Just now I walked around the block to get active minutes. I put on a hat and UV-reflective overshirt and dark glasses and set out. Before I hit some shade I glanced up at the sky and saw clouds outlined in light, and I remembered April 22, 1994…
I was hugging L, a teacher friend who also had sons in the Regional One Act Play, after the play and before I returned to Methodist Hospital where my husband was near death. Over L’s shoulder the clouds were extraordinary, outlined in silver, on a blue Texas sky. I remember knowing how beautiful they were, and telling L, “Be sure to love your husband.”
I remember other things from that day.
I remember my younger son and I deciding in the morning that he should perform that afternoon, even though the hospital said Jack was dying. There was no understudy for Etienne, and if he chose not to perform, the entire cast and crew were finished. We decided his dad would want him to perform.
I remember how well my son acted the part of the French king, Philip II, in The Lion in Winter. I had seen him at District Competition, but Etienne was much better April 22, more intense.
I remember when I returned to the hospital, Nathan, our older son, had arrived from college in Los Angeles. I walked to where he was sitting with several friends of ours, and said, “Have you seen your dad? Go talk to him; he hears what you say,” and I remember the shock on Nathan’s face as he said, “Mom, he can’t hear anything.”
I remember I began to scream, “NO!!” The nurses swept over and ushered me into Jack’s room, where I began to apologize for disturbing everyone. Those nurses were so kind. They sat me down and said I was not disturbing anyone.
I remember how peaceful Jack looked, no longer in pain from lung cancer. I leaned over and hugged him for the first time in months because I knew my hug would not hurt him, now. To my surprise, he began to breathe, and I sat up. My hug had only contracted his lungs, causing him to expel air. He had not come back to life.
I remember Jack’s best friend H, one of the friends sitting outside Jack’s room, took a list of men from me and said for me not to worry, he would ask them to be pallbearers. I remember two friends, K and R, said they would wait with me until my sister and Jack’s daughters, who were flying in that night arrived, and drive us all home. We went to the airport to wait.
I remember sitting with them in an airport bar, drinking wine and watching the news. Richard Nixon had died that day, and R made me laugh when he said, “That’ll piss Jack off, sharing Nixon’s death day.”
I remember that all the beds and couches were full that night, and when I woke at 2am, I had to walk down the driveway to Highway 87, take the lid off the garbage can and sit on it, before I could cry. Because we lived in the country, I could cry as loud as I wanted–and I did.
I remember putting the lid back on the garbage can and walking slowly back to the dark house full of people who loved me, not knowing what was ahead. I did not know I would be seriously depressed for 15 years. I did not know how those 15 years of depression would be a crucible, that I would become the person I am today because of those long, sad years.
And I remember something else.
I remember the moment in Jane Patterson’s class in April of 2013, my last semester at Seminary of the Southwest, when I realized that I would not be where I was, on the cusp of being ordained a priest, if Jack had not died.