* Featured Image: “Winged Light” By Pia Rabin
Letter to My Husband Who Died Suddenly
by Felice Aull
I have wanted to write to you for weeks but it is so difficult I am crying now. Today is your birthday. You would have been 80 years old had you lived but instead you died two years and two months ago. There is something about attaining the age of 80 that seems highly significant. It is really the beginning of old age. Some of our friends have already reached that point and others soon will. In a year, so will I—I had hoped we would get there together.
I want to tell you about your death—I want to remember it because it is the final thing I have of you. I want to tell you about your death because I feel some guilt about the final events of that night. I have repressed the guilt in order to keep living but I need to “confess” like a Catholic. I was showering when I heard the loud thump from our other bathroom but I ignored it, thinking something had dropped, a shampoo bottle, a bar of soap. I did my usual routine, drying off, brushing my teeth, lotioning myself. I don’t know how long it took, maybe 15 minutes. When I came out of the bathroom, you were not in your bed as I expected you to be. I went to your bathroom and knocked on the door, called your name; No answer. I began to panic, trying to open the door, but I couldn’t push it open. I gave a mighty push and managed to open it slightly and saw your legs, bare, knees bent, on the floor, pushing against the wall. Your body was blocking the door. I called out to you. Still no answer, no movement. I knew you were dead. I ran to the phone, called 911. When I hung up I threw street clothes on, waited for the ambulance. The EMT people couldn’t open the door either and had to chop off its hinges with an axe.
So of course I have to question whether, had I gotten to you sooner, you would still have been alive and I could have obtained help more quickly. But I think, I hope, that you died instantly and collapsed. They carried you into the living room, laid you on the floor, on your back, completely naked as you were because you had been about to take a shower. I knew that nothing they were doing was reviving you. I begged them to stop—you would have been a vegetable if they had revived you at that point. But they have a protocol they have to follow so they worked on you for at least 45 minutes. During that time I called our daughter who was deeply upset of course and wanted to drive up immediately but I persuaded her not to. She took a 6 AM flight the next morning.
After the EMT people gave up, they asked me for something to cover you with. I gave them a sheet from your bed and they wrapped you in it and carried you into our bedroom and laid you on my bed, on your back. Your head was not covered. I kept looking at your face and I kissed your forehead. Your eyes were closed, your mouth partly open, your head tilted slightly up and a bit sideways. So this is what my husband looks like dead I said to myself. I kept staring at you and I saw how nothing changed in your face, the finality. I lay down next to you on the adjoining bed—which was your bed—and rested my arm and hand on your chest. I was glad to be able to do those things, to be physically close to you, alone by your side, in your death. Eventually I removed your wedding ring, which I have kept. It took hours before funeral home people came to claim your body, and I lay beside you for most of that time. Finally, when they came I went into the living room while they zipped you into a body bag and wheeled you out of the apartment. All that time before they came, a policeman sat by the door of the apartment, which was kept open. When you were wheeled out, he left. I closed the door.
Now I was alone.