Note: This essay is VERY personal and is the result of much thought about posts I have seen from other widows and widowers.
Some of us got to choose whether to be present when our spouse died, others did not have the opportunity to choose. I had the opportunity to choose and chose not to be present when FHA passed away.
Please don’t rush to judgment about about my love and devotion to FHA. Our marriage was strong and loyal and we loved each other fiercely. Many years ago, when death was an abstract thought, I told myself I was going to be there if FHA passed away before I did. If he died first, he would be surrounded by loved ones, just like all the obituaries I had read. To me it was a sign of loyalty and devotion and I could not imagine being absent when he left mortality. Then the reality of my situation hit.
As the doctors, my mother and I talked about options and prognosis, I knew FHA needed to be removed from life support. While I had peace about that, I had concerns about being there when he died. If his death was going to be fast, uneventful and silent, then I would not have any trouble being there. But the doctors and nurses informed me because of the type of life support he was on, his death would be hours, possibly days, after the removal of life support. His death was not going to be a quiet passing and I will spare you the details of what they described would happen.
The reality of what was going to happen literally panicked me. This type of passing wasn’t what I was expecting! I HAVE to be there! That is what I always planned on doing! But I cannot witness what was described to me! These thoughts, coupled with the shock of the prior week nearly overwhelmed me. Then one of the doctors presented an option: I don’t have to be there when FHA died. I learned about many others who were not present when their spouses died, some for the same reasons. I was reassured being or not being there was not a matter of love.
After hearing this, I received the greatest peace in my mind and heart. It was FHA telling me it was okay not to be there, that he knew I loved him and I would be there in spirit with him. I cannot tell you how grateful I was for that communication. I was so thankful for the reassurance from FHA it was okay not be physically present as he left mortality-others from the other side would be there.
The days between that reassurance and FHA’s passing were filled with sweet spiritual communication between us, things too sacred to post. Again, how grateful I am for the Lord knowing what we needed.
When the day came, after life support was removed, I laid next to him in his bed, held him and told him goodbye. After a bit, I left. One of my children chose to be with him until he died. During the eight hours that passed, I could feel his spirit and he finally left his body shortly after my fervent prayers asking the Lord to tell him it was okay to leave and we would be alright.
There are times when I feel I let him down, abandoning him at his passing. I have to remind myself of the experiences we had and that my greatest gift of love and service was not being there when FHA died, rather it was to let him go. To make the decision to untether his strong, inquisitive, beloved spirit from his broken, sick body. Tears flow freely as I write on this beautiful Sabbath morning. I write this to help me, but also to help anyone else who may have gone through what I went through. May we have peace.