You’re gonna ask why me and you’ll never get a good answer. I hated asking why. I knew there wasn’t any reason for why she died apart from just a shitty confluence of events. Did it have to happen on Mother’s Day? Would her birthday made it any worse? Would any day? The result would have been the some. I’d still be a widow and our children would be motherless. Why did it happen in Maui? It was so god damn beautiful there. I loved that place. It was where I spent every Christmas I could remember as a child. I knew every inch of our condo. I knew every beach and palm tree. The smell of the island is unforgettable. The beautiful damp cooling breeze that comes off the ocean at night. The sound of the waves and the chirping of the geckos. It was all so perfect for us. Then I had to wake up early in the morning to her having a seizure. Everything went so black and dark yet the place was still sitting there in all its beauty. Inviting us to still enjoy the days and take in the beaches and ocean. I stared out at the other islands everyday as I drove to the hospital. Passing all the places I remembered from childhood. Evoking all the fun and happiness that I had enjoyed as a child but painted now with this black brush because Mel was going to die here. She was going to fucking die in the one place that was perfect in my mind. How could something so cruel and unforgiving happen here? Our kids were supposed to form the same attachment to this place as I had. This was supposed to become a yearly ritual like I had as a child. Why did this have to happen? In what hell does this dark and painful event take place here? It was like god had decided to erase everything I wanted and had in the most painful way. We were robbed of a future, why did fate decide to slam its boot down on my past too?
It’s so fucking hard not to ask why. It’s so hard not to see all the events pulled apart like an elastic band then snapped in my hand leaving every fond memory now shattered when her death stamped itself down.
She died in my arms as I frantically tried to revive her while waiting for the paramedics. I saw her stiffen and then go limp. Her eyes rolling back as she gasped then nothing. The awful realization of what was actually happening is a memory that will never leave the forefront of my thoughts. The deep sickening panic I felt as I struggled with her and yelled at my mother in the living room to tell them to hurry while she was on the phone with the emergency operator. The paramedics arrived and revived her but it was too late. Her brain was damaged to the point she would not make more then a week. God she was so stiff and then so limp. It is nothing like the movies. Time moved so quickly in reality but now so grindingly slow when the memories come in. It’s all so detailed and sick now. The emotions boil up and are impossible to avoid. The final seizure was the worst, but she had had two previous ones that had been traumatic as well. Our daughter screaming for me to come upstairs only to find Mel on her stomach, frothing and shacking. Six months later the same event accept she was now pregnant and all the fear that our child was going to be harmed.
I do not know how many people have had to endure what I have but I am certain I have seen something few have. Don’t tell me about your grandmother passing away at the hospital. This was not that. This was not a long drawn out death due to cancer or some other terminal illness. I did not get to talk with her for weeks or months or years leading up to this. We did not get to discuss the future without her. Her death was not some final act of mercy that ended a long drawn out painful experience. This was a shotgun to the soul that gave no time to even ponder what was happening. It was shock. Pure as it can be. I don’t know if it would have been better to have just been told she died somewhere away from me. To have to get a phone call and be told she is gone. Maybe. Maybe that would be more merciful act. I would not have the visions of her and all that took place. Would I be haunted by thoughts of what her last moments were? Would I be tormented by not knowing how she was as it all happened? Again, I don’t know. Would an doctor or police officer telling me ” it was over in a second, she had no idea or feeling it was happening” give me some peace? I doubt it. I think I would always think about it. What happened to us was a violent and sudden event that will never leave me. I can say now I have been able to find some peace. I can now walk through life without the immediate and haunting memory intruding into my daily existence. I can let my thoughts drift to her without having that night crash through them. But it still happens. It happens less now but the trauma of it will still rear up and knock me down. I know now how to deal with it. I let it overtake me but try to watch it all from above. Let it all play out as a spectator. I can catch myself when I feel it coming. Like hearing the sound of a freight train coming down a track I can’t get off of. The train won’t kill me, so I just let it come. Breath and stay calm knowing it will pass. In some sick way I do not dread it now. It’s still a connection that I have to her. That her and I did something that only we will ever know. That I could bear witness to what would be her final moment before her mind was lost forever. It is a horrible thing to watch. Knowing now, in hindsight, that she was leaving us at that moment.
We were at the beach a while back with friends and while I was walking alone on the beach I had a flashback. It doesn’t come on like some instant explosion of emotion. It’s more like realizing too late that you’re sinking in quicksand. I had taken my flip flops off and was walking through the sand just looking down at my feet and not really thinking about anything. I started to focus on the feeling of the sand in my feet and then I was back on the beach in Maui. It wasn’t a “this reminds me of there” feeling. I could see the beach and the pathway that runs along the beach from our condo. I walked that path everyday. I felt the same confusion and fear and sadness like when it happened. Part of me knew where I actually was but I needed to walk off the beach and up to the parking lot because I really felt that the condo parking lot was up there. Up where the rental car was parked, beside the building our unit was in. I could get in the car and drive to the hospital and see Mel. It’s like a waking dream. It’s also confusing because while I could see where I was in reality, it still made sense that I could be back in Hawaii. I walked for a bit and eventually it faded away, but it’s fucking weird when it happens. It’s called PTSD. It’s happened when I’ve knelt down to do something and the feeling I’m back performing cpr comes on. The floor will become more like the carpeted floor we had in the bedroom. The feeling that I’m in between the wall and our bed. It’s odd because I can talk about the event and everything without any raw feelings popping up, but some small inconsequential thing will trigger it. I don’t really like saying it’s PTSD because in my mind that’s for people who’ve been through war and experienced a constant bombardment of shock and traumatic instances. I feel like my experience is not worthy of being in the same diagnosis.
She did not want to go. I can take comfort in the fact that this all took place while she slept. I imagine that she would have been having a beautiful dream where we were all together. That the smells and sounds of Maui drifted through into her thoughts as she slept. That because it was Mother’s Day she was thinking of our children. She would have been dreaming about us all playing on the beach. Tuesday laughing and running in the sand while her and I sat on a blanket with Levon. She would be showing him little seashells and making him giggle as tuesday called out for her to watch her try to do a cartwheel. A perfect day on the beach that would never end. Where the four of us were so happy together. Feeling that complete contentment that this was as good as it gets. I want that to be where she still is. That she drifted off holding Levon and watching Tuesday and feeling my arms around her as the sun radiated warmth all around us.