Healing Process, Revisiting Smilow

I visited NP12 (Smilow, cancer hospital, 12th floor) , just to see who was working, and to walk around the floor one time. I saw Emilees’s favorite APRN, and got a hug. We talked for a minute, and then I headed toward the front desk. As I did so, I passed a couple of family members outside of a patient’s room.

I was struck by the looks on their faces. I felt like someone had just twisted my gut. I saw pain, hurt, sadness and concern on their faces. I saw fatigue, I saw them going through what I had gone through with Emilee. I wanted to go hug them and tell them it would be all right, but it is not all right. It won’t be all right. I felt an overwhelming sadness just from looking at the expression on their faces.

Now, you could say that I was projecting my feelings onto their faces….taking what I am feeling on the inside and putting those feelings outside of me. But, I don’t think that would be entirely accurate. I have walked the path that these people are walking and it is not smooth, nor nicely paved. I have….about as close as one person can….walked in their shoes. It is a bad trip. I know this sounds depressing.

Did I learn things along the way? Of course. Did it make me appreciate my loved one differently, and change the way I saw many things? Yes. Did it deepen what I had with my wife? Yes, in some ways it did.

But, it was still a bad trip….and, that overwhelming, forever present, dark cloud hovering in the background was what I sensed when I took in the expressions on these people’s faces and their body language. It was a feeling that shook me and was inscribed inside in such a way so as to not likely be erased too soon, or too easily, or ever.

The feeling washed over me. Then, I saw the woman at the front desk. She spoke about Emilee and how sweet she was, how Emilee asked about her when she had been sick with a bad cold. She told me how sad she was when she heard Em had died. I think it was when she said how Em was such a sweet lady that she touched that place inside me that brings tears.

I never truly know what is going to do that…in grief lingo they call it a grief spasm. I know it happens less as time goes on, but I am comfortable letting it happen. It is almost as if at that very moment I feel touched not only by the person who is talking but also by Emilee…and somehow I am honoring her by allowing the feelings to happen and not pushing them back inside.

Like she is taking her finger and reaching inside of me and touching the part of my heart that just started to ooze a drop of blood, and by touching it she cauterizes it and makes the bleeding stop. Sad and yet comforted by feeling she is close. Both at the same time or instantaneously close. There is a part of me that doesn’t want that to stop.

Then I went to see our nurse friend on the eighth floor for a few minutes. We talked about how her recently ended relationship was very much like grieving for someone who had died, how similar the emotional roller coaster.

Then I went to community choir. Very laid back and relaxed. I got to sing two songs with Bob before a few more people joined us. There were seven of us eventually, but only four at that moment,.
You have to realize that singing two songs with Bob playing the guitar, was a significant thing. I was not in the car or the shower or walking around the house. There were other people present and I felt almost as relaxed as when I am home working on a song.

There were witnesses. People I met a few minutes ago. I felt a combination of both validation, and an inner joy that felt like finally some part of me had been freed.

Harmonizing with the rest of the songs as other people had their turns was fun, mostly unstructured and comfortable. Comfortable just blending in with the other voices, especially since harmonizing on the fly is something I love to do.

Now, that activity was well worth the time on many levels. I think Emilee would smile, I hope she is smiling, seeing that I was taking care of myself. She was very worried about me being able to take care of me. She made me promise her two things.

First, I would take care of her, not leave her when it got rough, and stay by her side from beginning to end. I fulfilled that promise. The second one is a little more difficult. Promise to take care of myself. And, lol, don’t do anything too stupid.

Doing something that allowed me to experience joy, to engage with others, to feel some healing, to feel that it is okay to live, to be alive, to smile, to laugh, all of it. I think she is smiling, but this all….. writing this….. still makes me cry. As long as she is still around to stop the bleeding, (just like ET, when he touches Elliot’s finger or his heart or both, and it glows and he says …”I will be right here”….god I cried with that movie), I will be all right.

Neal Klein
Life After Emilee, on the loss of my wife to pancreatic cancer. I’m not accepting comments right now but please feel free to get in touch via my Contact page.