A Woman Left Behind

April 1, 2015

Years ago I read somewhere that dying is easy-the hard part is being left behind. But I recently met an older woman who taught me otherwise.

Years ago I read somewhere that dying is easy-the hard part is being left behind. I believed this for a long time, but as I get older, I see that it isn’t necessarily so. Several of my friends have died of cancer-and their dying certainly wasn’t easy-it was prolonged and horrific.

But what about being the one left behind? In my experience, it is always harder-no matter how expected or how yearned for death is by the one wracked with pain-to be the one left behind, with nothing to do but keen, tear your hair out, moan, and grieve.

Or is it?

I recently met a woman who showed me that being left behind may not always be the hard part.

My husband and I were having lunch last week and we were seated next to an older woman. She looked very at ease even though she was alone-it seemed a very brave thing to do. As lunch proceeded, I heard her talking to someone at the next table; then she started to ooh and aah at a baby across the way. Usually people who come in alone, order and then get busy reading a book, newspaper, what have you-but this woman was spending her time engaging with people at the other tables and having a fine time. I didn’t know what to make of her.

Toward the end of lunch, she said something to us. I must have looked startled because she apologized and said, “I’m sorry for interrupting, but my husband just died.” My immediate response was, “I’m so sorry, are you okay?”

As it turned out, she was more than okay. Her husband had been seriously ill for 2 years and she had been his primary caregiver: she quit a job she loved and had had no time for friends, music, whatever she loved, except her husband. She told me that he had died a couple of days ago.

 

This article was originally posted March 24, 2015 and has since been updated.