It wasn’t a war or a fight. Those things have rules. This was more like Aaron getting in the ring with the Mohammed Ali of cancers, and smiling for round after round after he got his teeth knocked out and his face rearranged.
It ended today at 2:43pm, in the middle of a run-on sentence, my head on his heart and my arms around him in a hospital bed built for one, but perfect for the two of us.
We’ve spent the last three years in a variety of hospital beds.
We were engaged in the light of a heart rate monitor, snuggled together just feet from his mother on the night of his first seizure. He let me sleep next to him before brain surgeries, even when I was 8 months pregnant and my belly pushed on his IV cords. Our Ralph crawled for the first time in a bed on the oncology floor, desperate to get to the laptop where we were watching The Sopranos after Aaron’s infusion. We snoozed and watched countless movies and TV shows in those little beds, which somehow never felt too small for our tall bodies.
Yesterday I spent hours in bed with him, playing songs we loved and remembering stories from our relationship, thanking him for everything he brought to my life and letting him know it was okay to go and chill in the other world with our baby and my father.
Today we took our last nap in our last hospital bed, in our home, under a blanket that Megan sewed for our wedding.
It’s okay. It’s okay. Thank you. We had so many good years. Not enough, but really good years. You were so good. You were so good to me. I love you. I’ll keep you in my heart, forever. It’s okay.
He breathed out, and I readied for the sharp inhale that would follow 8-10 seconds later, rattling through his body. It never came.
That’s how it ends. One quiet second.
He was here, and then he was gone. It was tangible, this sudden hole that appeared in the center of the universe when he left his body to become everything all around me, just as he promised to do.
But we are stardust, and our bodies are just vessels to help us navigate this earth and to eat Taco Bell. I laid with his body and soaked in his warmth. We dressed him in head to toe J.Crew and his best Nike Dunks. I didn’t even know they cremated you with your clothes, but he’ll be all mixed together with some of his favorite things and the finer things were very important to this man.
Before his first surgery, I stole a marking pen from the surgeon and drew a small heart on his hand. Not so much to reassure him, but to reassure myself.
Tonight, I found the same one deep in an old makeup case and at the urging of his mother, left the same small heart for him with the same stolen marker.
I know what Aaron always knew: it might not be true right this second, but it’s going to be okay.
Nora has been maintaining this Tumblr for years now and you should read it. It’s rare that any of us have to go through such an experience, and even rarer that someone shares that experience with the world with such grace and eloquence.
Nora’s strength and unwavering optimism should be a model for how we all exist in the world and treat and love other people. Her blog reads “it’s not a cancer story, it’s a love story. With some cancer.” It’s true. You can see it as a story of heartbreak and tragedy but it’s really about a deep crazy love that only a few of us will ever even glimpse. It’s about gulping up every possible second we have here and absorbing the beauty in everything around us. It’s about being a real fucking adult.
Love to you and your family Nora - you’re amazing. Thank you for sharing your story.