When my husband fell at my feet with a brain aneurysm, my brain went off in fifteen different directions: “Who’ll help me find my keys? Why is his leg jerking? What will I tell our son? Why am I still breathing?”
The list of questions, large and small flowed through my brain so fast, I barely registered them before they left again, but the one that stayed with me was “Why am I still breathing?”
I’m not a religious person, but I was raised with the King James Version of the Bible and there’s a verse in Genesis that has always stayed with me: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (2:24)
One flesh. One person together. One, one, one. And then there were two. He was on the ground, not breathing and I was kneeling by his side, breathing. I couldn’t figure out why.
Reality took over when the ambulance arrived and I dealt with many things in the next few hours — where he was taken, why he was moved to another hospital, calling our son in college to tell him he’d never see his father again, arranging for organ donation.
That night, I lay in bed, waiting for our son to drive home and praying I wouldn’t lose him, too. He had a five-hour drive from college, no possibility of a flight in the middle of the night, and I was afraid he’d be too distraught to drive.
But he arrived safely and we held each other. We were both breathing. And that question kept interspersing itself among all the other questions that still flowed through my head. Questions that were more focused, questions about how to tell his brothers, ensuring our son had medical coverage, arranging for death certificates, calling insurance companies (medical and life), arranging a service and funeral. The list went on.
Sometimes, I wake in the night, after dreaming of my beloved with such intensity that he still seems to be with me, in spite of my being a widow for twenty-four years now. And the question comes back. Why am I still breathing?