“Never speak ill of the dead” goes the old saying, and how true it is. During the weeks he spent in the hospital my focus was on his getting well. Early on that meant thinking ahead to rehabilitation; later it became trying to get on a transplant list. Through it all, I was the dutiful, loyal wife sitting by his side. It wasn’t an act. I wanted to be there every minute I could. I waited for those few times when he was awake and cognizant, figuring that he would want to see me there, and always with the unspoken thought that if he was not going to live through this I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could. Spending those hours by his side, all I could think of were the best parts of our relationship and how much I wanted more of those memories.
That first week, from writing the obituary the evening he died through the memorial service 8 days later, was filled with nothing but fond thoughts of what a great person he was. Cards poured in from friends and family, the funeral home website racked up an impressive number of comments and the phone never stopped ringing.
Nothing said was a lie, and he was a great guy; but he wasn’t a god and our marriage wasn’t perfect. This week I’m remembering the not so good things. It’s somewhat a factor of time; everyone who was here for the funeral has gone home, the calls and cards have pretty much stopped coming, and I’m on my last few days off work. The immediacy of his dying has diminished a little, and I’m starting to stand back and review the time we had together.
The main reason I’m being reminded of his less-than-perfect being is that I’ve started to go through his papers. We were married 7 years, but I’m in the process of going through 30 years of papers. That’s right, 30 years worth, along with many older documents.
You see, my husband was a bit of a hoarder. Now, I need to clarify here. I’m not talking about cat mummies or mounds of adult diapers; nothing that scary. Think Fibber McGee’s closet and you’ll have the idea. What my husband had was an inability to manage paper. I’m going through boxes and boxes of old mail, note books with scribbled to do lists, letters, news clippings: you get the idea. I knew he a problem with this but was not aware of its extent. The reason for my cleaning binge is that after several years on the market his house has finally sold.
I was okay with his almost-hoarding issues; I know that it was something he struggled with and hated in himself. But it was still hard, and difficult, to go through old pictures and letters of events where I was never a participant. It was painful to see a view of him so healthy and doing well, and realize that he was gone.
It was cathartic to sit in an empty house crying and angry. I was mourning the decline in health he went through during our life together, and its profound affect on our marriage and relationship. I felt cheated seeing happy vacation pictures taken years before we met because I’m had to watch him die and now have to do all the hard work of disposing of his things. I am angry, furious in fact, that I got stuck with the short end of the stick and have to endure not just his loss but all the work that goes with cleaning it up.
I finished up the day by stopping at the cemetery to tell him that while I love him and miss him, he never should have left me such a mess to clean up.
I think it’s healthy to remember that while we mourn our friends and family who have died, and while we wish they were still here, they were not perfect. I do miss him terribly, each and every day, but there were aspects of his character and our life together that I will not miss.