The pain left behind

My mother-in-law died Thanksgiving night. Wife Unit, Nublet, and I are down here in Atlanta right now preparing for the…uh…festivities? Ceremonies? Broadway musical and hoedown? I’m not sure what you’d call them.

Trudie’s death was not unexpected. She had been fighting angiosarcoma for several months, and by the time it had been diagnosed, the cancer had already spread. The suddenness of it–earlier in the day she had come off a ventilator and was steadily strengthening after hip surgery–caught us off guard, but we knew it was coming sooner or later. We just hoped that it was later, not sooner.

So now come all the million and one attendant little things that go with the death of a loved one. Solicitous relatives visiting asking if there’s anything they can do. Rummaging through closets to decide what stays and what goes and what gets sold and what gets kept. Husbands and daughters who don’t always get along trying to put on a smiling front and a brave face while walking on eggshells around each other and praying they can hold it together until sometime on Tuesday. Buying suits. Juggling a demanding three-day schedule while dealing with a fractious toddler who’s alternately Miss Perfect and Hellbaby, changing second to second.

Sometime on Tuesday, for most of us, it’ll all be over. The graveside service will be done, and the friends and relatives will disperse back to Atlanta and Charlotte and Columbia and other places.  We’ll get on the big Delta bird Wednesday morning and rocket back to Durham.  Her husband will come home to an empty house except for one dog, and try to put his life back together after four months of hospitals and surgeries, rehab centers and hospices, doctors and nurses and funeral directors, all spend watching his 58-year-old wife of 15 years die in front of his eyes.  All of us will have this Trudie-shaped void in our lives, of varying depth and varying size depending on how close we were to her.  But life won’t stop to let us heal.  It keeps dragging us forward, inexorably, at one second per second, and the wounds’ll just have to scab over as we go.

Trudie’s with God now.  Her pain is over.  The only pain left from her life now is our pain at losing her.  The pain left behind.


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