it began as a typical gardner thanksgiving day …

I let you sleep in a bit so you would feel up to visiting with family and friends later in the day.  Megan and Kyle were hosting in their new home with their little teacup sized Ginny.  The usual crowd of Mundles and Gardners and Ramszes were attending.  But this year was different.  We had the added delight of the Virginia Gardners flying in that afternoon to spend the holiday and weekend with family.  Their flight was delayed, so we called ahead to the kids and told them to start without us so as not to delay everyone’s Thanksgiving feast.

I noticed you were wearing out a bit faster than I expected, but you always put a smile on your face so I wouldn’t worry too much.  After Mateo swung your car door open to give you one of his bear hugs followed by the giggly hug of Marluce, luggage was loaded and we were off to join the rest of the family.  I tried to stick to your diet without you noticing, but of course you did notice.  I was the 50’s dutiful wife cheerfully waiting on her husband.  It was a little game we played so maybe other guests wouldn’t notice that you were really getting too weak to carry your own dinner plate.

As I cleared away your dishes, you quietly requested one of the biggest no-no’s on your dialysis diet – pumpkin pie.  I started to remind you that it was not a good idea, when you pulled me close to you and planted a kiss on my lips and with your signature grin and a wink of those crystal blue eyes, you quietly added “don’t forget the whipped cream”.  Sensing that I shouldn’t turn you down, I made your dessert plate just the way you liked it; a piece of pie with a snowstorm of whipped cream.

I already had the Christmas lights on a timer to begin at sundown Thanksgiving night.  The tree was up and decorated in a sea of white and silver.  Ricky and the grandkids drove us home so they could see the lights and visit a bit and snap a photo or two.  After they left and quiet settled on the house, we sat on the sofa and watched a Christmas show like we always did on Thanksgiving night.  You were growing tired so while you slept soundly, I was catching up on some accounting so I could spend the next couple of days with family.

You slept for a few hours, and then the house became a flurry of activity.  The all too familiar sirens and the voice on the other end of the line asking me to count your breaths.  You looked at me for a few seconds as I held your head in my lap and the breathing stopped and your eyes closed.  I screamed at the voice on the phone that you were dying.  There were no more breaths to count.  And then the flashing lights and the voices of the medical teams filled the house.  Someone pulled me by my arm away from you and the teams went to work – calmly doing their job.

Moments passed.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t cry.  I couldn’t reach our boys standing outside watching the entire scenario.  Over 2000 chest compressions and they asked me if they could stop now.  There would be no use in continuing, so I nodded yes and the paramedic standing next to me, holding my arm, quietly told me that I had to say it aloud.  Yes.  I said yes.

So this is how it ends?  This was it?  I stared at you, waiting, praying for a sign of life.  Just one more look.  One more breath.  None was to come.  I had no words.  I had no feeling in my body, except for the weight of a thousand pounds on my heart.  I say that all I wanted was just a few more minutes with you.  But I would have wanted more after that.  And after that and after that and … It would never have been enough.

My heart is pounding as I write this.  And breaking.  All at the same time.  In a few hours, it will be one year since you winked at me; held my hand during a Christmas show; told me you love me.  Our first Thanksgiving apart since 1970.  A painful reminder that all I can do is to wake up each morning and put one foot in front of the other, and remain ever so thankful for the many Thanksgivings we shared.

I love you.  Forever and beyond.