1,051,200 Minutes

Today was hard, but not really any harder than any other day. Wednesday was harder. Wednesday was the 3rd of February and two years ago the 3rd of February was your last really good day. You played with a litter of kittens and ate an omelet for breakfast. It was 60* (after two full weeks of snow and bitter cold) so we took a walk around the neighborhood (well, for you it was more of a roll). You watched your favorite movie (Logan), and drank coffee (thickened so you wouldn’t choke). People who loved you visited with you, and said goodbye to you. The Super Bowl was that night and you made a little joke about the Browns not playing (like you did every year).

You lived two full days after that but I barely remember anything about those two days because you were alive but you didn’t fully live. Not like you did on February 3rd… two years ago.

Today is February 6th. Two years ago you died on February 6th. Two years ago you barely lived on February 6th. Actually you only lived for 6 minutes of February 6th two years ago, even though your death certificate says you lived for 46 minutes on February 6th. I tend to think of certificates as things you earn for doing something, but even if you do nothing else in your lifetime you get two certificates (at least in our modern civilized society). You get a certificate when you start breathing, and you get one when you stop breathing.

When you stopped breathing on February 6th, two years ago, it took a little while for me to collect myself, call the hospice nurse, wait for the nurse to arrive, and then for her to confirm with the doctor over the phone that you were indeed dead. They couldn’t take my word for it that you had been dead since 12:06am, so you got credit for an extra 40 minutes of living. I think you would have liked that. You always did like a good deal.

I have always been a pretty competitive person, which presents a challenge because I have also always been a pretty mediocre athlete, and I was only a slightly above average student. I additionally tend to root for pretty mediocre sports teams whose accomplishments include things like – still playing football in January at least once every 20 or so years, and – producing the most Cy Young Award winners who go on to win a World Series with another team (I’m only guessing on that second one, but that seems like an accurate Cleveland stat).

Because of this I’ve had to cope with my competitive nature by competing with myself. I set achievable goals and then push myself to achieve them which is why I can say things like “I have marathon time of just over 8 hours.” I did that a lot while you were sick. I set goals for myself as a cancer wife and accomplished things that were much more certificate worthy than just breathing, although ironically “continuing to breath while being a cancer wife” makes one worthy of a certificate, or at least several gold stars.

Taking care of you was like a marathon, the slow and steady kind we liked to do together (and did do together 3 times). There was a rush of excitement at the beginning as we built ourselves up to tackle something that we were told would likely kill you. The first year was hard, but not impossible. And then it suddenly got harder and felt completely and utterly impossible (like anyone who has ever walked or I suppose run Heartbreak Hill in Boston would understand). And finally there was this sprint to the finish (only a figurative sprint of course as I cannot emphasize this enough… I do not run). We were exhausted and knew it was going to end but didn’t quite believe it actually would. And then we were at the finish line. The race ended. You died. At 12:06 AM on February 6th, two years ago.

I have lived for two years without you. You were ten years older than I (well 10 years, 4 months and 16 days), so you still have the edge in overall minutes. But each day that I keep breathing I close that gap a little more. In those first days after you died, two years ago, it felt impossible that I could breathe long enough to officially catch up to you. Like those first days after finishing a marathon when your legs don’t work right. After two years of continuing to breath, it is starting to feel possible that some day I’ll close that gap completely and officially have breathed for more minutes than you did. Maybe I’ll make a certificate for myself. I probably should have pushed for a more accurate TOD on your death certificate just in case that 40 minutes factors into the final count (I told you I was competitive). You would have laughed at that joke, or more likely you would have made that joke before I had the chance to.

12:06 AM, two years ago. The moment you died. There was nothing particularly momentous about it. When I talk about you (which is a lot) I rarely talk about that moment because it was so insignificant in comparison to so many of the moments you lived before that one. The moments since then, two years worth of moments, felt at first like they would forever lack significance. But just as it became easier to breathe, it has become easier to see the benefit of continuing to breathe.

There is a part of me that thought everything would go back to normal when we reached the finish line. Like, you would die and that meant that all of the cancer stuff would be over, and you would get to be you again. We would collect our certificates, high five each other, and go back to our lives the way they were before we started that 28 month marathon. But it has been two years and I am starting to think there won’t be a certificate for me.

One thought on “1,051,200 Minutes

  1. This brought me to tears Julie. I still struggle mightily with the loss of my Jerry to GBM. We live near each other so for many reasons I feel a connection with you. I admire your perseverance, our perseverance. Go Browns. I wish the were playing today but they made us proud this year.

    Liked by 1 person

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