Say what you need to say...

 Photo by  Nina Cheng

Photo by Nina Cheng

Alright friends, it’s time for my obligatory New Year’s post (albeit a little late). In many years past, I’ve written a blurb about what I’ve learned during the year, a moment of reflection. Last year, I kept it very short and sweet, about embracing “today” and not waiting for a new week, month or year to live. What the world didn’t know, that day, was that we already knew Kenny was in trouble. If I’m really honest, on this day last year, I knew in my gut he wasn’t making it. For two weeks straight, I cried (and cried, and criiiiiiied). It was like I suddenly let four years worth of fear and exhaustion come to the surface. Four years of stuffed down “what ifs,” and pep talks that it would get better, we’d get back on track, he’d come back. I remember, one morning just after the new year, putting Nathan’s baby clothes away in his drawer when the surreality of it all washed over me. My baby would never know his father. My big kids might barely remember him. My husband, that I so fearlessly and with total abandon, ran to at the end of a sandy aisle to marry, was never coming back to me. It wasn’t going to get better, it was only going to get worse. My knees buckled, and I fell to the floor and sobbed into my one year old’s onesie, like I never have before in my life. Loud, and messy, and so hard my chest hurt for days.

2017…well I can’t say it will be a year I look back on fondly. I haven’t talked publicly (or even privately) about the details of those first few months of the year. I likely never will. It was, for lack of a better word, brutal. I gave standard answers to all of the amazing, lovely, wonderful people who checked in with me daily. I turned my phone off at night, exhausted from the facade. I felt so broken inside, I was convinced I was going with him; and at the time, part of me wished I could. While the specifics will stay between Kenny’s family, me, and anyone who happened to witness any of it, I will say one thing. I’ve always been a believer that open communication is key in life. I was always a communicative person; however, having a spouse with a life-threatening illness changes the game. Suddenly there’s stuff you can’t say, fears you can’t convey because you know it’d cause them fear, or pain or discomfort. Conversations you don’t have, even if they’re truly necessary, because you don’t want them to think you’ve lost faith that they’ll survive it. We didn’t have those conversations we should have had. I tried a few times in the beginning, but he couldn’t…whether by design or choice, I couldn’t tell you (and I’ll never know). 

The last month drained me of everything I had. I found myself going through the motions, grasping at straws to get through the day. The day that Kenny had his last bit of consciousness, I had no clue it was coming so soon. Somehow, we all seemed to have that last grain of denial in us, that told us there was more time. He had trouble walking, so I wrapped his arms around my shoulders, his Mom held him from the side, and we shuffled him to his bed. As he began to lay down, I said, in the most chipper voice I could muster up, “I love you!” And smiled at him. He said “I love you, too,” and kissed me on the cheek before crashing down on the bed, never to be totally conscious ever again. I think about it all the time. How grateful I am that I said I love you that minute. I can’t tell you how many times I said it in the weeks leading up. I was so devoid of energy, and so full of fear, I’m not sure I said it at all. He had tiny moments of his eyes being open after that, seconds worth of acknowledgements that he knew we were all there, that he knew we loved him, that he loved us; but that was the last time I ever heard his voice say the words, and the last time I know, without doubt, that he heard me, too. If I hadn’t said it then, I might be writing a very different story right now. 

So the moral of the story is simple: say what you need to say, and say it well. We all know that life is short. Health is fleeting. None of us know when that last moment is. As I’ve said all along, Mac trucks and mishaps are a real thing. Make sure the people you love know that you love them. If you choose not to resolve issues with people, let them go. If you choose to resolve them, choose your words wisely; you can’t unsay hurtful things. Don’t be afraid to show people you care about them. Of any regrets I have in life, the time I spent caring for Kenny isn’t one. In fact, it’s the only thing that liberated me. 

Through the sleepless nights that followed; through the inhumane experience of watching him slowly wither away, until he was gone; the only solace I found was that I knew, that he knew, that I love him. Through planning his funeral, through the months of confusion and consternation after; figuring out who the hell I was without him, the guilt of moving forward with my life…the one shred of peace I ever found was knowing that he knew that I love him. In finding myself again, in accepting myself as I am now, my life as it is now, in finding enjoyment in the life I have now…the reason I can do ANY of that, is because I know that he knew that I love him. 

Megan Courtney