It was December 27, 2007, at 4:30 in the afternoon, two days after Christmas, one day before my life would change forever. My husband had been ill on Christmas day, and actually, I thought he had caught a virus that I had contracted two weeks earlier. Chuck was so sick on that day that he didn’t get up from bed to have Christmas dinner. I still suspected the flu. He had been to the doctor, and the doctor said that it was the flu, but I was also aware that he didn’t seem to have any cold symptoms. He wasn’t sneezing or coughing, so at that point, I still wasn’t alarmed.
The morning after Christmas, I woke up and noticed that my husband suddenly looked like skin and bones. I immediately called the doctor, and he scheduled a CAT scan. Chuck had the scan on December 26, and the doctor called me the next day. When I answered the phone, he said he was glad that I had picked up the phone so he could speak to me first, then he’d speak to my husband. The doctor told me he had seen something on Chuck’s pancreas. He said that he would have to do a biopsy. I nearly flipped. I couldn’t believe my ears for I knew the seriousness of what the doctor was saying. After he spoke to me, he then spoke to my husband. Chuck and I both cried—and I literally screamed.
The next few weeks were like a fog. We decided to try an alternative method of treatment as we awaited the arrival of the biopsy date. Chuck began to lose more weight with the holistic treatment, and after the formal diagnosis of “yes, it is pancreatic cancer” and “yes, it is in the head of the pancreas” (which is the worst location for pancreatic cancer to be found) and “yes, it is stage four,” we decided to go for more traditional treatment at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City. Our oncologist was compassionate, knowledgeable, and willing to work with us as we proceeded forward with hope for a miracle. She never dashed our hopes.
In the ensuing weeks and months, my husband prayed, kept a journal, and never complained. He had good days in the beginning, and we were encouraged on a few occasions, but as time went on, the chemotherapy took its toll, and eventually, he became so weak that the effects became more of a minus than a plus. Chuck was still not eating well, just small morsels of food, which were all he could get down. But we were thankful for the fact that he could just eat, because maintaining a balanced weight was critical for him to survive. We both prayed for that miracle, and I tried to be as normal as possible, not ever uttering a discouraging word. I saw my robust, athletic husband go from a strong, healthy man to a slow-moving, bald shadow of himself.
Chuck had great pride and dignity, and he did not want me to know how much pain he was in, so he didn’t tell me. When I noticed him lying in an awkward position and asked if he was in pain, he would tell me I was being negative. He pushed as much as he could until finally the chemotherapy was beginning to have a deleterious effect, and he had to stop treatment.
I remember on the last day, he asked his oncologist, “So, there’s nothing else you can do for me?” Oh, I thought my heart would break into little, teeny tiny pieces. My dear, sweet lifelong companion, my handsome husband who dressed so nattily in his tweeds and sweaters as he went to his treatment, was now faced with no more hope.
At one point during his chemotherapy treatments (I hadn’t been for a while—my brother-in-law had been going with him, which gave me a bit of a break), the doctor called me into her office and said I was my husband’s source of strength and that he was still alive because of me. She said I was his lifeline. My heart sank. When I came out of her office, Chuck was waiting for me down the corridor, and when he saw that I had been crying, he took my hand and comforted me. Our bond was what carried us through.
I did not go to the very last visit with his oncologist because I could not bear to be there and face the inevitable. It was the place where we had gone in the beginning with such hope, and now everything seemed so final.
Soon Chuck settled in with hospice care at home. We had the most wonderful nurses and tons of medications to treat the pain. The nurses were so kind to Chuck. He loved them too—probably more than me at times as I became the caregiver/taskmaster, and they were the angels of mercy.
Chuck endured many emergencies, numerous medications, and the slow deterioration of his body, but never his mind. Eventually, he was not able to get around on his own; he wasn’t able to sit up or lie down or move his arms and legs. I found this to be the most unbelievable experience to have to witness. The unimaginable transformation of my dear husband as he went through this experience was beyond fathomable. He endured his fate with as much dignity as he could. He never cried out, and although he cried when I wasn’t around, occasionally he would cry in front of me.
He would ask me to forgive him for having put me through this horrible ordeal. I assured him that it was not his fault and I could never blame him for this unreal, random circumstance. Sometimes he would feel cold and sometimes he would feel hot, and I just wanted to hold him and absorb some of his discomfort. I really just wanted to wake up from this nightmare. I wanted our life back.
On January 24, 2009, four days after the inauguration of Barack Obama, our first black president of the United States, my husband, Clarence Cortez Loftin III, who meant everything to me—my dream guy, my protector and provider, and the source of my strength—passed away peacefully at home at the age of 61. His anguish and pain were extinguished, and my painful journey was about to begin.
This book is meant to be a guide and source of inspiration and hope for those who are grieving the loss of a spouse. The process of grieving requires a conscious effort on the part of the griever. It’s not to be taken lightly or haphazardly, but we must also know that it is a long and arduous process, and the only one who can get through it is the one who is left: the bereaved spouse.
This book is about being brave and courageous in a brand-new world. This is not meant to be a definitive guide on how to grieve, but I hope my experience will assist those who are grieving the loss of a spouse by illustrating what can be expected as one embarks on a grieving journey.
After years of marriage, no matter how few or how many, it is up to the grieving spouse to re-create a life for herself or himself. I hope this book helps to make that task easier.
Excerpted from "Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse" by Yvonne Broady. Copyright © 0 by Yvonne Broady. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.