I was at a meeting for Alzheimer’s caregivers when Dale called. There was fear in his halting voice: “Where…are…you?”
It was a first.
It was also a last. I could no longer leave him alone.
Now I am alone, and Dale’s words are mine: Where are you?
Weren’t you just here? Wasn’t I just preparing your lunch…singing and laughing with you…helping you get ready for bed? Where are you?
Although the words come directly from my grieving heart, they also seem crazy. I was with Dale when he died. I composed his memorial service. I helped bury his ashes.
And yet, the feeling that he should still be here can be strong. It’s easy to “hear” his resonant voice, to “see” him sitting next to me, or to just assume he’s resting in another room. All of our years…working, living, loving together…wove countless threads of a shared life throughout my being. The tapestry of “us” is part of who I am.
As we lived with Alzheimer’s, a tighter weave was created. In the last months of Dale’s life, nearly every breath I took was focused on his care, such that soon afterward I asked: How is it that I am still breathing and you are not? It made no sense to my shocked being.
Sometimes it still makes no sense. There is discomfort, awkwardness, and even resistance as I live into a life without his physical presence. And yet, with each step, I gain strength. These new experiences help me heal.
As I make my way through the grieving process, I realize more and more the answer to my question: Dale IS here…in my memories of special times together…in my sense of awe when I see the clear blue sky and my heart leaps, just as his did…even in my voice when I repeat one of his sayings and follow it with laughter.
The threads woven through my being remain. Our love endures. May I honor and celebrate it as I move forward…weaving new patterns into my life that incorporate the beauty of all that we shared.