I finally found myself in the year of 2010. The reason I say this is because I was lost for the two years prior to 2010. My husband died and my world went blank for two years. In June, 2008, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Two weeks later, he died. I did not have time to process the fact he was dying because it happened so suddenly. I can talk about this now. Before now, I was not able to.
My husband was a large man, but not fat. He was 6'2″ and weighed 185 lbs. I think that most of that 185 pounds was muscle. He was a contractor and built homes for a living. He was a good provider. He was also a good husband. I wish I could say he was also a good father, but unfortunately, we were not able to have children. Prior to his diagnosis we had been talking about me getting fertility treatments. Once he was diagnosed with late stage cancer, we couldn't even think about that anymore because it was no longer our priority.
The doctor told us that there was no cure for his cancer, especially at the late stage that it was. I wanted to fight. I wanted him to do everything he could to try and beat that damn cancer. But he said no. He said that it would only prolong his suffering and he didn't want to do that. He asked me to try and understand.
“Understand what? Understand that you don't want to live anymore? Understand that you don't want to be my husband anymore?”
“No sweetheart,” he told me softly, “that is not it at all. I love you more today than the day I married you. I just refuse to be a burden on you. I refuse to suffer trying to get a cure, trying to find some little grain of hope, when in truth, there is none.”
The tears stung my cheeks with a fire I hated worse than anything I had ever felt before. “I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! DAMN YOU CANCER, I HATE YOU!” My sobs left me gasping for breath. He had his arms around me, understanding the agony I was in. We just stood there holding each other. Neither of us, at that time, knew how long he had left to live. I never even dreamed he would be taken from me just two short weeks later. I know now that that was the best. That meant he didn't have to suffer long. I was the one that was left to sufffer.
Like I said, I don't remember much of those two years after he died. My mind pretty much went blank. I just went through the motions of living, but I wasn't living, in truth, I was dead inside.
Two weeks after James died, I finally had the nerve to look through some of his things. I wanted to smell his smell. I wanted to touch what he touched. I just wanted to be near him and this was as close as I could get now. In the pocket of his jacket, I found a letter. The letter was addressed to me.
To my beautiful wife,
If you are reading this, then I have gone. I want you to know how very much I loved you and will always love you. You are and always will be, my soul mate. I am sure right now your world is filled with darkness. Please get out of that darkness. Stay in the beautiful light that you are meant to be in. Color your world with happiness and joy. Fill your world with love and friends. I love you so very much, my dear beautiful wife.
Your loving husband,
For six months I slept until 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. I only got out of bed because I felt like I had to. I would have preferred just to have stayed in bed. I hadn't worked since James and I got married. He didn't want me to work and I was happy with that. I just wanted to be a good wife and someday a good mother. Now, I am going to have to find a job and get a life. Whatever the hell that is. But now wasn't the time for that. Now wasn't the time for anything for that matter.
I read his letter every day for six months. I would read it, kiss it, touch it, and smell it. It was getting very worn and tattered. I put it inside my favorite book, next to the rose James gave me Valentine's Day.
Eight months after James died, my sister quit her job in Boston and moved to Albuquerque to be with me and find a job here. I was glad she did that for me. I needed her. God knows, I needed someone to help me get through this hell.
She found a job right away and settled into her new life here very well. I was thankful to have her company. Her presence helped pull me out of the darkness I had surrounded myself in.
On May 1, 2010, she and I decided to go to “Albuquerque Old Town.” For the first time in two years, I finally laughed again. She and I ate Stuffed Sopaipillas. They were sopaipillas that were opened up and filled with delicious ground beef, pinto beans, green chili, lettuce, tomatoes, and shredded cheese.
We browsed through the shops and enjoyed the beautiful southwestern art. My sister bought a small squash blossom necklace.
Finally, I felt alive again.
When I saw this on the side of one of the shops, I felt like James was giving me his message once again, “Color your world with happiness and joy.”
“I did it sweetheart. I finally did it,” I whispered.
The brilliant southwest sun soaked through my skin into every fiber of my being. It was time.