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Slices of Life: The best of times in the worst of times

Last year at this time, my life was crumbling around me, but it doesn’t have to repeat that pattern every year. At least not without my permission. And in that vein, I vow to make this time the best I can make it be. I will create new beginnings. I will live life to the fullest. I will find the good in the loss and move forward.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

This could be a difficult time of year for me. It might be.

A year ago, we were discovering my husband was gravely ill. We were on vacation when he entered the emergency room of the hospital — alone. It was during COVID. No visitors were allowed.

Then, nine days later, we learned he could very well die. The doctor called me personally to tell me this news. She was kind. She didn’t like being the messenger. But she vowed to smuggle me in that very night.

And she did.

I got to see him for the first time in nine days. We hadn’t been apart for that long in more than 30 years.

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He wanted to come home, but we were so far away from that, in more ways than one. More than 1,000 miles separated us from home. I wasn’t sure how we’d do it, but I made his wish my mission.
About a week after I got in to visit him we got his marching orders. We headed home, but the prospects weren’t good.

We didn’t talk about it. We didn’t need to. We didn’t want to.

We both hoped for the best.

He got some time at home before he was hospitalized again.

My daily hospital visits started anew. I’d stop in the bathroom to cry before entering his room. I didn’t want him to know my sadness. I’m sure he did similar things for me.

I got to go home each night. Not so for him.

Eventually, things got very, very bleak. I could see the frustration in the doctor’s eyes.

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No one gave me any hope. He wanted only one thing: to come home (again), although this time it was different.

This time I knew that meant no extra medical care or monitoring. He knew that, too. And he wanted it anyway. So we made it happen.

We got him home, and I believe he was at peace. Almost immediately he let go. Five days later he left his earth, and my life changed forever.

This ordeal, from beginning to end, encompassed less than two months. I’m smack dab in the memory of the middle of it right now. There were more than a few bad days, and it would be easy to proclaim this a bad time because it was a bad time a year ago. It would be tempting to decide that life sucks right now, because it did, a year ago.

But that’s not me.

A year ago I experienced something I never thought I’d have to endure. I didn’t see it coming, but it forced its way through my life like a freight train on steroids. And I was left standing sorrowful, broken and alone right there in the middle of the tracks.

But I was standing.

And now I approach this time of the year — again.

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Last year was a horror. And as the dates repeat themselves, I have a choice.

I can relive the horror, or I can reinvent these days. I can decide they aren’t going to be “bad” days for me; I can decide to make them good days, the best days.

My past doesn’t dictate me, nor does yours have to dictate you.

Last year at this time, my life was crumbling around me, but it doesn’t have to repeat that pattern every year. At least not without my permission. And in that vein, I vow to make this time the best I can make it be. I will create new beginnings. I will live life to the fullest. I will find the good in the loss and move forward.

Because that is absolutely what he’d want me to do.

At the end, all he wanted was to come home, and I made that happen for him. Now, he is home, and he is waiting for me. Until I get there, he wants me to live life in the grandest most opulent fashion I can muster. He wants me to laugh each day. He wants me to remember him with fondness and a warm smile, not with regret.

The last two months that ended his life do not define it. Nor do they define me. We had it all. He knows that. I know that. And that is all that matters.

With that knowledge, I forge ahead — for him, but just as much, for me.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

Related Topics: FAMILY
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