“You have the intestinal flu”, I told him. I had just gotten over it and it was going around. He had abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Jeff had called me on Halloween while I was in Georgia visiting my family. We had no idea what was to follow.
He was born, lived and left this world in Northern California. I was born on the east coast but am a California woman through and through. I have lived in the Northwest since 1984.
My poetry and writings on this topic were inspired by the amazingly challenging process of being a partner to my beloved who was so ill. I am an R.N. and a Certified Nurse-Midwife (similar to a Nurse-Practitioner specializing in pregnancy, birth, and post-birth care) who has worked in the medical system since 1983. I also had had a home birth practice for 10 years in the progressive Sierra Nevada foothill town that is my home. I experienced Jeff’s sickness and sequelae with the eyes and heart of his beloved and also as an experienced medical professional familiar with the culture and inside workings of “modern” Western medicine.
I have learned our societal and medical approaches with death are often as irrational as they are towards the birthing process. I offer these writings to share my perspective and possibly new approaches to sickness, dying, death, and her aftermath. I also address my experience of “The Grief Times” which are still in process.
This is the first poem that came after he had been home a bit following his first hospital admission of 16 days. He was unable to eat and was drinking only clear juices.
How life changes.
As it had long ago,
the first man I had ever loved,
Who is this who remains?
The huge IV drips, drips, drips,
A mechanical whirr paces our days.
We hardly touch anymore.
You can’t even cuddle with me.
When did we last make love?
Tall, emaciated with skin and eyes a frightening yellow,
You stare hours on end at electronic mirages of food.
Dreaming of creating sumptuous substances
To nourish your starving body.
This is not your father,
I tell the little one in me.
Though painful impressions remain,
I am no longer that helpless and confused child.
No one acknowledged her great loss,
When a father’s touch disappeared,
Grief overcame her,
Her only comfort a beagle with her in bed.
It is difficult to rage at the sick,
Where has my sweetheart gone?
I am not alone now I remind myself,
People are here with us.
“No, this is not easy”.
“We can carry you through this”.
“Your life need not be over”.
“You will both come through”.