems to get taken away so abruptly. I tuck my beautiful girls in at night and I can’t help but wonder, are they going to fall fate to my awful luck. I’ve become overly protective over them. I’m obsessed with their safety.
When my ex-father-in-law passed away suddenly last summer his wife became obsessed with the girls’ well being. Jon and I had an argument about it. I remember it well. I was covering a story at USF St. Pete about funding available as a result of the BP oil spill. It was an evening story and Jon had the kids. Our middle daughter had had an allergic reaction to her step-mother’s cat while there for a long weekend and it required a trip to the emergency room. Spring break was coming up and the girls were supposed to go to their dad’s for the week. She did not want them to go. Their dad did. He was taking precautions – buying air purifiers and cleaning every nook and cranny of the apartment, even isolating the cat to areas where our daughter would not have to go. We spoke to her doctor about precautions and it still wasn’t enough. She was obsessed with the idea that something bad would happen to our little girl. I remember defending her thoughts to Jon who thought she was being irrational. Looking back on it, I’m glad I didn’t cave in. I’m now left in the same lonely and terrified place she was in. Every minute I’m away from my girls I’m afraid something will happen to them. Every time they drive in someone else’s car or I drop them off at school or leave them at a friend’s house. We went swimming the other day and while I’ve always been fairly liberal in my watching them because they are all strong swimmers and I’ve always let them venture off to the playground without worrying too much, I was suddenly consumed with watching their every move.
I feel so helpless to stop anything terrible from happening again. The realization that there are some things that you simply just can’t control. I tried to save Jon. Not just that night, but every day we were together. I knew he had heart problems and I urged him to eat better and exercise more. I followed up on his doctor’s appointments. I made sure he was taking his medication and that they were refilled before he ran out each month. And that night I put every ounce of my energy into doing chest compressions. I kept my cool and stayed alert, careful not to miss any instruction. And despite all that effort, he still left us.
This stark reality reinforces the single most precious lesson Jon left for all who knew him and those who have heard his story: live every day and enjoy every moment. I am careful to talk to friends and family more now. I read that one extra bedtime story I used to decline because it was too late. I stay out past bedtime with my girls because, what’s another thirty minutes? I stopped being so picky about what they eat – within reason. Fast food is still off limits. I stopped worrying about whether or not the house is entirely clean. We just live, because we have nothing left to do but live. And every moment I find happiness, I smile on Jon’s memory for giving us a life where happiness is the only option. I’m still sad sometimes and I have a challenging road ahead of me with this new set of grief looming in my future. But I will do what Jon would have wanted me to do – live, smile and do something amazing. I’ve opened my yes!