death & what comes next

for the few weeks after my husband’s father died, there was this overwhelming feeling of numbness.

all these emotions were just under the surface, but I couldn’t access them, or maybe I didn’t want to.

when I admit it, Rudi has been dying for three years; his body first fighting cancer of the bowel (defeated!), then lung cancer (holding like in a stasis, not obliterated but not advancing forward) then finally after swelling & subsiding & swelling again, 11 months after the cancer invades the kidneys, he is overrun and can no longer fight back.

Fuck cancer.

when the doctors said that his kidneys were shutting down, we flew, me a few days after my husband who was there with his sisters on a hospital bedside vigil. when I arrived 3 days before he passed, I don’t know if he knew it was me. his eyesight was very depreciated and the toxins that were building up in his body were causing hallucinations. everyone was packed into the small hospital room; Rudi’s two daughters, his niece, his two sisters who arrived from NZ, comings and goings of 6 grandkids, a son-in-law, me the daughter-in-law and his son, my husband. when we all arrived his wife ceased coming to the hospital. it caused tension but was not addressed but in the weeks after he’s passed, Jay and his sisters are no longer speaking to their mum. they are angry and don’t understand how she could stop visiting her husband in hospital. i don’t understand either, but i can imagine it would be a combination of things; acceptance of the inevitable, complete exhaustion for being the primary caregiver for years, withdrawal from being overwhelmed by so many people when she’s so used to being alone in that remote location. or maybe she’s just a terrible person. I don’t think so. I don’t know. no-one else knows the intimate details of a marriage that lasted 49 years. I don’t want to judge.

sometimes I forget that he’s gone. I see something and go to tell Jay that we should tell his dad about it. I remember just before I say something or sometimes halfway through the sentence.

these emotions are accessible through the numb surface now. it’s like a cloud of feelings. there all at once but slightly indiscernible, like you grasp onto one emotion and before you can fully feel it, it bleeds into another. a jumble of sadness, loss, anger, regret, denial, acceptance, relief. it’s almost too much to put into words.

my friend Grace has always spoken about ‘love languages’; how each of us naturally express and receive love. my love language is action. I show my love through doing things for those I love. at the farm, while my husband and sisters spent every moment, awake and asleep, next to their father, I became the General of the household. I organised people into teams for Duty; food, washing, bedding, runs to the hospital with provisions, airport run to collect family members, gardening, etc. I felt useful and in control. everything around me could fall apart but I could control something. if I could have gone into his body and cut out the cancer I would have. I still didn’t believe he would actually die. neither did Jay.

Rudi came home to die. his grandkids built a bonfire outside of his room, which he saw momentarily before his eyesight was gone completely. the night he came home, he slipped into a coma before taking his last breath two hours later. Jay was holding Rudi’s hand when his fight ended. that’s what it was; a fight that he didn’t want to give into to. three years of subpar health, but three additional years.

my husband is broken. he can’t deal with this noxious cloud of emotions. last week he was at breaking point. he’s agreed to see a councillor to discuss his feelings. he signed up to do it the 21st century way; counselling via phone & email. hey, I’m just proud and relieved that he’s seeking help. everyone deals with things differently. It breaks my heart to see him hurting so much. It breaks my heart that I can’t take care of this; that I can’t take his pain away. he’s a man of few words which especially doesn’t bode well during times of emotional turmoil. I do know that he won’t feel this raw forever. I don’t think that time heals all wounds but it definitely makes them easier to live with.

                                                            bonfire for Rudi