While You Were Sleeping

As usual, he called me at the office that afternoon while he was working from home.  “Hi.  How are you doing?”  I probably mentioned something about my ordinary frustrations on the job or something about our daughters.   Then it was down to business.  “What are you doing tonight?”  It was Friday night.  Our youngest had a rehearsal at a church only a few blocks from our house, starting about a half an hour after I got off work.  “Do you want to go out to dinner?”  “SURE!”  It was cold, the roads were icy.  We didn’t want to go far, so we dropped her off and went to a bar & grill  that had just opened behind the strip mall in our little town.  It was full of activity: TVs were on, people bustled about, artwork from the public schools was displayed on the wall.  There was lots to look at and hear.  The menu was new to us.  Teriyaki green beans sounded good.  So did fried artichokes.  I ordered a beer; I think he did, too.  We had sandwiches as well.  Then he got a call on his cell phone.  Our daughter was not feeling well and was leaving rehearsal early.  We said we’d meet her at home.  We all talked in the living room for a little while, as he sat on the couch gathering his strength for the climb upstairs.  He seemed pretty tired.  He’d come home from the hospital just 10 days earlier with 2 cardiac stents implanted.  In the bedroom, he turned on the flat screen TV, took his medications (all 23 of them) and hooked up his dialysis machine and his sleep apnea mask.   In our big, squishy bed, we watched an episode of “NUMB3RS”, and then the movie “Regarding Henry” came on.  I’d seen it before: Harrison Ford and Annette Bening in a good story about marriage, change and intimacy.  It complimented the mood perfectly.  We were feeling secure, companionable, close.  I fell asleep beside him, holding his hand.   I awoke at 6:30 AM.  His body was still and cold.

That day was exactly four years ago. What did he dream about that night?  Did he feel any pain?  Did he try to get up?  Did he try to call out or wake me?  Did he see a brightness as his neurons flashed for the last time?  Was it peaceful?  I can only imagine.

I can imagine him firing up feelings of love and bathing in them, floating on a surge of endorphins while images of his babies rushed by.  I can imagine him strolling an endless golf course of rolling green fairways, tree-lined and bright.  I can imagine him soaring with the tenor section in an angel choir, his energy trembling and resonating with clouds and stars.  I can imagine him satisfied and proud and smart and good and kind.  I can imagine him wrapped in the embrace of the Universe…forever.

I can imagine him, but can I know him any better, any more?  I still feel open to him, and as I continue to try to expand my awareness, I wonder about that.  I know that I don’t know what I might be able to know.  What is memory? What is sleep?  What is consciousness?  What is death?  Are they ‘real’?  I don’t know.  What is ‘real’?  What I know is that I don’t know.  What I feel is that he mattered and still matters.  I feel that he is.

16 thoughts on “While You Were Sleeping

  1. Hard to know what to say about this but here goes…
    Anniversaries are always painful but they are painful because you loved deeply and were loved in return.
    What a wonderful thing to be able to remember.
    … and now you have been lucky enough to find a new love and I know you cherish that too.
    Wishing you continued love and support.

  2. Oh Priscilla…I must have started to type this response about 20 times. I would read over what I had typed and would immediately delete it. After, reading your entry, I just couldn’t find the appropriate way to express how deeply sorry I am that JIm was taken from you at such a young age. I know how much you adored him. He was such a special man…one in a million. I don’t know if I ever told you how much I liked him…just wanted you to know that. You two had this ‘connection’ that was very apparent. I especially noticed it when you sang together. It was very obvious that you loved each other, but also and maybe more importantly, I could tell that you really ‘liked’ each other.

  3. I, too, am at a loss of words here. Except to say that your words moved me. I miss Jim and Marni … childhood memories … I was lucky to have a cousin like him and will remember our breakfast together at the Bedford. It was the last time I saw him. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I, too, wish you continued love and support from Steve and all the kids.

  4. I don’t know how much feedback you got from your more peripheral friends four years ago, but honestly, when Jim passed on to the next world, it was like Krakatoa erupting, where the explosion could be heard everywhere on earth. Everyone who knew you and Jim knew what a catastrophe this was.

    I too have those times with you and Jim for which I count myself fortunate. I loved being on all those sports teams with Jim, and especially that scratch trio bowling league. I loved hanging out with the two of you during those IV Christian fellowship meetings. I really loved visiting you and your family up in…was it Los Gatos? You and Jim were so full of love and light and Godliness. Back then, I actually thought of Jim as being the more worldly-wise of the two of you, and that you were just a pure loving wonderful angel. It’s really interesting to read your blog now, to see your depth, wisdom, and painful honesty. As everyone else here has said, thanks for enriching our lives by sharing your thoughts with us.

    As for all those questions about death, sleep and consciousness, I know I’m going to sound unscientific and naive, but I’m one of those people that believes that near death experiences are ontologically true. I go along with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross on that one. I think Jim was received into the next world by loved ones, and that he will in turn recieve you when your time here is finished. But like you said, we don’t even know what we can know. Our chess playing opponent is resolutely silent on this one.

    You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. Reblogged this on scillagrace and commented:

    Recently watched the animated film “Waking Life” – existential philosophies about consciousness smartly strung together. Here is my post from 3 years ago about death and waking….

  6. What a beautiful man! He fairly leaps off the page. And what a tribute to a wonderful relationship and the love you shared. You told so much, with so few words. Deeply felt.

    I am saddened to learn of your loss, and grateful that you found a way to share it with strangers such as I, for we all know loss at one time or another.

    May you ever find comfort, and somehow, if such succor there be, may he find a way to show you he never truly left you.

  7. Dear Priscilla,
    I wonder if there isn’t some small comfort that your last day together was quietly filled with love as you went about your daily routine and enjoyed each other’s company. I am so sorry for your loss–thank you for sharing your memories and stories of Jim with us.

    • You’re welcome, Bruce. I think its first airing was only seen by a handful of folks, and I’ve come to know many more blogging friends with similar questions. Not that I have answers, but it feels good to know we’re not alone in unknowing.

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