It’s a rainy, dreary day, and I’m in a rainy, dreary mood. A year ago today was the last day Lisa was fully conscious, and the last day she spoke coherently. At least — and I will always be profoundly grateful for this — she was never in pain. The tumor was in the brain stem, shutting down the body functions that aren’t consciously controlled; we were told — less than 36 hours before — that she would simply get more and more tired and eventually fall asleep and not wake up. And that’s exactly what happened: an easier end than many, but hard enough to bear.
I wish we had had more time to talk about it. She had been so determined to live that we didn’t really talk about the possibility of her death until the very end, and it was a jumble, trying to fit in years of thought and philosophy and comfort into about 36 hours. At the same time, I’m glad it was quick. I grew up with tornadoes, not hurricanes; I understand how to deal with random, intense devastation, dropping out of nowhere and gone again in an instant. Lisa and I went through one hurricane together (Gloria), and I thought I would go out of my mind after four hours of it. I don’t know if I could have handled a longer dying — and yet I’d have given anything for a little more time together. It’s not that I feel there was much of anything left unsaid — I think we got through the crucial stuff — but there’s stuff I would have said better, and more of, if we had had more time.
I saw a newspaper story recently that said that the bereaved felt not depression, but yearning, and certainly that’s been true for me. I yearn for her, I ache for her presence, I listen for her in spite of myself. I still think of emailing her with new ideas, or look up from a book to tell her she has to read this one. Last week, I bought a new mystery, and realized it was more for her than for me.
And yet, I’m making new starts. For the first time in nearly 30 years, I’m meeting people who have never known Lisa. And, to be honest, I’m enjoying them. I do think about how much Lisa would have liked them, but I’m also enjoying them for their own sake. I spent a weekend with people from the knitters’ list, and had a wonderful time. I have begun work on two novels that Lisa never knew about; I’ve finished a short story she never saw.
The last thing Lisa said was, “Thank everybody.” I think I have as much or more to be grateful for, so I offer my thanks as well. Thanks to all my friends, old friends and new ones, the ones who knew Lisa and the ones who didn’t. Thanks for being yourselves: it makes all the difference.