Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life

We left the hospital.  Paul, Karen, Steve and I headed for the kids.  The sun was shining; it was a beautiful spring day.  We walked into Paul’s house and the kids were downstairs playing.  My mind was set on Jack.  I was happy that I had taken a few minutes before I left in the ambulance to tell him that Rick died.

I started down the stairs to the basement when he came running up the stairs and looked up and saw me.  “Is he okay, Mom?”  My heart dropped to my stomach.  “No, Jack, he’s not okay.  Daddy died.” I said.  “No, not my dad, not my dad!” he yelled as he burst into tears.  He climbed the stairs to me and I sat back on the stair and held him.  We both cried.

I walked with him to the living room and held him in my arms on the couch.  He was sobbing. Of all the pain I have had to bear in my life, watching my sons grieve the death of their father has been the most painful for me.  I rocked him like a baby.

All of his cousins came in, Bobby, Christine, Matt and Stacy; their faces were tear-stained and full of shock. Paul said, “Let’s say a prayer for Rick.”  I don’t remember what we prayed.  I only remember holding Jack and Michael Sean by my sides and crying.  I didn't want to let them go.

I told all of them I needed to go home.  They all came to our house. Karen started calling all my family and Paul had started on his way to check on Rick’s mom and to bring her back out to our house.

I have the most incredible family and the most incredible friends and the most incredible colleagues.  The next few days were filled with some of the kindest acts of love and friendship that I have ever received.

I sat on the couch in my living room while my friends and family came and cleaned and scrubbed and straightened my house.  My friends, Pam and Carl, showed up almost immediately with coffee, drinks, lemonade, ice and a huge cooler.  As quickly as they came, they slipped out, not wanting to be intrusive.

My friends Linda, Teresa and Norma cleaned, vacuumed and washed everything in sight.  People started arriving with food; they sorted it, arranged it, and stored it.  These angels thought of everything and yet somehow remained in the shadows.  Linda and Norma would greet my family at the door and invite them in, settle them and get them something to eat or drink.

The phone rang and Linda brought it to me.  "It's Loudoun Hospital," she told me.  "Hello," I said into the receiver.  "Mrs.Roszel, this is Nurse Woodard from Loudoun Hospital calling.  I understand that your husband, Richard Roszel died today. About three hours ago.. I'm sorry for your loss". Where was this going?

"I'm calling to find out if Richard was an organ donor," she said. "No, he wasn't." I replied.  "Mrs. Roszel, would you consider donating Richard's organs?" she asked.  "I would be happy to donate any organ but Rick had multiple myeloma, bone cancer; I don't think you could use any of his organs. Can you?" There was an audible pause. "Mrs. Roszel, no, I don't think it would be possible.  I'm sorry to have bothered you." she said and then we hung up.  I couldn't help but think that someone didn't do their homework on Rick.  It was a strange conversation; I wished that I could have given any part of Rick's body to help.  It might have taken a bit of the sting out of the day.

My boys were outside with their cousins, playing on the swings, climbing in the fort or throwing the ball around.  I could see them pass the dining room window now and again.  Every 15 minutes or so Jack would wander back into me and say, “Mom, are you okay?” “I’m okay, Jack. You  go and play. I’m right here,” I replied. 

It’s funny how quickly I began making decisions in my mind.  Jack is not going to be burdened with taking care of me for the rest of my life.  He’s a child and deserves to be a child.  Michael does not need to go to the wake but he can come to the funeral. I want that hospital bed gone and I want my house put back together again.

I felt immobile at this point.  I felt the weight of the worry gone but I was washed with the sadness of trying to fathom my life without Rick.  Every dream, every hope, every wish of my life was filled with Rick and suddenly he was gone.  It was hard to “just be” without him, already.

I am happy that I have such a big family.  They started to arrive and of course, because our family is so big, they didn’t stop coming.

Steve arrived with his “priest” tools and started to talk to me about the services for Rick.  Steve and I have been friends for a very long time.  I knew him from St. Philip’s, my first teaching experience.  I knew him four years before I met Rick. I played guitar and sang at the school masses; Steve and I planned together before the start of mass. He was a young associate pastor, played guitar and came to my class and entertained my first grade students. 

Steve said he would go with me to make the funeral arrangements the next day.  He scheduled an appointment with Adams-Greene Funeral Home and another with the Sterling Cemetery.  I had never made arrangements for anyone before so this was all new to me.
My mother in-law hugged me when she walked into my house. We sat on the couch feeling overwhelmed by it all. We both said we couldn't believe Rick was gone.  I couldn’t begin to understand her pain, the pain of losing a child.  My heart ached for her.

In that moment, it seemed the focus was on me, perhaps because I had instantly become the weeping widow.  I felt catatonic but I was acutely aware of how Rick’s loss impacted us all.  We were all grieving, with no grief greater than the next.  Rick meant a lot to many people.

It had been 13 weeks from diagnosis to death.  Every one of those days I spent being so burdened with the anxiety of all that lay before me.   I don't know what I was expecting when Rick died but it wasn't the calmness that I felt sitting there.  I was so astounded at my reaction.  The grief I felt had started 13 weeks before.  Each day and every little piece that the cancer chipped away from Rick was a part of my daily grief.  I suppose I was expecting the big fireworks at the end.  It had been a rough day but the fireworks had been going on for 13 weeks and today was just the first day of the rest of my life.

1 comment:

  1. I cannot imagine losing someone so dear to me. I guess there is no preparing for this loss except to enjoy each moment as if it were your last. Thank you for sharing your story.