I recall that Saturday, May 13, 2006 morning standing by my husband's bedside, still absorbing the fact of his unexpected death during his sleep. The understanding and supportive police officer stood quietly across from me at the far corner of the foot of the bed. He had arrived at my home within a few short minutes in response to my emergency 911 phone call, after I discovered my husband's lifeless body whose facial skin was already cool to the touch of my fingertips and lips. The officer had offered his help with various questions as to what I might like him to do, or what did I want to do ... whatever. I just recall his calm, rational manner, but I cannot bring to mind many of the specific words exchanged between us.
I'm sure he must have inquired about the circumstances of my husband's death which I vaguely recall describing to him as I, too, was trying to make sense of it all. I think I told him of my husband having just seen his doctor the previous morning for a follow-up visit. For the prior two to three years, my husband had periodically undergone various tests to determine whether or not he had a small abdominal aortic aneurysm. Sometimes the aneurysm appeared to be present, sometimes not, but the medical action plan had been to track the small bulge for any increase in size. Tracking had been an ongoing problem since the bulge often was hidden from view during ultrasounds. The definitive angiogram or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) tests could not be administered since he had other serious medical problems making either test unsafe for him.
My husband had told me the Dr. said the results of this most recent ultrasound once again failed to reveal the aneurysm's presence, but they could not conclude it no longer existed, much less know its current size. Once I made that 911 call, I know I remained on the phone with the operator until the police officer arrived. I know I phoned each of our children, reaching my son immediately, leaving a message for my daughter for our later conversation, but I cannot recall making those calls, when in the sequence of activities I made them, or receiving calls returned. I do remember my son saying he would immediately begin making arrangements to fly home. He arrived later that night. My daughter and granddaughter came home at a mutually agreed upon later date, but we had frequent phone contact daily until then. I don't recall whether that day or later days I phoned others significant in my life.
I knew I must remain strong for my children and myself. I was very good at that with lots of experience. Always before for me, once the crisis was over would be time to emotionally let down. This time proved to be the same only to a degree, but different in so many other ways including the process that lay ahead of adapting to my life being forever changed.
Later the officer went outside to direct the emergency teams. I expected their arrival would be heralded first by the large red fire truck with sirens screaming, soon followed by a small red paramedic truck, from having experienced that scenario before numerous times when I had to call them for my mother. This time, when they arrived on my street, there was no siren since I presume they had been forewarned there was no life in the balance here. An advance directive clearly specified no extraordinary means were to be taken to prolong my husband's life, but he was past the point of having such techniques administered anyway.
Before the officer went outside to direct paramedics to our house, I stood by my dead husband's side, thoughts racing through my mind of those hours from the last time I had spoken with him, had seen him breathing peacefully in his sleep, until the moment I found him. So many words came to mind. For much too long there had been sensitive topics around the edges of which we skirted, that might gradually emerge from time to time. There were those topics with other issues of more recent vintage where the rocky barriers had only begun to be worn down, allowing our words to begin sliding more easily over their once razor sharp edges.
I told the officer, as though somehow he could call back my husband and we could rectify this matter that was pressing on my mind, "There was so much we needed to talk about...so much that we hadn't had an opportunity to yet say...."
In retrospect now, I pause to think, that fateful Saturday the 13th day he died was the same day and date we had begun our first full day as husband wife so many decades ago. We were married on the preceding Friday night the 12th -- the exact same day and date I shared my husband's last wakeful living moments, two months shy of our forty-third wedding anniversary. Just imagine, in forty-three years, we still had much love and laughter to share, so much more we needed to talk about.