I have always done things ahead of time. Ask anyone who knows me. My mother said I was born three days early, not waiting for my due date. According to John,I was notorious in college for getting assignments done early. Surely no one else noticed or cared. Recently I wrote about missing visitors before they left. I felt slightly ill a day or so before family or friends ended their visit. As soon as the car lights disappeared up the road, I began to clean up and proceed with the next thing on the agenda. Was that heartless? My longing for them wouldn’t bring them back, and I had lovely memories to savor.
According to daughter Lise, everyone waited for me to fall apart after my parents died. Neither had a long illness. Both had a sudden heart issue that took them fairly quickly with no lingering pain. One was 80 and the other 89 when they died. Their funerals were family reunions in the finest Southern tradition. There was too much to be thankful for to wish them alive again, when they might have to face great pain or dementia. Let them go and remember what wonderful people they were.
Never having lost a spouse, I didn’t know what to expect when John died. The fact is, I faced his death thousands of time. Not many people were killed commuting to Manhattan by train, but driving was a different story. After we came back from England 40 years ago, John drove to work. He was an excellent driver, but many others on the road with him were not. Photos of pileups caused by ice and snow were common. He drove through blizzards and hurricanes, and there were no cell phones then. I didn’t know exactly how I’d get the news, but a policeman or medical person would contact me, and I might have to go identify his body. How on earth would I earn a living and support myself and three children?
I got the news of John’s death in a way I didn’t expect. Grandson David called, saying the hospital wanted me to call. Note, I was the one who made the call! The emergency room nurse said they tried everything they could to restart his heart, but nothing worked. I felt cold when the call ended. Immediately I remembered John was supposed to make a presentation at church the next day, and I’d better call to let someone know what had happened. The restaurant was still open, so I canceled our reservations for the next day. I let family members know, as well as neighbors and friends. In the middle of the night I printed, signed, and scanned legal papers with the funeral home.
I thought I wasn’t crying because there was so much to do. That wasn’t it. I had been through the mourning and letting go for 40 years. Who knew it could be done ahead of time?? Those who know me will say, “She always did everything early….”