So This Is Grief

Adam hated being handled by strangers, and I wanted to minister to him alone, with only our children helping.

And so we moved mountains to bring him home. I will never forget how he perked up as he entered the living room— gravely ill, but still able to detect the essence of home.

Bringing Adam home will forever be my most important achievement and, for me, a tremendous comfort. Challenging hospital bureaucracy and accomplishing this with our two children, our finest collaborations, will always be a source of great pride. Laser-focused on tending to Adam’s comfort, and ensuring a smooth passage, I did not and could not contem- plate the aftermath.

Marriage interruptus. The life we’d built together collapsed like a house of cards, and now I am floundering. I want to share with him all I’ve learned during his absence—our loss—but of course I can’t. I worry now, if he needs anything, and if he is waiting for me. I would often turn to him, and request a hug. I need his enthusiastic “certainly” now more than ever. I am humbled in his absence.

I mourn for the loss of all we shared, but oddly, equally for the added intimacy and depth that developed during the countless hours Adam and I spent with clasped hands on his hospital bed. I want to hear more about his childhood, his regrets, and the private and innermost thoughts I suppose a man will only share when he pauses to reflect, and is unsure of how many together days lie ahead. I knew my husband well, but those conversations brought me greater insight into the Adam I loved. I so wanted more.

At day’s end, of course, there is bed- time. With Adam’s illness came his request that we turn in at the same time. No quick email first, or one last task to complete. Repose together, spooning with urgency. Weeks before his passing, when we had no idea how little together time remained, I found myself nuzzled in that sweet familiar place where his neck met his shoulder. I gently and instinctively placed my leg over him, a spontaneous move to shield him from the enemy before I could realize the futility of my actions.

Sometimes I wonder how Adam would be handling this if I’d left first. I imagine Adam biking alone up the long, steep hill to the pastoral spot where he currently rests. I know he would sit with me, call me sweetheart, talk with me for a while, and cry a little. It would be our quiet time together. I know he would be as lost without me as I am without him. We are not people who move on easily. I close my eyes and kiss the spiky grass on his grave before I leave. It reminds me of his mustache.

Esther Jay is a math professor with a passion for writing.