Frank and I met when I was twenty and we have been together for the last 41 years and married for the last 3 ½ years. We are both retired and both of us in our early 60’s. In early May I thought it would be nice to go on a road trip, to break up our routine. I could tell Frank was ready to go somewhere, but we could not because our cat was going on 20 years old and having a rough time. We knew his end was near and just didn’t want to leave him. The night of April 6th we came to the decision to have him put to sleep the next day as he could hardly stand. That night he died in Frank’s arms.
I usually put together our vacations so I put together a two week road trip to Florida leaving May 6th. We stopped to visit friends in Myrtle Beach and then continued on to Fort Myers Beach for several days. After that we crossed the state over to Hollywood Beach where we rented a small house that had a nice private pool. It was very close to the Hollywood Board walk which we discovered on our last trip to the area. We had a wonderful time and I think it was our best trip yet. In heading home, we planned stop in Savannah. We got in early, took a little nap, showered and then called an Uber to take us downtown Savannah. We had a nice dinner at a restaurant we discovered on our last visit there too. After walking around a little we called an Uber to head back to our room. We got back at midnight and put our comfy clothes on. I got on the lap top and Frank started watching a movie and played on his phone, as he always did. We turned in about 1:30. Sometime during the night, I woke up to hear Frank snoring in a very wield manner. I have to say I had never heard anything quite like it before. I thought he was snoring and having a dream. I didn’t think any more about it and just rolled over and went back to sleep. I woke up early, around 6:20, so that we can get a jump on the free breakfast before everybody else. I turned over to wake Frank and he wasn’t responding. I got out of bed and he wasn’t waking up. He died during the night. I called the manager and they called EMS, but it was to late. Unbeknownst to me during the night, is that I woke up in the middle of his being in cardiac arrest. The weird breathing was his body trying to get oxygen causing what is known as agonal respiration. He was laboring to breath and gasping for air. God woke me to attempt to save Frank and I did nothing but roll over and go back to sleep. Even though a person surviving cardiac arrest in extremely low, it eats at me that I didn’t recognize a problem and try CPR. I feel I failed Frank. I feel so guilty! I always looked out for his well-being and I let him down. I learned later that morning, after looking a Frank’s phone, that while I was on the lap top, he was doing a Google search on “throat pain and heart attack symptoms”. He didn’t say a word about it. He failed me. I was in a strange area, alone and Frank was dead. EMS and police were in our room. After the authorities were done I was permitted to go back into the room. I sat with Frank on the floor for a while, holding his lifeless hand, waiting for the coroner to come. It was Sunday May 21st, so it was longer than usual. Frank was turning blue and his body already starting to deteriorate. I watched as they placed him in a body bag and it was the worse day of my life. After they left, I was all alone. I made a few phone calls. One to our local funeral home and another to a family member. It was so awful packing my suitcase then his. It was awful packing the car then getting into an empty car and driving home for 12 hours straight. I couldn’t stop, I had to just keep going. I made it home at midnight. It was the worst moment of my life again walking into an empty house. I couldn’t believe that I would never see Frank again. That whole week was spent making arrangements ending with calling hours and a brief service. I physically could not eat for a whole week. I lost 12 pounds. Since then my life has been numb. I’ve cried every day for the last 41 days. I put our satellite service on hold. I stopped the newspaper. Nothing seems to be important anymore. Our home, which was our labor of love now is unimportant and is just plain labor. My plan at this time is to eventually sell it. It was ours and I can’t be here without him. I feel I won’t be able to rebuild my life if I stay here. I have half good days and half bad days. Mornings seem the worst. If I start out depressed I seem to stay that why. I hate being here alone. Even if I am with someone else. It may temporally take my mind off things. But, I am still alone in my head. The loss and loneness is so great. Some days it’s unbearable. I have been reading bereavement books, journaling, visiting websites and spending hours on the phone with family and friends. I think it’s helping. But, on some days I keep falling back into the grief pit. The pain feels like it’s never going to end. Frank was my life.
My name is Steve, I lost the love of my life, Mark, on November 31st, 2014. It was a sunny afternoon in Dallas, TX and we were both napping. I was awakened to similar sounds that you described, I sat there in horror as I watched him take his last breath, screaming at him, pleading with him to wake up, begging him to not leave me, begging God to intervene and not allow this to happen. I watched him pass on and I still just sat there in shock, thousands of memories racing thru my mind, reality of the situation slowly inching its way into my thoughts and then crying so hard I thought I was going to pass out. Then panic struck, what should I do, who should I call, why am I still here after all I am 17 years older than he.
Mark passed at the young age of 50 and I was 67, our life together measured 25 years. Mark was so full of life, he was very smart (just shy of genius), he saw the world as it is and yet always turned away from letting it change his outlook on life. He was my everything, he kept me young, he made me laugh, he kept me surrounded by music and action movies and he kept me abreast of all the latest technology.
Mark inherited a gene from his family that affects some of the males, a neurological disorder like Parkinson’s, at childbirth his symptoms emerged, unlike his grandfather who did not display any symptoms until he was in his late 50’s. So, his parents were told that he had a good chance of growing out of this disease as his immune system could possibly help him dodge it. Unfortunately, in 2004 he started getting tremors in his legs and off we went to the Mayo Clinic in Miami, Florida (we were, at that time living in Fort Lauderdale). All the tests pointed to Parkinson’s and he was started on a slew of drugs to assist and/or arrest the progress. The rest is history, we did have time to discuss what to do if either one of us were to pass on before the other and it was his wish that I do not try CPR or have the paramedics to try, nor did he want to be kept alive with machines, he just wanted to go. So, I kept my word as I sat there watching him take his last breath.
All the guilt and anger you are facing is normal for anyone in raw grief, time does help to ease the pain and to help us move on to make a different life for ourselves. Our minds and bodies do get better and we do adapt to our new life. We change, we have good days and bad days, for me, I look back now and reflect on the good memories as I live out my life one day at a time. I have invited music back into my life, I allowed myself to go out to concerts and plays and I also found an LBGT church in Dallas and made new friends. So many things have changed in my life, there is light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes it still grows dim on those days I find it too painful to push forward. It’s on those days I find a reason to get up and a reason to push on, because that is what Mark would want me to do.
Andrew, I wish to express to you my deepest condolences for your loss, the similarities to each of our losses is startling and I find myself grieving with you. Each of us who have lost a spouse share a commonality as we each help each other in the most simplistic way, we are here for each other. Posting our thoughts, concerns or just to vent, all the while knowing that someone is listening that understands the pain and anguish we feel. Sending you many hugs because you need them, please continue to post.
Steve, thank you for listening and sharing your story. I am so sorry for your loss and your continuing journey through life without your best friend and partner. You and I both had plans for what our retirement would be like and we worked toward that end. Working and saving for our “golden years”. I never thought in a million years that it would just stop and be over. That Frank would essentially disappear and that all I would have left would be photos and memories. The morning when I woke up and found Frank had passed away, I kept saying, honey wake up over and over again. He never moved. I was in shock as you were and I just walked around in circles not knowing what to do. Now, on a different level I am still in shock. I know he isn’t coming home, but in my head I just keep going around in circles. I don’t know what to do. It’s like being stuck in quick sand. Trying to climb out, but you keep getting sucked back into the sand. My take away from your post is that you have persevered through your tragedy and loss and that you are rebuilding your life. That is a positive message. Thank you for opening up and sharing your experience. Andrew
I found this poem two years ago and I still refer to it when I am down, I pray that it will offer you the same comfort it has brought to me. Take care dear sir and sleep well tonight:
For those who believe:
I wish I could tell you of all that God has planned
But if I were to tell you, you wouldn’t understand
But one this is for certain though my life on earth is o’re
I am closer to you now than I was ever before
And to my very many friends, trust God knows what is best
I’m still not far away from you, I’m just beyond the crest
There are rocky roads ahead of you and many hills to climb
But together we can do it taking one day at a time
It was always my philosophy and I’d like it for you too
That as you give unto the world so the world will give to you
If you can help somebody who is in sorrow or in pain
Then you can say to God at night my day was not in vain
And now I am contented that my life was worthwhile
Knowing as I passed along the way I made somebody smile
So if you meet somebody who is down and feeling low
Just lend a hand to pick him/her up as on your way you go.
When you are walking down the street and you’ve got me on your mind,
I’m walking in your footsteps only half a step behind
And when you feel the gentle breeze or the wind upon your face
That’s me giving you a great big hug or just a soft embrace
And when it’s time for you to go from that body to be free
Remember you’re not going you are coming here to me.
I will always love you.
Dear Mary, thank you for your touching response to my post. You are right about not making any major decisions for at least a year. I am planning on selling my house, at least in my head, but not acting on it until next summer. That gives to time to really think about it. I like your thoughts on God making me go back to sleep, so that I would be spared witnessing Frank’s death. It was bad enough waking up to a lifeless husband. It would have been unbearable to actually watch him die and not being able to save him. Thank you for letting me see that in a different light. I found it interesting your comment regarding your cat giving you purpose. Frank was my purpose and was the person I devoted my life to and cared for. If I made two pork chops for dinner and one chop was bigger than the other, I always gave him the bigger one or better one of whatever it was. I journal every day and one of the title lines a few days ago was, what is my purpose. Right now, I don’t know what my new purpose will be. I won’t know for a while. I could see a nice kitten in my future at some point! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I am very sorry for your loss. I am learning a lot about myself and about others and had no idea how painful losing a loved one can be. Especially a spouse who is the closest person that anyone can know. Andrew
Steve, thank you for sharing your poem. I like it and I am going to post it on my refrigerator. Andrew
I join everyone in offering my most sincere condolences for your terrible loss. The circumstances you have shared of your ordeal made me marvel at how you managed to get through it all. I lost my husband Larry two years ago on April 22, 2015. He had been undergoing treatment for terminal cancer for 7 months to hopefully give us some more time to add to the 32 years we had spent together. Sadly that was not to be. On April 5 of that year, Larry had to admit me to the ICU with acute liver failure and complications. I was intubated and in a coma for 2 weeks, during which I was visited by Larry bringing a few friends and family to "say goodbye" in case I didn't survive - a prognosis for which the doctors told him to prepare emotionally. I was still in the hospital, 2 floors above him, on the night he passed at 7:00 PM. I was later sent to another rehabilitation hospital to regain my ability to walk and the use of my hands and voice, finally being sent home on May 7th. I was driven home by a friend who accompanied me as I walked into this silent house for the first time - knowing Larry would never again be with me here where we had shared our life. I had anticipated breaking down, but was surprised that I was very calm...too calm I suspect. In the blur of hours, days, and weeks ensuing I only had one constantly recurring thought - "Why did I survive instead of him?" I admit this question surfaces still today, and I suspect it always will at times of loneliness and despair.
I wasn't with Larry at his time of leaving - another haunting reality I grapple with to this day. However I am here still, my health improved to at least the point of giving me reason to actually make plans for a future - any future - something no one expected was possible two years ago. Least of all me. But there is a reason I am still alive, even if it is a mystery. My pain at losing my wonderful Larry sometimes strikes out again without warning, nearly doubling me over and wishing it had been the other way around...but it is not. I remain, and honestly feel Larry's presence with and around me at times. That is something I had never really believed in before - too metaphysical for me I suppose.
Then, on the first day I sat alone in the yard where Larry and I had fed the birds daily for so many years, I finally looked up at a clear blue sky and asked him through tears why he had left me here alone, when he knew all too well that I would never make it without him. There were no birds in the nearby trees, nor overhead, and no breeze. Yet, a single bluejay feather appeared as a small speck in the sky above me, falling slowly toward me. I watched as it landed at my feet, perfect and beautiful, and was surrounded by a feeling of calm and peace that I had not felt since Larry's passing. Andrew, somehow Larry had found a way to tell me that I was not truly alone - I just couldn't see him any longer.
Much has happened - good and bad - since that day, but even in my darkest moments of grief and confusion, I still believe Larry is watching over me and helping me find my way on this new frightening path I now walk without him.
I pray that you will find that relief from your loneliness and terrible grief in the days and months ahead, and want to say that finding this very special place and group of understanding and compassionate souls has no doubt saved my sanity, and my life. Of the fact that I was guided here by Larry, and by God, I have no doubt. We all extend to you all the support, assistance, and friendship we can to help you find your own way on your new path...one without your husband , but which you do not walk alone. We are all on the same journey right beside you. Wishing you peace today, and in all the days ahead -
Dear Chuck……Thank you for taking the time to reply to my post. I look forward to reading others comments and find solace in learning others story and there journey through a very difficult time when all of our lives are crumbling down around us. At some point we begin to pick up the pieces. Some of us start that process sooner than others. With everyone sharing their experience, it is definitely helping me see some things in a different light. Seeing how others are copping helps me cope and regain control of my life. Thank you for sharing. Andrew
Dear Andrew ... My deepest condolences on the loss of your husband Frank. I read and reread your post and tears filled my eyes. It stirred emotions in me that I had blocked out for several years. My husband Ernie passed away in 2011 of pancreatic cancer and I still miss him, but have begun to get my life in some sort of order.
I do believe if it was meant to be that you would have woken up and not gone back to sleep if you were meant to save Frank. It is more common than you think that a spouse will pass away during the night while sleeping. Frank knew something may be wrong with his health, but didn't want to worry you so you had no warning and for that matter Frank never thought he would pass away that night. If there are any blessings to be had it sounds as if he went very peacefully even though he had made noises while breathing. If he was conscious he would have tried to get out of bed. God does work in mysterious ways and personally I've tried to reason it out, but the pain of grief stopped me rationalizing many things, but it's beginning to make more sense to me as the years pass. When my Ernie was in hospice and I was there for the first afternoon and wanted to stay the night he really wanted me to go home and come back the next day. His breathing was labored and I offered him oxygen 3 times which he did not want. In my mind and heart I still couldn't believe that he would die. I told him I would be there in the morning and staying the night and he just smiled. I came home and didn't even go to bed; bags packed waiting to go back to the hospice. I got the dreaded phone call at 6 AM asking me to rush because Ernie was dying. I just sat there is shock for a good 20 minutes and then called a girlfriend to take me there. Just as we were going out the door the phone rang again and my sweetheart was gone. I don't even remember the drive to the hospice. I rushed in to see him and he looked like he was sleeping, but touching him I knew he was gone. I laid with him for 20 minutes, then sat next to him holding his hand until I couldn't hold it any longer. I came home in total shock and didn't want my girlfriend to stay with me. I roamed the gardens as if I was in another land and not aware of anything. It took me 6 months to realize that Ernie knew he was dying and he didn't want to put me through it. Yes, I was angry at him as we always were there for each other no matter how difficult things got, but that anger has subsided. 5 months after Ernie passed our cat Molly passed away without warning and she was only 10 years old. Again shock. I wasn't even over the shock of Ernie. We have 2 dogs and they were my comfort as I cried and they licked the tears away or did something funny to try and make me laugh, but all I wanted to do was hide from the world and sleep. It's all normal feelings you are going through Andrew. One thing that is so very important and you must always remember is it was Frank who was there with you after he passed away making sure your drive home was safe and he's right there with you now. I could feel Ernie's presence around me when things got very tough for me and it made me stronger to get through this terrible journey of grief. Now that I am making a new life for myself, I don't feel him around me as much, but just every so often I do.
You did nothing wrong to feel guilty Andrew and it was the way it was meant to be. We are here knowing the heartache and loneliness you feel and we'll always be here for you as long as you need us to help you heal your broken heart and to encourage you to take baby steps through this journey of grief. We are all going down the same road. Please keep coming back and you say whatever you are feeling without any prejudice from anyone on this forum. This site basically saved my life.
I think it's a very good idea to get another cat. My dogs are what keeps me going where I don't feel so alone and they force me to get up and get moving. They are living, breathing little bundles of love which we all need during grief. Someone to meet us when we come home or to comfort us when we feel sad. My one little dog Tootsie is 14 and has health issues and her time is limited, but I'm giving her all the love I have and quality time while she's here. My other little dog is younger and in good health.
May you sleep well and in peace my friend.
Love & Hugs
Dear Marsha….Thank you so much for taking time to reply to my post. I sorry for your loss as well. I am sorry you didn’t get to say good bye to Ernie and that you weren’t there with him to witness him pass on to his next life. You never got that closure. I am beginning to realize that it was a blessing that Frank passed away in his sleep, without pain, in his room next to me. It is truly a blessing and I am thankful. If it had to happen and he had to be called home what more could one ask for. I have realized that he could have collapsed on the sidewalk or on the street or in a car along the side of the road. I could not bear watching him die lying on a sidewalk with strangers gawking at him. He was lucky to be home sleeping. My new really is he isn’t coming home and I can’t do anything about it. I just have to accept that he is gone and move forward to put my life back together. I feel Frank is in God’s hands now and I pray that one day I’ll get to see him again and hold his hand. I hope to feel his presence and know that he is here with me. You never ever realize how much you love somebody until their gone. You know you love someone because it hurts. Just like the song, love hurts.
Marsha, I agree with everything you said in your post. Thank you for sharing. Andrew