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.