Finding Beauty in Death

photoMy husband suffered– while he lay dieing of pancreatic cancer.

For the last three months of Michael’s life, his back pain grew exponentially every day. For most of that time, we didn’t know cancer was ravaging his body.

Once it was determined Michael had adenocarcinoma and only days left to live, his pain intensified to such a degree that we kept him sedated.

During those last few days, there were no more two sided conversations. He was no longer able to acknowledge me when I cried or told him I loved him or when I told him how much I would miss him.

His hospital room stayed quiet most of the time. Few nurses entered, and they only came when called. His vitals were no longer needed. Visitors had stopped coming. Only the people closest to him kept vigil.  He no longer spoke or opened his eyes.

In those last days, I rarely let go of Michael’s hand. I knew as long as it felt warm, he was still with me. But I longed for him to not only be by my side but for him to be present.

I became desperate to find a way to make what little time we had left beautiful.

Then the answer came to me. Music. Michael loved music.

For the last few months, Michael spent more hours with headphones in than I had probably spent in my entire life. Music calmed him, helped him tolerate the pain. It allowed him the space to hold on to the small piece of himself that remained a healthy man.

So I searched for our song, and when I found it, I turned up the volume.

At the first note, with his eyes still closed, Michael smiled, not just a little twitch at the corners of his mouth, but a full toothy grin. He bobbed his head to the beat of Brother Iz’s song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. I cried while I caressed the back of his hand.

This was our wedding song, and the lyrics wrapped up our life and what was coming for Michael.

We had lived a life full of seeing “red roses”. We were the “friends shaking hands”. And soon he would fly “over the rainbow”.

But for one more day, Death waited outside Michael’s doorway.

As the song ended, my husband raised his hand and motioned for me to come closer. He opened his eyes. They were still bright blue and still full of so much life. His gaze drew me into his heart. He cupped my cheek and pulled me to him. His lips were gentle and weak. We shared one last kiss as husband and wife.

My Michael’s final moment of lucidity and strength was spent reminding me of the power of our love.

We didn’t have any control over his cancer, but we were able to go back in time to the day we bound our hearts and celebrated the future we had planned.

Death only gave us a quarter of that time, but when you share a life so rich in love, you become grateful for every last moment you are given.