open-booked death

I just read About Alice by Calvin Trillin and A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, both books about how each of the authors (friends, by the way, did you know?) dealt with the death of their respective spouses.  And I seem to be drawn in, bowled under, and helpless to fight against my need to read about how people deal with the death of their spouse.

It’s a whole separate genre on my reading shelf – these books about spousal death.  Call it morbid research.  But, you see, my hubs is going to die first.  It is just a thing I know.  His demise is, simply, my worst fear.  Can Calvin and Joan help me steel my heart so I’m ready for it?  Shoot.  I don’t know.  But isn’t it worth a try?

I won’t go in to all of the reasons why this is my fear – suffice it to say there is enough physical evidence to think we will not be growing old together – even though on the surface, he seems healthy.  So, we joke about it and plan for it.  He made a pretty long list of men I’m not allowed to marry once he’s gone.  I keep reminding him he won’t get to be the boss of that – or the music I’m playing at his funeral.

My sister has a neighbor who has been fighting cancer for some time.  Last week, her husband passed away from an unexpected heart attack.  The next day, she died.  After a long, full life, isn’t that kind of sweetly romantic?  It won’t be our experience.

So I will keep reading, hoping something sinks into my soul and protects me.  I will think about how Joan thought, against all reason, that she needed to hold a place in her life for when her husband would return.  I’ll think about how Calvin’s love for his wife clung to the reality of her after she was gone.  I’ll keep C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed on my nightstand.

When my hubs is gone and my worst fear is realized, these books will be a cold comfort.  But, I secretly wonder if it will be a relief to have my worst fear over with?  Will that make me bullet proof?

What do you think?  Anyone on the other side of your worst fear?  How’s the view from there?

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4 thoughts on “open-booked death

  1. I always worry that my husband is going to die before me. And then freak myself out by imagining all the scenarios in which it could happen. Good ol’ overactive imagination.

    I do think there’s something really sweet about the couple you described who died within a day of each other. I’d definitely prefer for things to go that way, but it’s most unlikely. Death is just one of those things.

  2. I also have this fear, especially since my husband is older than me by 6 years. You sound far more sure of it, though, in a more imminent way, and it makes me wonder why (and hope all is well). I haven’t read any of the three books you mention here, and now I want to. Sort of. 😉 I don’t have a shelf devoted to the spousal death genre, probably because my heart won’t let me go there.

    • Angie, don’t go there! I feel compelled. But if or when it happens to you (knock on wood, hope it won’t, not wishing it)… you can just write your own book and I’ll add it to my shelf.

  3. I think about Chris dying all the time and it makes me angry. It is dumb!!! Really the anger is because I can’t handle the thoughts of living a day with out the man I chose to love through the eternities. Thanks for the invite on reading this blog. I love it. I don’t want you or anyone to suffer loss. This whole thing has made me teary-eyed!

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