One of my favourite inspirational speakers is a child psychologist named Dr. Jody Carrington. She speaks of the importance to connect to our community of friends and family. We are wired to do hard things, but those hard things are easier when we are connected. She talks of our need to “walk each other home”. I have always valued this but recently it took on a new meaning for me. I have become aware of how very honoured I am that I did indeed get to “walk Chad home”.
Throughout our 18-year relationship there were many times that we walked each other home. While we were young and newly dating, we literally made sure the other arrived safely to their home or destination. Later, once we married, we walked each other to our home both literally and figuratively. Chad was my safety net, biggest cheerleader and most fervent supporter. I always knew Chad would always be there for me whenever and whatever I needed and he would say the same of me. We sacrificed ourselves for the other’s well being. Without a doubt I trusted he would be the one to always walk me home.
Several people expressed to me how “lucky” or “blessed” I am because I had the opportunity to say a final good bye to Chad. I agree! However, I can not ever fully explain the depth that I watched him suffer. Losing my biggest love has changed me, but so has watching him suffer. That darkness has changed me too.
Cancer is beast from hell that changed the strongest and bravest man I have ever known into someone I could barely recognize. I watched someone I love more than life or myself be tortured every day with almost no relief. Cancer pain gets to a point that no amount of drugs can tame it. I was diagnosed with PTSD because I experienced him going through that abuse. I am still in regular counselling sessions with my psychologist 2.5 years later to try to deal with what I watched my precious husband go through. The feelings of panic, fear and desperate ache at not being able to help him can still surface with some every day triggers.
I get an instant pain in my stomach and chest every time someone says I am blessed or lucky that he wasn’t taken instantly. The cost of that final walk home was extremely high. My young kids have paid that price too. That high price caused a sacrifice of part of my soul, however, I am so thankful I had that opportunity. It is yet another example of gratitude and pain interwoven together.
I am honoured and humbled that I got the opportunity to be the one my husband begged to have by his side. What a precious gift it was to know I could provide a tiny bit of comfort and relief just by holding his head in my lap while rubbing his back. It was the highest honour to stand by his side and drip water into his mouth when he could longer eat or drink. The biggest honour was to look into his pain ridden eyes and tell him how much I loved him. How I would always love him and raise our babies in his legacy. The most heart-breaking honour of that final walk home when, I felt his heart stop beneath my hand, is a moment I will never forget. I saw him open his eyes from the medical induced comma, see Jesus and take that final breath. I am lucky and I am blessed because I walked him home – right into Jesus’s arms.
There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:2-3
We are wired to do hard things. I am living proof. I have done the impossible and survived the death of my best friend, soul mate and deep love. I continue to keep doing the hard things but these hard things are easier in community. I am blessed with friends who love like family and a sister who always listens to my tears. A community of people who now keep walking me home.
My advice to others grieving is to reach out. Ask for help. Do your best to be connected. Find someone who knows you so well, all you have to say is, “today is a really hard day” and they get it. Dr. Jody Carrington says it best, “We all just need to walk each other home.”