It was a painful learning experience you don't need to go through.
Time went by really quickly after this mercilessly gorgeous woman walked past me on campus. Within a few blinks of the eye, we had completed two years of courting, seven years of marriage, had two kids, a dog, and a happy life. My contribution? I provided for the house, the same gorgeous woman made it home. Time doesn't rush by so quickly now. The days are long and the nights are cold. They have been for the last two weeks. My beautiful wife passed away two weeks ago.
Twenty-two days before her death, her doctors told us that the treatment wasn't working and she had very little time. And, by little, I mean lesser than a month. She knew exactly what she wanted to do with that time. She was probably longing for it all along. Her tired hands held my arm as tight as they could, she looked at me poignantly and said "Let's go home. I want to go home. I want to cook us all meals, be with the kids, bake cupcakes for them, cuddle with you and sleep, and simply live before I die." My heart sank, I held her tight, numb, unable to say a word. But she kept saying, and firmly so, "take me home." As much as I didn't want to give up yet, I did. I took her home. The one she had built.
I knew this wasn't going to be easy, but she had a very simple wishlist: she wanted to bake for the kids, take a walk by the beach, and just enjoy whatever was left of her life. She would wake up sooner than usual, with her slow and tired movements and a little help from me and the kids, make us breakfast, laugh with the kids while I watched. I watched everything. Those lips, as they curled up into a smile when our little on ran to her with a drawing. Those eyes, as tired as they looked screamed eagerness to soak in every moment she had left. Those wrinkled fingers, as they ruffled through our dog's fur. Those tears that came every time she had a good laugh fearing that this might be the last one ever. The way her nose crinkled after saying a lame joke. I always heard this tune she would hum when she walked around the house, now, I was listening to it.
That was really not all, I saw her give up on small banter simply to let me win and smile cheekily, she knew it was important for me to win. I saw the look of yearning and longing for a hug or comfort when she was in pain. I had seen that look on her before, when we had an argument, when I said something hurtful, when I took her for granted, or when I forgot something important. I realized I had put her through the same agony many times without even knowing it. One night, I sat her down and told her that she can't leave. She just can't leave us all alone. She can't leave me and go. I was not okay with this, and this is not fair. And, there it was. She said, "I know I have failed you, I'm sorry." She said this with tears streaming down her face and I knew that look as well.
It took a disease and the certainty of her death for me to have noticed her. Right from those little beautiful moments with the family, to the big expressions that she never hid from me, but I was too ignorant to notice. I wish I was there more often. I wish I actually listened to her when she told me about her day and didn't just nod because it is common courtesy. I wish I told her about the little jokes we cracked in office, instead of just telling her about how overworked I was. I wish I didn't say the hurtful things I said to her on occasion. I wish I could take it all back and fix it all. Start all over. Back to that day when she walked past me on campus.
Despite the pain that I knew she was in, she was as silly as ever, playing with the kids, spending time with me, and making sure that at least for a few days, life went back to normal. I knew this was too good to be true, I knew my world was about to come crashing down, and it was going to happen soon. I thought I was prepared for it, but how does one prepare? My wife completed me and now I feel amputated. Like half of me is missing.
One night, before the storm, it was a calm night, and we decided to take a stroll. I noticed that the cool breeze made her draw her sweater around her tighter, so I embraced her a little tighter, and she leaned onto my shoulder. For a bit, it was silent, but then I heard her sniffle and before I knew it, we were both crying. For the first time since we got back home, she told me she was scared. I told her that I was just not ready to let her go. She told me, "I will kill you if you get married to someone else." We both chuckled through the tears as I assured her that it wasn't going to happen. Two days later, she left us, surrounded by her loved ones.
Once the shock and numbness left me and the pain crept in, tears flowed down my face and grief engulfed me - I realized this was the biggest learning of my life. The people who are beside you NOW, tell them you love them now. Look at them when they want you to, not when they are in a coffin and you keep staring hoping and praying that they will wake up. Listen to them, feel with them, understand what they are saying, read between the lines, hold them when they need you to, or when you need to. I wish I didn't have to learn it the hard way, and it wasn't fair. But thankfully, you don't. Find your spouse, parents, best friend or anyone who has been to hell and back with you and thank them for everything. Not just with your words, but in action.