Three weeks ago today my wife was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, when she left the house it was the last time I saw her alive. She has left me with the sole care of our three children, a task for which I feel unprepared, but there is no one else for the job.
The funeral is not until next week which seems like a very long time to wait and, although mortal remains are not very significant to me, the process of laying her to rest feels like it is important in the course of dealing with death and grief.
Anyone that knows me will know that my relationship with my late wife was far from smooth, we fought a lot and without resolution. It never occurred to me that anyone could be so intransigent, and even in the face of death would be so resistant to change, but that was how she was. To her, the fighting was as natural as any other process of life, her background made surrender impossible. After many years of constant battle I became tired of it and longed for a change, but she kept dragging me back into the war, yet claiming that it was me who needed it.
In the end I had to leave because our philosophy of life was so incompatible. When I announced that I would move out of the family home, I imagined that it would be possible to allow her to be who she was without me needing to try to change her anymore, but the needs of the children were still too important and I could not truly leave.
There was never any routine, my wife lived in chaos, and yet she expected the children to know intuitively what to do and if they didn’t she would fly into a terrible rage. Many times I would get a phone call asking me to tell them to do as she said, this was her way of dealing with things, instead of building a relationship she would issue decrees. She threatened often to call the council and say that she couldn’t handle them, and ask for them to be taken into care. This was her way of stopping me from leaving, it was very effective, using the children to get at me.
My choice would always have been to stay. The amount of work I put into the relationship precluded my leaving, I told her many times what I needed from her so that I could stay but she refused to listen. It is apparent to me now that her language skills were far more rudimentary than I thought, and that most of the words I used went by her like flowing water, but she wouldn’t engage. This is possibly a cultural thing, too. Where she was from they don’t talk about things the way we are taught to, her preferred way was to pretend everything was fine and move on, brushing it under the carpet until the next time. In fact, I longed for a conversation with her, it just couldn’t ever happen. On the deepest level there could never be an understanding between us, and this was why I moved out.
Although I am now faced with a huge task, this morning I woke with a new resolve. This job doesn’t need to be done in one big effort, there is plenty of time. Day by day I will continue to do what I consider to be the right thing. There will continue to be conferences and negotiation with my children, and they will learn about routine. Somehow, I will learn how to be a single parent, and I will somehow manage financially. The massive building project that I commenced at our house will somehow be completed, it will be my priority. My family will have a beautiful house in which to grow, it will contain memories of their mother because that is inevitable, but we will live there without her. A realisation has come to me that I started the project so that she wouldn’t die, that maybe, if I gave her something to look forward to she would find sufficient will to live. My efforts failed to save her, I am a builder so all I could offer her was some building. I wanted her to live, more than anything, but it is better this way for all of us.
She has gone to God now, and I now know that the level of pain she was concealing made her life unviable. The degree of upset from her childhood was beyond belief, it is not possible for me to comprehend how anyone could live with the memories that she had. Being born and growing up during the Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia, never looking at it or admitting the pain, building walls to keep the monsters at bay. When the walls began to crumble she was quickly overwhelmed by the flood of sticky, dark material. It is understandable that the things she had seen could not be integrated, I like to believe that she was the product of a collision between a sensitive child and something terrible. Possibly someone who was a little less sensitive might have been able to square it with themselves, it was only after knowing her for fourteen years that she told me anything at all about her childhood, and then only because her illness broke her open. When I talk to the children about her, we agree that the person she became during her illness was someone likeable. The hard shell was cracked and she revealed her humanity, terrible irony that it was only when she was dying that she became a person we all wanted to keep.
Despite all the bad things that happened between us, I was joined to her by a bond that couldn’t be broken. It feels like an historic thing, like an oft repeated pattern, we have lived this before many times. Now it is my determination that it will not repeat, what comes next will be something entirely new. I am certain that we are working together on this project, breaking the ties needs to be done on both sides, she made a huge step in the right direction by passing to the other side and I have deep respect for that. She has left a legacy which, if managed well, will free me from the need to struggle for the rest of my life. There will be a residual effect that my children can inherit, for this I say thank you.
I am sorry,
Please forgive me,
I love you.
Hear this, Dany, wherever you may be. Time to lay down the weapons and be at peace. You are in our thoughts. Rest easy my old friend