Tuesday Tales are Pale
Ahoy Fellow Fathomers! It's time for Tuesday Tales.
Everyone in the small circle of group members welcomed me warmly. Conner walked me in, and introduced himself. He then explained he was simply my friend, and wouldn't be infringing upon the meeting. He politely excused himself and left the room. I was grateful and nervous at the same time he left me there alone. I settled myself into a chair in the circle, and readied myself as best I could.
I wasn't the only young widow in the group, and there was also a young widower, Jake, there. He lost his wife in a car accident, so her loss was sudden, like when Garrett died. He spoke warmly of her as his voice broke off a little at a time- like glass chipping away from a damaged window pane. “She just went out for lunch. I kissed her good-bye for the last time on January twentieth. I remember thinking how glad I was it wasn’t icy, so the roads wouldn’t be bad.”
When Mandy spoke, she introduced her late husband, Eric. “Eric started passing out and having seizures a little over a year ago. We thought it was epilepsy, so the doctors began aggressively testing. He actually had pancreatic cancer.” Looking in my direction, Mandy was catching me up with sad, punctuated sentences. “Tumors were making insulin, which made doctors think it was diabetes. See, he was so young, they didn’t think he could have something like pancreatic cancer. By the time we found out, the disease was so advanced, he had little time left.” Sniffing into a worn, wadded tissue, she appeared wearier than sad. “We didn’t make any last fabulous trips.” Shrugging her shoulders, she attempted a cynical smile. “We had to live out our dreams in our living room while I sat next to his rented hospital bed.” She then addressed the group. “I took pictures from the internet and copied them off as full pages. We fantasized about what we’d do from each image. For some reason, the beaches were our favorite…go figure.” Releasing a gentle sigh, she finished her solo. “We spent many hours saying goodbye.”
From the differing perspectives, I couldn’t determine it was any easier when someone died slowly, and their loved ones had a chance to express their goodbyes, or if death came swiftly, immediately, without warning. In the end, death was still final no matter how much, or how little notice was given. I wanted to tell them, "what you're saying goes beyond the pale." In the hospital, I remember thinking I could’ve felt better if I’d known he was going to die. If only we had the chance to say goodbyes. But, I was wrong. He was still gone and the people in this group reminded me the inevitable ending to such personal stories.
Toward the end of the meeting, I found myself introducing who I was. "Hi, I'm Rachel. I lost my husband in a tornado several months back. I was pregnant when he died, and am now raising our son by myself with the help of my parents."
Group members solemnly made expressions of both welcome and sorry at the same time. It appeared no one wanted to say they were glad to be there, because it felt inappropriate somehow. I'm sure none of us wanted to be there, we have rather been at home spending time with the one we'd lost. By the close of the meeting, I'd felt a connection without even knowing the people there. Having folks talk about death without breaking down empowered me. These people hadn’t let death break them, so maybe there was hope for me. Not everyone spoke during the meeting. I appreciated the freedom to stay quiet if I chose to do so. Everyone in the group was understanding about each member's place in the grief process.
Mandy slightly unwrapped her arms from the tight hug she was giving herself. Leaning forward, she made feeble eye contact. “I think I speak for the group- I hope you join us again.”