I can’t remember the last time I felt truly happy. Not just pretending to be happy for the moment, but a real lasting feeling of happiness. I long for the sensation of being confident and at ease with myself. I crave the comfortable and relaxing presence of knowing I belong somewhere. What does it feel like to have a purpose in life? I don’t remember, and I don’t know how to get the memory back.
Robin’s been out of my life for twenty eight weeks, five days, eight hours and two minutes. I know that because I find most of my waking hours computing the time since her death. I tell myself that there is no logical or rational reason to keep track of that fact, but I feel a sense of guilt if I can’t almost instantly spit out those numbers. It’s almost as if I would show disrespect to her if I didn’t know the time since her passing. Or maybe it’s my way of somehow keeping her more alive that she actually is.
I remember some things with astonishing clarity. I remember the morning the doctor told Robin and me that she had stage four lung cancer. I remember how he seemed surprised and unprepared for her tears. He clumsily tried to place his hand on her shoulder but she pulled back. She said she wasn’t crying for herself, she was crying for me.
Robin told the doctor that her son died of cancer five years earlier. She described the terrible physical attack the cancer made on David. The doctor never said a word. I believe Robin was waiting for some comforting words, but none were spoken. Robin stopped crying, and as if she wanted to set the record straight she again said she wasn’t crying for herself, but for me. The doctor still didn’t speak. Maybe he couldn’t find the right words to say. Maybe those words don’t exist.
Robin and I were together for two years after that. In the beginning we both had hope that there would be a miracle. Maybe some treatment would work. Possibly a cure would be found. Could anything happen to save her life? We both were afraid, but there was hope.
I don’t remember the exact moment, but after many disappointments there came a day when the hope faded. Although we didn’t admit it to each other, we both came to realize there was no chance Robin would survive. When we talked about the future we tried to act as though it included her. But, in reality, we both knew that wasn’t going to be the case. We just didn’t want to say it openly acting as if not saying what we really believed would change things.
There were days when we laughed, and there were days when we couldn’t, and didn’t laugh. I sometimes saw a look in Robin’s eyes that I had never seen before. It was the look of fear. It was the look of disappointment that she would leave the life we had together before she was ready. It was the look of sadness that she would leave me to carry on alone. I had not been without her for forty six years.
As the life’s end of the human being known as Robin grew nearer we seemed to appreciate each other more. We overlooked flaws. We noticed more attentively sunrises and sunsets. We commented on the brightness of the moon. We talked about the wind sliding across our faces. It was as though none of these things existed before. Without saying it we both wondered why we hadn’t lived our whole lives this way. We both knew we never fully appreciated the time we had together. I guess that’s the same for most people. I now realize how sad that is.
I sat with Robin on the last night of her life. As she lay in bed I held her hand and stroked her cheek. I spoke to her about our life together. I reminded her of the many things we had done, the places we visited and the people we had known. I talked about our family. I told her I loved her and said I would miss her very much. I will always believe she heard me. Robin died on a warm and sunny July morning.
I made the obligatory phone calls to friends and family. I gave an almost rehearsed statement announcing Robin’s passing. Everyone expressed sadness and their desire to be of help in any way possible. I wasn’t able to focus on the conversations as I felt as though their words were spoken as a mere matter of courtesy. I was just fulfilling what seemed like my obligation to everyone. I was certain I forgot to call someone but didn’t care enough to give it much thought.
There was a small service for Robin. That was her wish. Although not much notice of the event was given there was a large presence of friends and family. In my mind I was still fulfilling my obligation as a proper husband. I don’t remember my thoughts at that time. I want to believe I was thinking about the good life Robin had and our time together.
Robin’s time on this earth was too short but it was time well spent. She made a difference in the lives of others, especially mine. It is hard to imagine what direction my life may have taken without her. I was a different person before I met her, and I’ll be a different person from now on. Her passing was, in some ways, the end of my life as well. At least the end of the person I was.
I am afraid. Above all else I’m afraid I will forget some things about Robin. I’m afraid I’ll forget her incredible exuberance for life. I don’t want to forget her kindness and love for people. I want to remember her naivety that appeared at just the right moments. Most of all, I’m afraid I’ll forget how her voice sounded. I want to remember the words she used and the tone of her speech. I know once I forget the sound of her voice I can never get that memory back.
I am a human being capable of adapting to changes in my life. I am a person and I have the inherent ability to overcome adversity. I must find a way to become a different person, a new person and most of all, a better person. But I will never forget my former self, my old life and the person I will forever remember, my wife, Robin.