Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tender Mercy

August 6, 2016

One year ago today I woke up having had a nightmare that Marv was gone--the victim of a heart attack. Logic told me it was because of my writing group’s evening-before dinner discussion and the fact that our friend and first counselor in the bishopric had just had his “Widow Maker” valve replaced after a near brush with death weeks prior. He was still wearing a defibrillator vest under his suit at church, and we had just heard the story of him grabbing his wife on the operating table and telling her it was okay for her--no, that he wanted her--to marry again if he didn’t make it...

Of course these conversations contributed to my dark dream.

I drove home from my overnight retreat, eager to hold Marv and share my nightmare with him, completely unaware that I would bury him just two weeks later.

Obviously, this nightmare did not save my husband’s life, and I am not sure it was meant to.
We both determined that any emergency room doc would just smile at us if we went in claiming that Marv's only symptoms included his wife’s dream, her incessant feeling of pending doom, and the recent loss of her mother and several close friends. Oh, and some chronic back and leg pain....

While I could go on about wishing we had caught Marv’s blood clot before it was too late, I will be eternally grateful for that nightmare. Why? Because it was a blessing. For the next eight days, I would be especially attentive to my husband: praying for his well being every morning and asking the Lord what I could do to help lighten the burden he carried as a bishop, provider, husband, and father. Because of my “premonition,” we would spend an unusual amount of time together the week before his passing, and I would express my love for him in a direct, though somewhat paranoid, manner.  At one point, I remember straddling his lap, grabbing both sides of his face, and saying something like “If you ever feel a tinge of pain like Scott did, or you think you might be having a heart attack, please call an ambulance. Don’t wait. I don’t care what it costs, I don’t care if you’re wrong, just call.” There was also a time during those eight days when I told him, “I can’t lose you. You are all I have left. My parents are both gone and you are the only one who when you say you’re proud of means something. You know where I’ve been, what I’ve accomplished, what I've overcome.”

To all of these expressions, Marv would hold me and assure me that everything would turn out the way it was supposed to. We aren’t always in control, but the Lord is he’d laugh. This even prompted one of our final philosophical discussions about the only three things we can count on this this life: death, change, and the Atonement. The rest is beyond our control. And besides, he was going to be alright. Aside from his usual aches and pains, he felt fine.

I know he thought I was being silly and just personalizing all of the experiences of our friends in recent months, and while I do wish I could have saved my husband’s life, I am grateful for the peace of mind those eight days brought me. I said what I needed to say. I expressed my love for him with bold, fierce, clear conviction. I used a softer everyday tone with him. I made him good food. We went out with friends. We visited neighbors. We ran errands. We paid bills. We stargazed. We even shoe shopped--something he would’ve normally avoided. We held hands more. Kissed more. Loved more...

I watched with pride as he helped a stranded motorist, counseled members of our congregation, advised our sons, acted with dignity on the golf course and the softball field, did several loads of laundry, and took Anna on a last-minute school shopping shoe run. Our great marriage was exceptional that last week all because of a little nightmare that gave me a sliver of insight about life’s fragile nature.

Over the past year as I have shared this nightmare and its ensuing results with others, they often nod knowingly and whisper something about me being prepared for Marv’s sudden passing, and I have to stop myself from screaming, “No!”  

While these premonitions (along with the number of funerals we’d attended) helped me with the logistics of burial and forced me to appreciate death’s lack of discrimination, they in no way prepared me for the events that took place on August 14th. Nothing can prepare a loved one for that kind of shock and tragedy. Nothing can prepare you for living the rest of your life without someone who is part of your forever soul.  

Even though it seems counterintuitive, what that nightmare did for me was give me assurance and peace. My husband died knowing my love for him. He died knowing what he meant to me. He died knowing that I wasn’t ready for him to leave. He died an adored husband, father, bishop, athlete, friend, and good Samaritan. And, because I was able to express all of that to him before his life ended, I can honestly say I have no regrets about our relationship and how we treated one another.

Now, that’s not to say that given the chance, I wouldn’t go back and drag Marv’s butt to the doctor’s office and miraculously mention the symptoms of a DVT or a bi-lateral pulmonary embolism, even though he didn’t have pronounced symptoms at the time. But, that is obviously not an option afforded me...So instead, I will hang on to my writing retreat nightmare--a nightmare that I will forever consider a tender mercy.  A tender mercy that has helped me move forward without guilt, without regret, without second guessing, and without a doubt that Marv still knows my love for him.