Andrew was very good at DIY. Sadly I’m not so good. ‘Doing It Yourself’ has taken on a whole new meaning now that I’m doing it myself, without him. He had a workshop that was neat and orderly. Now it’s a dumping ground for stuff I can’t find space for in the rest of the house. There are tools for every possible situation but I struggle to find a simple screw driver to change a battery. I feel inadequate and useless. I want to scream and often do at the frustration of not being able to get a quick fix. Things taken for granted before seem such a chore now. Taking the rubbish out, washing up after I’ve made tea, glueing stuff back together, changing light bulbs, bleeding the radiators… Please come back Andrew and help me. I need you! I need you to tell me where that screwdriver has got to. I need you to tell me how to fix the security light to the outside of the wall. I need you to help me cut the hedge back. You did all of those things while I was making tea, bathing the kids, shopping…. Now I’m faced with doing your jobs too. That’s not fair! Stop shirking your duties. Don’t leave it all for me too do. Granted good friends and family are helping. Their kindness has made me cry. But I have to ask. I have to make a call for it to happen. You would just do. You would do a better job than me. I suspect you would be disappointed with my efforts. I should have taken more notice. I should have taken down notes. I shouldn’t be doing it by myself.
My husband had a good life and he also had a good death. He died on 13 March 2013. A date that will always be etched on my brain. A date I’ve written down many times. Andrew was 48 and left behind me, his wife of nearly 12 years our 10 year old son, and our 7 year old daughter. His five year battle with cancer was over. He’d given it all he had. He’d fought to stay alive for as long as possible for our children but it won. It took him from us. We had to let him go. I was a widow at 44. We were both too young for this to happen. We were given between three to six months to prepare for death. In the end we got three. The news came at the beginning of December. Andrew and I decided to keep it from the kids until after Christmas. It became both the best and the worst Christmas we ever had. We threw a lot of money at it. The kids got spoilt. We bought the finest food and drink. We went to great efforts to enjoy ourselves. We succeeded but it was hard. Hard keeping up the charade of happiness when inside we were screaming. Hard to hear all the ‘happy new years’, ‘here’s to a great 2013’ and ‘this is going to be your year guys’. Hard to think we would never be sharing those times again. The next few months were filled with hospital appointments, community care and emotionally charged last visits by friends and relatives. Life took on a surreal quality having death so near. Our humour got blacker. We clung to each other as our fear mounted yet also found ourselves travelling in very different directions. Andrew was preparing to leave and I was preparing to be left. Our journeys were going to be very different. As Andrews health deteriorated so did our grip on reality. We were in our own little bubble, that just happened to be in a car travelling towards a brick wall at great speed. Don’t ask me who was driving. Death became all we could talk and think about. It should have been life. Andrew should have been ticking things off a bucket list and living his last dreams. Instead he was planning his funeral and I was buying black outfits for the children. Its important to look good whilst mourning. Like I said, surreal. We managed at home as best we could. But after one horrendous morning trying to get to hospital, Andrew conceded that a hospice might be best. It meant I could be his wife again, rather than his carer and nurse. It meant we didn’t have to struggle. It meant we could prepare for his death. He had one more week to live. In the end, Andrews death was as we had planned. In the end he had a good death. He managed to say goodbye to all those who counted. He’d been given the last rites. The kids got to say a final goodnight. He wasn’t in pain. He wasn’t scared. He was at peace. He was in my arms. I got to see his final breath fall in his chest. I got to tell him he was done now and that he could go. I got to hold him. I got to share 16 years of his good life. But perhaps most importantly I got to share his good death.