This week I had my first dream in which I was living and Dan wasn’t. I don’t think my entire life, I have had a dream like that. It was confusing–as most dreams are–with jumbled characters and circumstances. I do remember that I was in a building that housed many rooms like a school, as well as a room for movies. There was music playing in certain rooms. There were groups of people and friends. I think I was in Colorado because Hattie and Sarah and Ryan were there. I went to talk to them at one point about how I could no longer watch / listen to the things that everyone else was watching / listening to. It made me so very sad. I felt like an “other.” I felt the weight of loss and grief and the sound of things was different. My interpretation of images was different. I was very frustrated that I felt this way and no one seemed to notice or understand.
Of course, that is obviously how I feel now, even though I haven’t suffered loss. I am just grieving loss of a future. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I’m grieving something that I was never guaranteed. Nevertheless, my reality is different than ever before.
At work on Wednesday, I was sweeping the floor of autumn leaves and giant dust bunnies that had gathered underneath our racks of sweaters and coats. I was alone and had Pandora on our computer playing my beloved Over the Rhine as a station over the store speakers. Apparently I need to stick with the “French Cafe” station because the song “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Deathcab for Cutie came on and I totally burst into tears. I recovered quickly and I am positive that it only occurred because no one was with me in the store, but honestly, this is what happens. It wasn’t even the first time that I heard that song since Dan’s diagnosis.
The first time, I was working on inventory at home for my business and was playing Pandora on our TV in the living room. As soon as I heard the first verse, I sobbed. My mother-in-law, Char, walked into the room while I was crying. She held me and comforted me and let me cry. I can honestly say that this hasn’t happened very often. I have actually held more people as they cry than vice versa. For example, in October, Dan’s best friend, Andy, visited with his wife Sara. While Dan napped, they indulged me in walking 3rd Street in McMinnville, so I could leisurely drink wine and shop on my birthday. At Mes Amies, I found a delicate and sweet monogram necklace. When I took the “D” necklace and tried it on, Sara was moved to tears. She quickly apologized and I told her not to. I hugged her in the middle of the store. I wanted to comfort her, somehow ease her pain. I hugged her with every spark inside my being. I know this is sad. I know this is hard. I wanted to console her and let her cry no matter where we were and what was going on. I certainly did not care if strangers thought we were weird. This situation is absolutely awful. There is no way around that. I can’t help but want to comfort our friends. I can’t help but want to comfort family. It is a significant part of who I am—I am one who wants to please others. I want to comfort them and make them feel better. Dan is the same way. We learned very quickly in marriage counseling that we had that in common.
However, the day that I cried to “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” Char caught me in a hard moment and she held me. She told me, “He is my son, but he is your Husband.”
We both have so much empathy for one another, and I believe that helps us greatly. I despair at the thought of Raine growing up to be 37 and having a fulfilling life with a family and being diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. When Dan and I have tried to imagine what it is like to be in Jim and Char’s shoes, we can’t. It is unbearable. The unstoppable tears immediately sting with shock and despair. And we have only had the pleasure of loving Raine 3 small years.
So I try to text Char. I try to give her updates. I imagine how horrible it would be to live so far away from my sick child. I try to take care of Dan with the tenderness and love of a mother because I am trying to act on behalf of the woman who raised him. Now that I have a child, I am stunned at how extraordinary your love for your child can be; How crippling worry can be and how vital hope is.
I don’t know if I will have many other dreams like the one that I had this week. These dreams are disconcerting and aimless, but that is how my body is processing things. Despite his diagnosis, I don’t actually know what the future holds. I don’t have a map of our lives that tells me exactly when he or I will die. I just know that his odds have changed drastically. I tell everyone all the time though—I didn’t get a free ticket because my husband has cancer. I could get cancer, too. I could die suddenly in a car accident tomorrow. Nothing is guaranteed. That is what his diagnosis has taught me. All bets are off! What my dreams seem to reaffirm, along with shaking episodes, fearful moments, and grinding my teeth, is that I am truly suffering from not just anxiety but PTSD. It is not just a condition for veterans. It is for anyone who suffers a traumatic moment. Realizing this has taught me a lot about my life and a lot about myself right now. That week that Dan was in the hospital, we were given such horrendous news so unexpectedly, and it got worse and worse each day. At the time, I called them “Sucker-punches.” It was absolutely traumatic. At one moment, I thought I had days left with my husband. I am still waiting for that next sucker-punch. The next “shoe to drop,” so to speak. Anything that will continue the downward spiral that began September 14th.
Friends, help me keep looking upward and away, beyond fear. I am trying. I really am. Your support means everything to me.