In one scream and a wild set of gestures from my son-in-law my life changed. He found my husband lying on the front porch. I ran to them and it was clear to me that my husband was dead and had been for a while. I guess I went into executive mode. First I called 911, then I called a friend (who is really an angel among us!) to be with me. The first responders came and started trying to resuscitate him. I asked them not to – it was clear even to my uneducated eye that Bob had left us and that he would not want to come back into that body. The first responder said they had to do something unless I had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order) for Bob. I did not. Thank goodness a paramedic with comforting white hair arrived and stopped the first responder! Now the questions started. What happened? What was Bob’s medical history? Where was his license, his Medicare card and I don’t remember what else? Did he want to be an organ donor? Soon the coroner arrived. The questions were mostly repeated. Bob did want to be an organ donor, so the paramedics took him to the local medical school. Then the organ donor folks called and a huge medical history was required. The organ donor person was amazing! Loving supportive, reassuring. Bob was able to donate bone and I was told that he probably helped 50-60 patients! His last act of physical service in this world. What a beautiful one. And how ironic that only two months earlier Bob was the recipient of donor skin when he smashed his finger. Is that Karma?
Somewhere early in that burst of activity my friend (the angel) appeared. Then came the two hardest phone calls of my life – to tell my son (grown with his own family and who lives five minutes away from us) who was four hours away visiting with his wife’s family and then to tell my daughter (who lives with us with her own family) who was two-thirds the way across the country at a conference that their father had just died. In about five hours my son arrived at the house and it was the next day before my daughter could get home. Now (7 1/2 months later) the details of those hours until all of us got together are blurry. The emotion however, was not. It was shock and pain. A million other emotions came a little later. Before my son arrived, the angel’s husband and two of our friends came over. I developed a terrible headache and went to lie down for a while. I woke up and, unfortunately, it had not all been a bad dream. My son-in-law was occupied with the daily tasks of taking care of a toddler and the toddler fulfilled his role of wonderful distraction truly well.
Then decisions and more decisions. Funeral home, casket, flowers, notifying people, service (we are Baha’is and do not have clergy), what to dress Bob in, where to have the service, writing a eulogy, all of the things that need to happen to make a funeral happen. Tears were flowing much of the time, but we also had some smiles with stories about Bob, getting the funeral home folks information on how to assemble Bob’s clothes. That probably takes a bit of explanation. Bob was (probably still is) a passionate historian and he loved nothing more that re-enacting the Colonial period of our country and teaching people about it. We decided to send him off dressed as his beloved long hunter. As you might imagine, the funeral home had little experience with that! Gathering the things he loved and explaining how it all went together was healing for us. The funeral was an amazing gathering of people from really different worlds – dental lab technicians, living historians, Baha’is, log cabin builders, family, and people dedicated to bettering themselves through books. The visitation and the funeral are actually fond memories for me. They were so filled with love for Bob and support for me – people showed their true characteristics of love, respect, support, caring – it was amazing.
Then I wanted a second memorial program at the 1750’s log cabin that Bob and his friends built and that I have been re-enacting in for eight years now. About two weeks later we sent out an invitation that said we would have spiced cider, colonial gingerbread, and the price of admission was a story about Bob. What stories we heard that afternoon! It was a wonderful tribute to Bob. I felt such love again. Bob touched so many souls!
Then we had to return to the real world and start handling life without Bob. I think he was in the next world thinking, “OK, what can I send to them to show them that they are really strong enough to do all this without me there physically?” He was very creative! But that is the next chapter.