It’s been more than a decade since Diane and I embarked on the odyssey towards her death. An odyssey that lasted nine months and ended with a call to the Vanderbilt anatomical donation office to pick up her remains at the Hospice House.
The doctor told us she had terminal cancer, a week after we returned from a trip to New Orleans and two days after she won a 5K race. The news was shocking, to say the least. No warning, no warning signs, just the pronouncement of her impending death and the prediction she had only a few months to live.
When telling our daughters, we softened the news because our youngest daughter, Blair, was pregnant with her first child and having some physical difficulties with her pregnancy. We explained that the situation was serious but that Diane was undergoing chemotherapy to mitigate the disease.
Our grandson, then eleven, continued with his weekend visits. Always lifting our spirits with his humor, wisdom, and affection.
About two weeks after the initial shock, Diane and I returned to our usual upbeat notion that life was to be enjoyed, regardless of prevailing circumstances or eminent doom. Our attitudes remained in that mode for the nine months she lived.
Though gentle, delicate and diminutive, Diane was emotionally strong, authentic and pragmatic throughout the entire ordeal. She set goals for herself and us. She would live until the end of the year to see grandson enter junior high in the fall; be around for our fortieth anniversary and the birth of our granddaughter in late October; and participate in one final family Christmas. Her last day at her work as a caseload manager in the court system was December 17th. She died at hospice on January 9th having met all her goals.
Diane prepared a ring binder for me that included all the service and personal phone numbers I’d need; instructions for properly operating household appliances; scheduled maintenance; and where and how to access our savings and investments. Everything except how to fold fitted sheets and get spots out of wine glasses.
During the days of her illness, we continued to laugh more than we wept. There were many poignant moments when we held one another, sobbed, wiped the other’s tears, and intentionally blew our noses in unison. Bedtime was our favorite time together ever since our honeymoon night. As usual we spooned till’ dawn with my burly frame engulfing her dainty body. Sometimes her weeping awakened me or she would be roused by my nightly trip to the bathroom. We snuggle in tighter and drift into a curative repose.
Over this decade, my memories of Diane have faded. I can no longer see her face in my dreams, though I can still sense her presence. When I see lovers I always smile and sometimes warmly weep in empathy. I have loved other women since Diane’s death and will continue to do so until my dying breath. Of all that Diane taught me about life, her greatest lesson was how to love a woman and how to recognize love in return.