Laura died a year ago today (at 2.50am on Jan 16, 2014). On her last morning she smiled her beautiful smile and told me; ‘I love you’. I didn’t realize it then, but those were her last words. Our wedding certificate had just arrived and Laura was over the moon. We had been married exactly one month. For most of that time we had sat side by side in hospital. Laura propped up in her tilt recline bed and me in the armchair. As weird as it sounds, those were some of our sweetest days, everything unimportant was burnt off, our love was reduced to its finest essence. There was no past, no future, only now.
Laura fell unconscious mid-morning and throughout the afternoon friends and loved ones – Nicki, Rebecca, Toni, Marion and Laura’s brother Barry – popped in to say goodbye. (Marion told me later she had ‘a feeling of great peace’ sitting beside Laura). It was a blessing that the nurses had just moved us. That morning, our neighbor, a young mother, had been told it was all over. She was dying. Her family began wailing and the noise visibly distressed Laura. So the nurses quickly found us another room and promised us the perfect neighbor: ‘She will be just out of throat surgery. She can’t speak and with all the drugs, she will be sound asleep.’
Around 8pm, we heard someone being wheeled in behind the flimsy partition (visualize the hanging blanket in ‘It Happened One Night), and suddenly a shrill New York voice squawked: ‘Harry! Harry! This place is filthy. I can’t stay here…’ Over the next four hours, a steady stream of nurses were summoned, as our new neighbor demanded ever larger doses of pain killers. But nothing helped. She was up and down to the bathroom and constantly on the buzzer like a manic game show contestant. I popped over to ask if she could keep the volume down, explaining that my wife was dying. She smiled sweetly and apologized: ‘Sorry, I’m an insomniac,’ she said.
I had promised Laura she wouldn’t die alone and that I would be with her to the end. I could keep my promise because of our amazing friends who came night after night to sit vigil with Laura, and sometimes relieved me during the day, ‘This is how everyone should die,’ the nurses said when they saw all the love cocooning Laura. On the final night, I asked Kerry (Laura’s ex) to join me. We took turns holding Laura’s hand. At midnight, I took over from Kerry. Although the nurses had warned us that it could take several days for Laura to pass, I sensed that something was about to happen. As Kerry slept, I watched firefly-like lights appear around Laura’s head, her hand slowly cooled and then I saw the steady stream of light coming from the crown of her head that I believe was her soul leaving her body. Laura died at 2.50am. I woke Kerry and we took turns sitting with Laura’s body until 8am. Before we left, I went to say goodbye and hug the woman in the next bed. She had been up all night and heard everything. ‘I am so sorry for your loss,’ she said genuinely moved. Then I went home and sobbed and sobbed. And every so often something happened to console me. Laura’s and my computer spontaneously played two of our favorite songs. And I smelled the unmistakable odor of Laura’s dying body and saw a long blur of light where Laura used to stand by the window. Although I barely understood it back then, my beautiful soul mate Laura was already reaching back to comfort me. I count myself one of the luckiest people alive to have her by my side.