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A photo of the pink moon over Croton in a Facebook memory from 5 years ago, Gary commented, “My lovely lunatic. 💜”

it is getting close to the end, again.

five years ago this was your last two weeks on Earth.
You didn’t know, I didn’t know.
No one did, no one could.

I turned off facebook memories for those first three years, it’s too much.

(there have been years gone by, now, years without you. Years.)
“those first three years” is a terrifying thing to say out loud.
i digress.

As the memories come up for this week, though, I am warmed again by the things I see, the things you responded to, the way you responded. all not knowing what will come,
all perfectly normal and routine and lighthearted and me rapidly cycling, clutching fast to anything stable

and then there is this yawning pit that opens and will never, ever close
unhinges its jaws and
e v e r y t h i n g in my life hurries in, disappearing.

it is only now, close to the end, again
that i am beginning to see my way
but is it clear? no, not yet.

one thousand, eight hundred thirteen days.

how many more will there be

Home. 10 November, 2019.

…a braver man I never met.

Gary is finally home.

It doesn’t hold all of his cremains that I have left.
It doesn’t have to. It holds enough.
I’ll scatter the rest in places he liked.

I think I can finally go, now.

On this day, two years ago. 15 September, 2019. Genesis.

This was the day of my Beginning.

Two days later, at the show, I took the name The Salty Widow. I was having a discussion with a fellow artist about the previous week, its toll. I was musing about the words of it, the word widow and how strange that was? That I am now, and will always be a Widow. That it is indeed a strange word, and I will not be afraid of it.

That I will own it.

Today, I took a huge step towards my next evolution. Education. I am doing it.

Part 3. To the very last.

Gary is gone.

He was pronounced dead at 5:09pm, 13th September, 2017. 

I never got to say goodbye to him, to see him respond. My 46-year old husband of nearly eleven years, my partner of fifteen, is gone.

In the forty minutes​ I spent trying to get to him that morning, trying to park, screaming at anyone I could, driving around the hospital campus like an unhinged lunatic, he was taken to neurology for the stroke. Fifteen minutes before I finally made it inside the hospital.

They were successful in getting the clot in his brain. While he was recovering, he began to crash. They found a massive pulmonary embolism, a huge blood clot in his lungs that would not move. It’s something that could have just happened or been there for ages undetected. The doctors kept me updated every step of the way. 

I went into the room, he was sedated and intubated. I held his hand, stroked his face. I talked to him while the doctors got things ready. I told him that I loved him, and that he was safe, and so very brave. I told him that I had him. That he didn’t need to be afraid anymore because I was there. That he was safe and that I loved him. I told him that he was going the right way, that he was fighting the good fight, and that we have so much more to talk about. I know that he could hear me and that my voice helped him to calm down. Knowing that helped to calm me down.

They put in a central line near his right clavicle, to add medication to try to bust the clot. The line went in fine but the clot would not move. They tried chest compression. He crashed, his heart rate and blood pressure bottoming out. He coded, they tried resuscitation. They kept on trying. He coded again, and they kept on trying. They gave him drugs normally not recommended to try and help because he was dying and who cares if he goes into VT if they can get him back. His ICD kept on shocking him. They tried bypassing his heart, his arteries. I know I’m getting some of this wrong.

The neurosurgeon came in, told me that Gary was crashing, that they were trying everything, working as hard as they could, that there were a hundred people in the surgery suite. I believed him. My mind clear, eyes wide open, I told him that Gary was an organ donor, knowing I needed to tell them. He looked at me, his eyes just as wide, and nodded, a grim look on his face as he pressed his lips into something approximating a smile.

They tried more. They finally stopped the chest compressions and he died at 5:09pm.

Because he coded for so long, because his entire system was shutting down piece by piece by piece, most of his organs could not be harvested. I understand that and am okay with that. Gary would have wanted to try, but if it didn’t work, oh well.

I got off the phone with LiveOn NY somewhere north of midnight, and what we could donate was his corneas, his bones, his skin, his heart valves, and his veins. He would continue to help others.

He had finally, in his last two days on this planet, after over fifteen years in our relationship, just begun to understand me, to be able to empathize with what I deal with with my illness. He recognized how much more we had to talk about, how much work we now had in front of us, and was eager to begin. That’s what I’m holding onto. Not the angst and anger, not the frustration and picayune bullshit of a very difficult marriage, but the final understanding and desire to work on us, on making us better.

I have lost the smartest man I know. Someone who, for all his faults, for all our mishegoss, always expected the best of me, from me. Who didn’t know how to show that most of the time, but he was learning. He’s stubborn that way.

Thank you to everyone. I love you all. I feel surrounded by love and light.

Love is. 10:40a, 13 September, 2019.

Today I know how much I am loved. I have no doubt. I will never ever not know. I know what it feels like to be loved, and seen, and heard. I know what it feels like to be understood.

My evolution is ongoing. The path I started down two years ago is ever-twisting, ever changing. Forward, ever forward.

I’d brought this little bit of printing I’d done to hang up in Gary’s hospital room. To remind him that he is loved. I brought it home, taped it to the shelf on his side of the bedroom. To remind me.

The last day. 13 September.

This is how I began my morning two years ago today. Texting with Gary, who was waiting for the Klonopin to kick in. I never heard his voice that last day, never saw those beautiful blue eyes of his.

I have tried to imagine what was going through his head as he composed that last post. As he wrote one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. My husband was a writer, but normally it was infused with snark and sharpness and cleverness. Not that day. That day it was pure, and true.

I don’t know if he had already had the stroke; I’m imagining he must have done, otherwise why would he be going for a CAT scan? What I do know is that if in fact he had already had a stroke as much as I would have liked to see him wink at me, as much as I would have liked to see his face, as much as I would have loved to hear his voice telling me one last time that he loved me more, I am happier for the fact that I can remember those things in my head untarnished, not tempered by the damage that the stroke would have caused. I am truly grateful for my supervisualizer memory, that these things are as clear to me as if they happened a second ago. 

The last bit of my text to him, the unfinished bit, it was me being so incredibly frustrated that I couldn’t find a place to park. The hospital was under construction, there was an enormous event going on and it took me 40 minutes to park. During those 40 minutes he had been taken in for neurosurgery and I never saw him conscious again.

Two years on, I’ve gotten nothing done, nothing that I was supposed to have been doing. I’m losing the house. I have just about nothing left, no strength, no energy. But I have my memories of him.

I love you more.

It begins again. 7 September, 2019

The difference two years makes.

The girl on the right has no idea that a few hours later, she’s going to watch her husband get his life saved by his defibrillator/pacemaker right in their living room. She has no idea that the trip to the emergency room that night will be the last time she takes her husband there.

That it is the last week on this planet for her husband.

The girl in the middle, a year out from that night, operating on sheer mania and lack of sleep. Fucking up everything, it seems, though people are quick to tell her, “no, no.”

The girl on the left, today. I honestly have no idea how I’m even breathing but for the unending care and tenderness of some truly spectacular humans. Still fucking everything up that isn’t life-or-death and refusing to give a single shit about it any more. Loving deeply and intensely with no regard for those who fly too close to my flame and get burned. Indulging in ink and sex and cannabis and embracing everything good. Dismissing anything less-than.

I no longer settle. I no longer feel less-than.

I miss you more, Gary. I miss you so goddamn much.

I have so much to tell you.

What a difference a year makes. 7 September, 2018

side-by-side photos of myself, one year apart.
7 September 2018 / 2017

The girl on the right has no idea that a few hours later, she’s going to watch her husband get his life saved by his defibrillator/pacemaker right in their living room. She has no idea that the trip to the emergency room that night will be the last time she takes her husband there.

That it is the last week on this planet for her husband.
I miss you more, Gary. I miss you so goddamn much.

This is me, twelve months ago today, mere hours before the very last car ride to Westchester Medical Center with Gary. I was feeling confident in the way I looked, not as confident as I do now, but confident all the same. We had made great strides in our troubled marriage, great strides to understand each other, to try and see and feel where the other person was coming from.

These past 12 months have been incredibly difficult, so hard, so unbelievably hard. I still don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, how I’m going to be able to survive the rest of my life.

What I do know is that I was as strong as I possibly could be for him, for us. I remember everything that happened as if it happened yesterday. The sound of him coughing from the living room, attempting to avoid being shocked, attempting vasovagal maneuvers is etched into my memory as if it were in the next room right now.

The girl in this photograph is at work, feeling cute, wanting to remember how she looks for the future, when maybe she doesn’t feel quite as cute or as confident.

The girl writing this now is getting ready for work, not feeling confident at all, but knowing that she has to get through another day. All the days. Until she can’t anymore.