Ironically, my Pete’s final days were riddled with reminders of new life.
Just weeks before he went home, I was encouraged to summon his friends and family to say their final goodbyes. When his best friend arrived late Wednesday night, he immediately went in to see him. He had news and was anxious to share. From what I was told, he revealed his wife was pregnant only to have Pete respond with, “I know. It’s a boy.” Aaron was totally perplexed. First of all, he had waited to tell him in person and it was too early to know the baby’s gender. The question was, how had Pete known?
Over the course of the next few days, we attempted to capture the rare moments of lucidity and spoke fondly of his life’s accomplishments. We also discussed the lives of our children, his hopes for them, and the trepidation with which we would pursue new life after he was gone.
Although he was mostly unaware, that Thursday he rallied. For those of you who have been touched by terminal illness, you know what that term means. That day, I was struck by the life in his eyes. It was the same life I had fallen in love with the moment we met. That day he gave us a glimpse of the old Pete, the one who unabashedly expressed emotion while wrapped in the comforts of those he loved most.
The following Monday, just hours before he passed, I found myself at his bedside reading to him. Our beloved Pete had been in a semi-comatose state for days. As time passed I could feel him slipping more and more. As I read from those pages, a glorious description of Heaven emerged. Despite the joy it elicited, as I envisioned the new life he would soon have, tears of sadness still fell freely. I couldn’t help it. I was struck by an acute awareness that I would soon lose him and it hurt something terrible.
Our Pete died just hours later. I was giving the kids a bath when my mother-in-law emerged from his room to reveal the news. Although it was something we’d hoped and prayed for, that he would be relieved of the suffering he’d endured for so long, it was heart wrenching to hear it had come so soon. This is the bittersweet reality of having a loved one with terminal illness. You find yourself conflicted, stuck between believing for healing, hoping for more time, and praying their final breath will finally overtake them.
When I rushed in to confirm it was true, he looked so peaceful. I remember touching him, kissing his forehead, and confessing my love for him. Then I broke into uncontrollable sobs and fell to the floor. It couldn’t be true, I thought. Surely, this wasn’t our reality. And, then it happened, in the midst of my sobbing, he came to me and demanded I, “pick myself up by my bootstraps”.
With that, he reminded me that I was capable and that everything would be okay. It was with this attitude, I have moved forward. Ironically, even in his death Pete gave me a reason to continue living. I will forever be indebted to him for giving me permission to pursue new life, even in his loss.