Monday, March 30, 2009

Starting at the beginning

It's almost been 3 months since my husband died. In the first days I was incapable of creating a blog, so I will begin by describing what those initial days were like and then move onto posting in "real-time".

5th January 2009

Cliff and I cuddle ALL night. We were tactile and outwardly affectionate as a couple anyhow, but we just didn't stop all night. It's like we didn't want to let go of each other. He's grumbling about the bed, "I hate this bed ... it's too big. I'm going to chop it up and burn it and then get a normal size double bed, then we can cuddle AAAALLLLLLLLLLL year."

Cliff wakes me up at 5 a.m., saying, "Boo, come see, it's snoo-snoowing" (my baby speak for snowing). I sit up and pretend I can focus on the snow outside and say, "mmmm, pretty - come back to bed". He's trying to convince me to get up and go and play outside in the snow, and I'm all like, "I want to go back to sleeeeeeeeeeeeep, I need to sleep!" A few hours later he wakes me again, this time with one of those Christmas chaser lights around his neck, like a dog collar designed for a rave, and I laugh and wrap my arms around him and feel happy and warm and safe. I'm still on holiday (had decided before Christmas to take extra time after all the festivities were over to just have some chill out time with each other) so we go downstairs and begin a lazy day, him in track suit bottoms and a t-shirt, me in PJ's, chatting, watching TV, having a late brekkie. We then decide to have a vodka, coke and ice and settle down with our dogs to watch a documentary about pirates at 2 p.m. I think it was about Sir Walter Raleigh.

Normally we'd have a couch and a dog each, but he looks at me, and for some reason I think he looks like a little boy. I remember that fleeting thought as I smiled at him and said, "are you coming to sit next to me then?" and moving over so he could. We cuddle and enjoy the documentary, chatting about it and laughing.

At 3 p.m. Cliff says he's going upstairs to turn on the central heating because it's getting colder, so I go into the kitchen to wash up the brekkie stuff. Two minutes later, I'm washing the last item - a mug - and he shouts, "MARGO!" really loudly and I know something's wrong because he always called me "Boo" unless he was very annoyed with me. I drop the mug and run up the stairs to find him kneeling on the bedroom floor, leaning on the bed. "What's wrong babe?" He says, "my legs have gone". My head feels like a hurricane, like a tornado or something and I can feel the panic and fear and tears rising within me, but, for some reason, I sound remarkably calm and adult and ask him if he can move his hands or arms. He can move one arm and the other he can but only barely. I tell him that I think he's had a stroke and I'm stroking his hair and he says, "I'm dying." I pause and realize that I think he is too. My mind is screaming, I feel like my legs are going to shake so much that I will fall, but miraculously I function as though I have been preparing for this moment for my whole life, that I can deal with this unimaginable horror. I ask him if he wants me to try and lift him onto the bed and nearly break down in tears when I clearly cannot, but get a hold of myself again.

Then Cliff gets distressed saying, "No, no, no, not now," banging his good hand up and down on the bed three times to coincide with each "No". I realize that he is upset that he is dying and he hasn't quite finished the house, and that even as he is dying all he cares about is me and how I will cope. I want to hold him and sob but this amazing strength rises up within me from the pit of my stomach up to my heart and my throat and I say, "please don't cry darling, I need you to be calm so that I can help you and understand what is happening." I get loads of pillows and cushions and put them on the floor and help him move onto his side so that he is safe while I run downstairs to get my mobile so I can call an ambulance. When I tell him that's what I have to do, he begs me , "nooooooooo", because I think he just wants us to lie there close until he goes. My heart breaks and now my voice breaks as I tell him, "I'm sorry I have to betray you, but I HAVE to do this, I have to call the paramedics so they can help you." He immediately regains his composure and I run up and down the stairs as fast as I can whilst dialling 999. They ask me to leave the front door open so I run downstairs and leave it wide open, whilst locking up our two dogs in the lounge, not wanting to leave him for one second.

I say to him, "I love you so much Cliff" and he looks at me, really looks at me, like he did when we exchanged our wedding vows and he manages a big smile for me, although half his mouth didn't curl up, it was one of the biggest smiles he ever did. There is no need for words ... just as when we exchanged our wedding vows, I can see the love in his eyes ... I have never seen anyone else with the ability to say "I love you" so powerfully with their eyes. Not on the silver screen even.

The paramedics arrive and I tell them he's on meds for high blood pressure and that I think he's had a stroke. (My Mom died of a stroke when I was 29 so I knew the symptons well.) The paramedic asks Cliff if he's had any smack (heroin) and I can feel this thing coiling tight inside me and I know that if I don't sort myself out, I'm going to fly across the room and punch the shit out of him, which isn't going to help Cliff, so I tell him, "please don't insult my husband, you don't know us, he doesn't take heroin, he's had a stroke. Do you want to see the meds he's on, do you need that information?" He's not interested in my voice, he tells me that he needs Cliff to confirm this because his pupils are like pinpricks, and Cliff looks at me as if to say, "it's ok, this is normal, they have to ask these questions, " and calmly says, "nooooooooooo-ooooooooo", his voice slurring badly now.

I realize that I can't go to ER in my PJ's, so quickly throw on jeans, sort of brush my hair and teeth, slap on some foundation and throw on a damp sweater but at least it's clean. I run round the house checking the oven etc is off, lock the back and ensure the dogs are ready, so that I'm ready to go with him in the ambulance.

Then I realize that there are tools and building materials blocking the stairs and hallway because they are going to need the space to carry him out, so I start moving stuff into the bathroom that he built me for our wedding anniversary two years previously and I am battling the shakes, the tears. The paramedic that I wanted to punch comes in to me and I say to him, "he's a good man, he's the best husband anyone could wish for" and he says, "yes I know, is that sweater damp?" I mumble it is and I'm breaking because I'm not with him so I can, and he sends me off to change my top, threatening that he won't let me in the ambulance if I don't. I decide to stay out of the way when they strap him in a chair and take him down the stairs. I intuitively know that he doesn't want me to stand there watching him being carried out. My beautiful strong husband.

Once he's in the ambulance I hop in and the female paramedic moves so I can sit with him and hold his hand as we hurtle along to ER.


  1. Oh Boo - this is the first time I have read husband had a stroke also - actually more than one. I can remember him being taken down the stairs twice in the that chair - oh, oh, oh. Just love to you.

  2. I just found your comment hon, sorry. xxxx

  3. Dear Boo, my mother died. I know that if I had even done anything malicious, Jesus paid for my sin -- Almighty Holy Father-God forgives me -- and my dear mother's life was in His hands, not really in mine...

    I didn't do anything malicious, but I join you in "Mea Culpa" -- I am such an unworthy servant, and I feel the guilt of my incapability. Now I realize some of the feelings my mother went through when my father died -- poor, poor little Mommy!

    I'm praying for you now, Boo, along with myself. We sure weren't designed to deal with death. No wonder it is so harsh.

    We are so inadequate -- help us, Jesus!

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