Today would have been our 14th wedding anniversary. We had a nice, small wedding in a friend’s house. She had a large great room with stairs coming down from the gameroom above. The girls and I readied ourselves upstairs while guests gathered downstairs. We had rehearsed the day before in the empty house, but on the day of the wedding, the girls froze midway down the stairs. My maid of honor had to escort them the rest of the way. Once downstairs, Kristen went to Jeff, hugged him, and took her seat next to my mom. Alex was to do the same, but she was so scared and shy that she didn’t let go of Jeff. He walked her on his knees to her seat, with her still clinging to him. I could hear the laughter upstairs, but didn’t know what was going on.
We didn’t write our own vows and I don’t remember what the pastor had us say. I assume it was the usual. We were already committed to each other in my eyes. I didn’t see the point in the piece of paper, though I do love the ceremony of weddings. I suppose the paper is a necessity for taxes, insurance and whatnot.
Most of the attendees were work friends, so our wedding photos look a little like a work gathering. All in all, it was a wonderful day; the beginning of our lives together. We moved into our house some three months later. Life was good. This wonderful man had joined our family, bravely taking on kids who were not his own and the accompanying ex-husband.
I woke up this morning crying as I remembered driving by the hospice last week on the way to Wendy’s for lunch. I then attempted to visualize a different route to Wendy’s from work. (At 6:00 in the morning, this is not easy.) The route I take on autopilot takes me by the hospice where Jeff spent his last days. I can’t look at it. Can’t even see it in my peripheral vision. This means I have to look in the opposite direction as I drive by, which makes it hard and a bit dangerous to drive. There are still too many reminders, too much pain there. It’s where he took his last breath, spoke his last gibberish, last opened his eyes, where I last held his hand.
I formed the thought today that I didn’t get to say goodbye. Well, I did. But I didn’t. How do you say goodbye to someone who isn’t ready to go? Even his first night at hospice, he didn’t want to lie down. He kept feeling he wanted to go to the bathroom, but as he would sit on the side of the bed trying to gather strength, the feeling would pass. He was too groggy and weak anyway. So, I hope he has heard me in the last year when I’ve spoken to him, that he has seen me working and trying my damnedest. I guess the way I’ve said goodbye is by continuing to live.