Sacred things.

It’s still very hard for me to think about the day he died. While I have visited the hospice grounds several times, I haven’t visited the memories of his last days that often. It’s still too painful. Even thinking over the entire year that is now behind me, I revisit bits and pieces, grief flings certain moments back in my face, but to absorb it all, I’m still not able.

But I would like to share one thing that I really loved about my husband. He had beautiful hands; big, strong, perfectly proportioned, and soft. He loved holding hands. He also liked giving foot massages, and had funny names for the self-taught techniques he’d employ. My feet loved him. All the animals loved him, too, because he’d woo them to sleep with full-body rubs. His touch was magical at taming a beast, at turning a grouch into a slouch, at kneading the hard edges out of a tough day. Man, it was good to be a pet in our house…or a foot. Or a wife. My husband had a lot of love to give, and he wasn’t shy about showing it.

I remember noticing his hands on one of our first dates, we took a picnic to the lake, went swimming. Afterwards, as we dried in the sun, he put his hand on my back. I completely melted. I felt so cared for, protected. Instantly safe in his love.

He also became the designated jar- and bottle-opener in the house. A small thing, but a big trigger of his absence. I’ve actually thrown out several full, unopened jars of spaghetti sauce this past year, in a complete rage. I really wanted to hurl them against the wall, a red messy burst of anger against cancer and death, but at least my rational mind was smart enough to aim for the garbage bin.

* * *

My husband died early in the morning on May 28, 2012. He had been breathing heavily all night. I lay next to him for a while, but then moved to the chair, worried that I was bothering him, worried that he needed room, to breath, to be…to die.

It’s the strangest thing, you go to hospice knowing you are there because someone is going to die. But, truthfully? I didn’t understand that he was going to die there, on that day, on that morning. If I had, I wouldn’t have left his side for a second. But my mind could not make the leap from “before” to “after”.

It has taken an entire year, navigating this stoney path of loss, for my mind to grasp it. No wonder I am tired. My psyche has been working hard, and there’s no one here to massage my feet. I’m the only left walking the dog, a dog that we used to walk together. Every day. We’d walk, talk, hold hands, critique our neighbors’ gardens, discuss what we were going to plant in our own…

So I often think about him when I am walking. I think about his hands, and how I miss them. How I miss him. And sometimes I think back to his last day. How, after he died, I left the room for a while. In shock. I don’t even remember where I went. When I returned, they had folded his hands across his chest. They looked so perfect, as if they’d been carved out of marble. I remember thinking that maybe I should take a photo, so I would never forget.

But some things are sacred. Too sacred to be photographed. Some too sacred even to be to talked, or written about.

And why would I need a photo? The image is etched in my heart. Me, looking at him, touching his hands, one last time, as if captured by the great artist above, the day that my world turned to stone, my husband’s beautiful hands never again to touch my back, my feet, my face, his hands never again to open a jar, or soften one of life’s many blows.

7 thoughts on “Sacred things.

  1. My stepfather photographed my mother after she died. At the time I felt a mild aversion to the act of photographing her after her death and I’ve only looked at the photos once. While their presence is strangely reassuring, I haven’t “needed” the images, as I remember it all. Peace to you.

  2. I know what you mean about the image being etched in your heart. My husband had such a peaceful look on his face just after he died that I don’t think I’ll ever, ever forget it. {{{hugs}}}}

  3. Your post today has touched my soul … my husband’s hands … the last day at hospice … beautiful words of remembrance. Thank you. Bless you.

  4. Hands are huge… my grandfather’s, my father’s, my daughter’s…my own, the aging image of my mother’s. I wish that I could massage your feet for you. I have just decided to mostly retire from 12 years as a licensed massage therapist. If I could give you a single gift, other than a coffee card, it would be to hope that you can find someone you can trust where you are to give you a massage… the quiet time & space can be so comforting. Ask your friends. Love to you… and peace. ~Melissa

  5. Oh, how I love your writing. This post really touched me and left a catch in my throat at the end. Hands are so expressive and tell stories our faces don’t always show. Next to the look of sheer joy and pride on my Mom’s face when she would open her door to me, it is her soft, sculpted, loving hands I miss the most. My heart is with you…thank you for sharing this about your husband.

  6. Your post is as beautiful as his hands were. I know how important hands are. I am glad that you have that image of perfection etched into your brain. Thank you for sharing him and his love with all of us out here who never had the honor and pleasure to know him.

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