Throughout his illness I was Kevin's protector, interpreter, and sometimes even his voice. I would have done nothing less. This is a common story, one shared by so many of the widowed people I have met since his death. Another common story, but one I only experienced recently, is what happens in the sickness part of life, when you no longer have the person you expected by your side. Kevin had me. I no longer have him.
Before I go any further, let me assure you that I am fine. Frankly, the details of the issue aren't relevant to this essay and aren't something I'm interested in sharing. It's enough for you to know that I am fine. I am healthy. (Mom, stop worrying, I'm okay, I promise.)
A few weeks ago I had some odd symptoms. Since Kevin's death I find I tend towards a touch of hypochondria. I get nervous when the slightest thing is off so I go the doctor more often. Every time she smiles and reassures me that I'm well. I'm fortunate, she understands my history so is patient and thorough as she examines me. She does not write off my concerns.
This time I went in expecting the same reassurances. She examined me, then said something to the effect of In all likelihood you're just fine, but there is a slight chance this is a symptom of something serious. Let's make sure. She ordered the appropriate tests and sent me home to wait.
I got home and burst into tears. It took me awhile to figure out exactly why I was crying but soon enough I realized it was because, if there was something wrong, Kevin would not be there to hold my hand and help me. I felt immensely alone. I felt angry; I took care of him and he was not longer here to take care of me. I felt isolated.
Bear in mind, I am not isolated. I have friends here in KC as well as further afield who love me and would find a way to care for me if I needed it. I have family. And I have a new love who I know would do everything in his power to support me. I am not alone.
In that moment this knowledge didn't matter. What mattered was that the man who had sworn to care for me in sickness and in health wasn't there. It felt awful. I howled.
Once I pulled myself together I made some calls. I spoke with a few local friends who assured me that they would be there if I needed them, that they are there regardless. One offered to come over immediately, another offered to go with me to get my results. I spoke with my new love who rapidly changed his plans so he could spend the weekend with me while I waited, take me for the last test and be there when I got the results. And I spoke with Kevin, who assured me (in his own ethereal way) that he is here and still with me.
I am okay. You don't need to worry, the tests were all negative and I just need to work on better stress management, like everyone else. My new love took wonderful care of me as we waited for the word. My friends all made sure I knew I wasn't alone. I am okay.
But in that moment, in that time between getting home and reaching out, I was reminded again (and again, and again) of just how big the hole is. I was reminded of just how much I lost when Kevin died. I was reminded of how much no one wants to be alone. And I was reminded of how glad I am that I was there for Kevin, that I could walk by his side and hold his hand to the end. I hope we all can be that lucky and that well loved.
(c)2016 Laura S. Packer