The Saturday before Chris died I made the decision to make him DNR. I had been thinking it over since getting to the ICU a few days earlier. When I unexpectedly ended up spending the night away from him on Friday, I had woken up in the night and realized that if something happened while I was not with him, he would be by default a full code status, and I could return to find him on a ventilator (from which he would never get off until another decision was made). Experiencing that sense of mid-night panic made the DNR decision very clear to me.
I asked Chris’s parents to come over Saturday night so I could tell them what I had decided that day and also to discuss how they had been experiencing him when they sat with him in his room. I needed to know that what I felt about his health and his life wasn’t felt only by me. By God’s great kindness, we were all having the same thoughts, reaching the same conclusions, letting go, in unison, of our beloved.
I wasn’t very emotional in the conversation. I was straightforward, fairly direct. We had real ground to cover. At one point I said, “I just want you to know that I’ve spent the first half of today crying about all of this.” My sister, who was also with us, said, “Right now, you’re the woman who lifts a car off of her baby. She has the strength to do it because of love.”
I’ve realized in these days, this week, since making the decision to let go of my husband’s life, since watching him die, since burying his body, that I’ve been lifting the car off of the baby for four months. I lie here in bed now, so tired, and I have no idea how I’ve lived these months. I have no idea how I drove back and forth each day from my house to the hospital, saying goodbye each way to the person or people who matter most to me in this world. I have no idea how I lived in a hospital for two months and watched as everything physically familiar about Chris changed. I have no idea how I could handle waking up any given night to his body bleeding and oozing from unnatural places. I have no idea how I watched him endure excruciating pain. Then I would go home, across town. I have no idea how I would pull up to our house and be as enthusiastic to see the kids as they were to see me. I don’t know how I would jump on the trampoline with them and do puzzles and read books. Of course–I had help. So much practical help. But how did my heart do it??
This is not a rhetorical question. I have been sincerely asking myself this. And I can reach only one conclusion: I was carried. I was carried through each day. I was brought through the valley of the shadow of death, nearly unbeknownst to me. I could never have imagined it rightly; in my broken imagination, I would’ve been crushed and alone. Because left to my own strength, I would have been crushed and alone.
I can only say: Thanks be to God. Thanks be to our Heavenly Father. Thanks be to our Good Shepherd. He didn’t only carry me; he carried each of us, even Chris. Even in Chris’s darkest days, he was brought through, I know it.
Now we are beginning a new part of the journey. I’m scared, and I’m sad. My mind zooms ahead to survey the landscape, and I don’t like it. Where is Chris? Why am I alone to raise our kids? It’s too much to bear.
But I have an Ebenezer stone. I have got to stop and set up this stone so that I can always look back and remember: We were carried. We were carried through the unimaginable. Remember. Remember. Each day he will carry us. That is what he does. Remember.