Free will, it is a bitch.

Blood

Free will, it is a bitch.  (The Devil’s Advocate)

So what is supposed to happen when you are generally a good person, work hard, and marry a great person?  Not what you see here.  This is Felecci being given extra stem cells from her sister when the remission was in doubt.  Roughly 6 years later, she would be dead at 39.

People getting sick and dying is what happens on TV dramas to other people; that can’t possibly happen to me.  I eat healthy and I work out (now anyway, don’t look at me in that tone of voice).  I even suffer through a traditional church mass every once in awhile. I am honest, loving, hard working.  Shouldn’t good things happen to me?

That’s what we are taught to think from a young age.   We are taught that if you eat your veggies, say your prayers, and eat your vitamins that good things will happen to you.  And anything Hulk Hogan tells me has got to be right, right?!

Turns out, not really.  We are all very small and fragile in this universe.  We can slip in the shower, be the unfortunate victim of a terrorist attack, get hit by a car, or yes….even get Cancer.

In the groups I frequent for widowers the question about WHY always comes up.

I too had this question.  Why did Felecci die and not me?  Why am I here to have to pick up the pieces and live life for both of us because she won’t get to?  Why couldn’t we go together, instead of having to figure all of this out without my best friend to confide in?

The answer I came up with is Free Will.  See, everything they told you about being good was a lie.  You are not rewarded in this life for doing good, and you are not guaranteed punishment in this life for doing bad.  They tell you in church you will be rewarded in the next life, but we aren’t really paying attention.  We think if we do good we will receive good.  In actuality, you are guaranteed nothing.

(Picture Gene Wilder here, as I have no budget to pay for copyrighted gifs)

The price of having Free Will is that nothing is guaranteed.  Bad things can happen to amazing people.  It isn’t fair, but neither is life.  

If you were guaranteed happiness by simply being good, then what is the point and meaning of being good?  Everyone would be doing it because there was a clear reward.  

You have kids?  Doesn’t protect you.  Neither does helping your partner through substance abuse.  Bad people don’t check the morality of the victim before committing murder.

Religious faith teaches people to believe that they will be rewarded in the afterlife, but this is not certain either.  We have no way to know.  What if god only cares about what is in our hearts, and not the sum of our actions but how we feel exactly at the moment we die?

So I asked myself: Self, does the price of free will mean that my wife of 12 years gets Cancer based on random chance and there is nothing that I can do to change that?  I’m sorry but yes.  

Even if your partner had a hand in their demise, there is little we can do as hindsight is 20/20.  All we can do is the best we can in the moment.  We do what we think is right, and hope.  Sometimes, hope is not enough.

So why exercise free will and do good at all?  Many people don’t.

They lie cheat and steal to get what they want.  If you believe the world is a zero sum game you too can go out there and fight for yours.  You only have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror, and you only have yourself  to worry about.

I try to choose a different path.  I don’t always live up to it, but I try.  I try to be honest, admit when I make mistakes, and forgive when forgiveness is asked for.  I help when I can and have the means, and I don’t expect anything back.  I don’t look for anything from the world, because it is too fickle for me to rely on.

I surround myself with good people and disassociate with those whom seek to do harm.  I try to offer assistance to those in trouble, but I don’t compromise my values or morals, and I try my hardest not to judge.  

When I discover that I don’t live up to these things, or if I fail in these things through human error, I ask for forgiveness.

Since Felecci has died, I have been changed in many ways.  But in my darkest hours, friends and family came to make sure I was alright and keep me from drowning in my own grief.  Remember what I said about not having rewards for being good?  That isn’t entirely true.

Maybe we are all in this together, and by helping one another we can overcome more in unison than we can standing alone fighting over the scraps.

So if you know someone who has lost their partner in life, take it from me…

They are NOT ok.  They are not going to be ok for a very long fucking time.  They need help, and they don’t know what it is.  If you see something you can help with, help them.  It is the good thing to do.  I guarantee you nothing for it, but you will have no trouble looking yourself in the mirror.

If you have lost your partner…

Find others who know the pain.  Talk with them.  It will save your life and sanity.  Do not fight this alone – it is too difficult of a problem to handle.  If it is too much, seek help.  This pain can take you to very dark places if you let it.

Remember, no matter what has happened, you did the best you can.  Sometimes, we can’t predict what will happen.  Maybe had we gotten a do over you would have done better, but hindsight.

We must not make ourselves feel guilty because of our loss.  We did the best we could given the moment.

 

The hardest thing I have ever done.

Wedding Picture

Before talking about the worst day of my life, I want to show you a picture from the best day of my life so far.  On October 29th, 2005 I married Felecci.  If you can’t tell us apart, she is the cute one.

We met in college, and we were that couple that were always snuggling together on the couches between classes.  When you are nineteen and acing all of your classes and you have a beautiful woman who for some reason seems interested in your nerdy ass, you tend to be an optimist – even if the struggle is real just to make enough money to get through college.

Fast forward to late 2009 and we find out what is wrong with her for the past 6 months.  Hodgkins Lymphoma.  Shit, now what the fuck do we do?  Ok, we don’t panic.  We find the best doctors in NYC and start treatment within 2 weeks.

Fast forward to September 12th 2017.  Recently brought into the emergency room because her lungs are so bad she can’t walk more than 2 steps.  Two days prior, I have to assure her attending doctor that I understand she is going to die, we are just trying to make her more comfortable.  I come into her room early because she calls me sounding upset that morning.  When I get in there, her heart rate is 160 which even for her is really high.

They try to move her and her heart nearly stops right there.  I watch as it went to 170, then to 40, then to 30 as they tried to move her only to stop.  The doctor pulls me out of the room, tells me in her condition she can’t be moved off of that bed without risking killing her.

I ask what else can you do for her to make her comfortable?  Morphine.  Shit, we have come to morphine.  He explains to me what this will do to her, that it will slow her breathing and respitory and in all likelyhood will lead to accelerating her condition.  She is going to die.

This was the first time in years I showed emotion to ANYONE besides my wife.  Six years of bottling and compartmentalizing the feelings has finally caught up with me.  I suck it back down – I just need a few more hours.  I need to get her sisters here and I need to do it fast.

I talk with the doctor and they give something to slow her heart rate, but it’s temporary.  Two of her three sisters and her mother get to the hospital that day and spend the day there.  Sadly, that night the medicine is no longer having an effect, her heart rate is back to 165 and the simple act of taking a breath is exhausting.  Cancer is choking her to death slowly.

She looks at me with tears in her eyes and asks what to do.  I can’t tell her to take the morphine, I can’t make that decision.  “Simply moving you could cause your heart to crash, I am sorry but the only option we have is some Ativan to try to relax or to ask for the morphine drip.”  She looks at me, holds my hand, and asks for the drip.

I feel every emotion at once.  Fear because this is the moment I have been ignoring.  Relief because I don’t have to watch another day of torture.  Urgency is the most pressing issue, because she is still in terrible discomfort, so I go and get the doctors to make the order.

They set up the morphine and they move us into another room.  One last foot rub.  One last kiss.  One more I love you.  The last thing my wife said to me: “I love you so much, thank you for taking care of me.”  As she drifted to sleep, I queued up Dido’s Life For Rent album and played it on loopback.  I wanted her to die to the music I proposed to.  I wanted her to wander into sleep at peace.

Forty four hours.  From the mourning of the 12th till the morning of the 14th when she died, I remained by her side.  I had dedicated 18 years of my life in total to this woman.  It was literally half of my lifetime to this point.  I remained awake pacing, sitting quietly, crying, and for no more than 5 minutes at a time stealing just a bit of rest by closing my eyes.

At or around 5:00 am on the 14th I started to feel cold.  I wasn’t paying too much mind to it and asked the nurse for a blanket.  Ten minutes later Felecci would open her eyes halfway and take her last breath.  During this period was when the grief hit me the hardest and when I came to believe that the cold I was feeling was her spirit getting ready to depart.  During the first stage of my grieving, I was having insomnia.  One night I woke up suddenly as I had just relived this experience again.  I will end this entry with what I wrote on facebook one night.

 

The hardest thing I have ever done

5:00 am

Awake for 44 hours now.  At this point, I’m not even tired any more.  I will die here if necessary.  I’m not even able to get 15 minutes of sleep.  

Dido’s “White Flag” starts up again.  Fitting that this would be the soundtrack to the best and worst day of my life.  July 2nd 2006, I proposed to this same song.  She cried for 2 hours.  I’ve been crying for more than that now.

It’s cold, why the fuck am I cold?  Not as cold as she is.  God, I hope she doesn’t feel this.  Nurse shows up, I ask for a sheet for myself.  Let me tuck her in, if she can feel this she would want to be under the covers.

5:02am

Wrapping myself in the sheet, look up at the time.  The thermostat on the clock says 71 degrees.  I must be exhausted.  Don’t feel it, don’t think I care anymore.  

Lay down in the chair, head up against the wall.  Maybe I can get 15 minutes.  Takes 20 seconds to give up.  Hospital chairs are not comfortable.  Fuck the asshole who designed them.

Check the oxygen.  4.5 liters, Jesus babe you normally use 2.  Monitor shows 92% oxygen.  Don’t want to mess with it, the morphine is going to do its work.

5:03 am

Sit down by you.  Try to warm your hand.  Rub your feet a bit.  Can you feel me?

5:05 am

Stand up, pace a bit.  Check the morphine drip.  Still going.  Odd, your heart rate went from 150 to 140.

5:06 am

Heart rate is starting to jump.  Shit, is this it?  God I am not ready.  We can’t go back, but I am not ready.  It shouldn’t be you.  You’re better than I am.

Let me fix your blanket.  Your head tilted to the left again.  I want you to be sitting the way you would want to sit.

5:08 am

Heart rate is really erratic now.  Going between 110 and 145.  I know this is coming.  All I can do is hold your hand.  It’s ok, you did everything you could.  God, my arm is cold.

5:09 am 

Despair, relief, sadness, guilt, loneliness…..loss.  Heart rate hit 80.  It’s ok, I love you.  Your fight is over.  Heart rate monitor stops reading.  Nurse walks in, wants to check the leads to your heart monitor.  Thinking the dumbass know how to read a chart?  Not her fault, doing her job.   I’m just having a bad day.

“I think she has passed”.  As I say this, Felecci takes one last gasp, staring past us.  What do you see?  Is it better than this?  Will I get to see you again?

“I need a few minutes”.  God, the weight.  I can’t even get out a sob, the pain is so bad i can’t even sob.  Breath, I don’t have to hold it back anymore.  God this feeling.  I can’t describe how much this has overcome me.  I can’t hold this, it’s going to destroy me.  

The cold wasn’t my fatigue, it wasn’t the temperature in the room and it sure as fuck isn’t my imagination.  It’s you isn’t it?  You told me you would haunt me.  I’m laughing and crying because this would totally be like you.  Only you would figure out a way to make me laugh now.  

I already miss you.

I can feel two cold bands like hands around my elbow.  I feel it now while writing this.  I heard the sound of things falling in the bathroom when my thoughts turned negative.  You know I’ve vacuumed every week?  Ok, I need to do the bedroom this week, give me a break I was busy.

Your sisters are amazing.  Think I’ve spoken to them through email and text more than I did when you were here.   They understand, and I think they “get” me a little better now.  

How many nights will I relive this?  How do I carry this?  How the fuck does anyone carry this?  

Sorry, I still suck at folding laundry.   Next time you haunt me, you may want to redo it.

I have been struggling to put this into words since 9/14/17 at 5:10 am. I am reliving this in my head, and it has power over me. If no one knows, then it continues to have power.

Don’t tell me it is going to be ok, and don’t feel bad for me. That is not what I want. Fuck pity – I do not require it, you miss the point.

I want people to know that I loved this woman deeply. I would have traded places if I could have. And as terrible as this experience is, I am glad to have had her in my life. Tonight, maybe I can start to let her go. I can’t keep these feelings without them tearing me apart.

Maybe if I let them go, I can find peace. Being Stoic isn’t working. My wife gets to be right AGAIN. She would get a laugh at that.