One would think that, having lived through the sudden tragedy of his mother dying from a brain aneurism, my husband would see death lurking behind every corner. The world newly uncertain and unsafe. But Kevin is not that person. He understood it for what it was--a low-incidence (approximately 7 in 100,000 annually) unpredictable event. Awful. Unjust. But not confirmation that we live in a dark and dangerous world.
Kevin maintains we will be alright. When I suffered my third miscarriage, he assured me, we would have a child. When his appendix nearly burst in his body, he didn’t see any reason for me to have to come down to the hospital. When I see a mountain, Kevin smooths it down to a mole hill.
I wish I shared Kevin’s optimism. But I am the person who loses her voice for two weeks and starts to imagine having to speak through an electronic voice synthesizer. Who watches Sophia fail a hearing test and sees her living a soundless future. Who feels a lump in her breast and is already imagining her funeral, Kevin remarrying, and Sophie having some other woman as her mother. I can cry real tears thinking about how, one day, I will disappear from Sophie’s memory and this woman will be the only mom she’ll ever know. I hate her--Sophie’s hypothetical stepmother.
So reading a book about a young pregnant woman whose husband suddenly dies in a freak accident speaks to my deepest fear: anything can happen at any moment. I wish I could say that this fear holds me in the present, fills me with gratitude, makes me wring the most out of every living second.
But it doesn’t. On a daily basis, I take my loved-ones, my healthy body, my safety and security for granted just as much as the next person. It is my morbid flashes that call forth my appreciation for life. While immersed in Signs of Life, I imagined Kevin dying, perhaps from an aneurism, like his mother had. Having to make that awful decision of pulling him off the respirator. Never quite believing that the doctors performed the EEG correctly. Explaining to Sophie what had happened and facing the question of “When is daddy coming back?” Feeling the emptiness of the house, the unbearable silence that only comes with absence, the space left by sounds that once filled the room. My own loneliness, knowing that I will never again feel the comforting spread of his arms around me. Never again see his dimples crease his face. Never again hear him sing our invented goodnight song to Sophie in his best lounge lizard voice.
And, of course, now I’m crying. At once despondant and grateful.
We will probably both live a long time. The odds are in our favor. Kevin, confident that we will make it through, relatively unscathed, and me, ever vigilant, anticipating the worst. Living in the world differently, appreciating it just the same.
During the fifth month of her pregnancy of her first child Natalie Taylor is devastated by the sudden death of her husband. Her journey with grief is chronicled in the memoir Signs of Life. Join From Left to Write on March 29 as we discuss Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.