It’s been two years since the sudden and unexpected death of my partner in life, Ellen Sue Massie. Although she was for all practical purposes “dead” on April 25, the hospital that must never be named “pulled the plug” on April 28, three days later. Which is why I’m posting this missive on the second anniversary of her untimely demise at the hands of (un)said hospital.
I suppose it’s a useful bromide to say that “time heals all.” The pain of losing a loved one probably never truly diminishes for those on the receiving end. The anguish is lessened, the tears more infrequent but the loss- as it must be- is irreplaceable.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised (but I am, actually) that I had a dream about Ellen a couple of days ago. If you read my posting from last year, I awoke from a very vivid dream and wrote down my recollections, as they were still fresh in my mind. I don’t recall having a dream about her this past year until the one I just had. I can’t recall most of it but what I do remember is quite vivid and I can still recall the details because it was a replay of a real event at the hospital with the exception of how it ended which is the ending that “should” have taken place. I now can only remember the part about being led into one of those “family rooms” next to the common waiting area. I was ushered in, along with Ellen’s daughters and other family members by a young man who wanted to discuss a “delicate issue.” Ellen had indicated that she wanted to be a “donor” of body parts in the event of something happening to her. Apparently, it was now time to discuss this. In real life, as in the dream, I sat there listening in increasing horror to this random guy who up until then was unknown to us, discussing carving up my partner who as far as I was concerned was still alive. In the dream, as in real life, I began to become very distraught because it all now seemed so clear. The hospital wanted Ellen dead, all along, because they were in the business of selling body parts to people like this guy. In the dream, I completely flipped out and started to scream that I knew what was going on; this wasn’t a hospital. This was a charnel house and that it was all a conspiracy to kill people for profit and by the point I stood up hysterically screaming that, why was I the only one who saw what was going on and how can everybody just sit there doing nothing, I woke up.
I’ve often replayed that scene in my head the last two years and I recall that it took some effort on my part, at the time, to not actually do what I had dreamt about. I sometimes regret not having screamed at that guy for calling us into that room to talk about the ghoulish plan in store. As it turned out, it was decided not to donate any of Ellen’s organs and I was greatly relieved. Cold, cold comfort. Still bitter about the hospital that must not ever, ever, be named? “Oh, a tad.”
The last year was much easier to endure than the previous year. I can now talk about what happened without becoming teary-eyed and choked up, when asked how I ended up moving to China. I still think about her most days, of course, and with the arrival of April, I started the countdown in my mind of the events and days preceding the disaster at the end of the month. As the days have drawn closer to the 28th my mood has turned somewhat somber and I have become withdrawn from activities involving merriment and social engagement. It seems a bit unseemly to be actively participating in events that are “light” and entertaining. How unfair that I can enjoy things when my partner is lying, forgotten in a lone, cold grave on a hillside in Mill Valley with only a stone marker to announce that a pile of ashes buried here was once a beautiful person. And of course I know that saying: “it’s unfair” is merely so much fist-shaking in the dark. I’ve scrupulously avoided using that term these last two years. I’m the first one to say: “Who says life is supposed to be fair?” We live in a universe of almost complete randomness and therefore, assigning meaning or blame is the ultimate “fool’s errand.” Bad things happen to good people (see Ellen.) Good things happen to bad people (see Trump.) “Shit happens,” is an almost universal mantra and one that needs to be embraced, otherwise, we will all go mad trying to make sense of senseless tragedy.
The only comfort I can bring to myself is knowing that I did everything I could to bring happiness to Ellen in the eight years we were together. I can look myself in the mirror without regret or recriminations, knowing that I was always “present and accounted for” in our relationship. And if I never have another meaningful relationship again with another person, at least I went out at the top of my game.
Two events this past year have put an exclamation point on Ellen’s life and death. Her oldest daughter Jen, gave birth to a boy six months ago. She named him Eli in honor of her mother. It will always bring tears to my eyes that Ellen never got to see her grandson. She loved babies and would have doted on him nonstop. Last week, Ellen’s faithful old dog, Harper, died. Unlike Ellen, Harper got to live the full measure of her years, dying in advanced age (if you’re a dog, that is.) Harper was adopted by her loyal dog-walker, Joan, when I left for China. My daughter, Sophie, who was insanely in love with Harper (who, she always called “Harpie”) and visited her over the last year was with her at the end. My heartfelt thanks to her for being there with the dog I lovingly called “Mutt!” See her FB posting about “Mutt”
So, as I face year three without my partner, I am sad. Grateful to be alive, I suppose, but sad, nonetheless. It probably doesn’t help that in two months I will be turning my personal clock on a new decade. I will become sixty years old on June 29, Yikes! When did THAT happen? Until now, I have remained completely unfazed about getting older. Turning forty didn’t bring up any issues. Turning fifty didn’t cause me to bat an eye (Ellen threw me a surprise birthday party.) but now, that upcoming number has certainly got my attention. It’s not like I can even say, “I’m starting to feel my age.” I’m in decent shape (for someone “my age”). I exercise regularly. I have no health issues whatsoever. I take no medications and despite dousing all my food with salt, I have normal blood pressure. Well, I assume I do. It’s been a year since I last had it taken. Still, I look in the mirror and see an old man looking back. Which is only fair because I am, after all, in the last one-third of my life (if I’m lucky, that is.) Ellen never made it to age 70, falling short of her 7th decade by two months. If I don’t make it to that decade, I suppose it would only be fair. Hey, who said “life’s not fair”?