It was a Saturday, just 3 weeks ago, when we found out Robin was in the hospital. Initially we were told it was pneumonia ... The news only got worse from there. Large, fatal tumors had grown to an untreatable size in her lungs. We spoke with Andrew, Johnny’s brother, and started planning when we should come. In the course of 24 hours we went from planning a trip sometime in November, Thanksgivingish we had thought, to a week down the road, to us leaving the next day, Sunday, at 11:30 pm, because Dad said to come “NOW”.
I’m forever grateful that we arrived when we did - We were afforded the last few glimmers of Robin. She knew we were there, she was lucid. She even sang with the kids. She was herself for moments at a time. She wanted her hair fixed. She jokingly complained that nobody had given her a birthday gift (Tom reminded her that he had), harped on Tom to clean up after himself in the kitchen (once she was sent home on Hospice), and said “duh” when I asked her if she wanted any chocolate. She tried to get out of her Hospice bed to get an elderly friend a chair, and she enjoyed the attention of the many visitors. But it escalated really quickly. The tumors swallowed her up, and days after we arrived, she was in a perma-sleep. Her last words were moans, and they were horrible and heartbreaking to hear.
On my last day with her, I sat and spoke to her. I’m hopeful that some part of her could hear me tell her how special she had been in my life, to her boys, to Tom, but especially to her grandkids. I assured her as best I could, that we would be okay, and that we’d keep her memory alive.
I realized I would never get to see her again, or hug her, get another voicemail or FaceTime, or hear her sing/read/play/talk with the kids. I thought of the years ahead of us she was being robbed, and in a last ditch effort, I painted her and Navy’s nails. I wanted her to be able to get a manicure with her granddaughter. We had a mini spa moment right there in her bedroom, and it broke my heart that it was all she would ever get. She deserved so much more. More time. More memories.
Since leaving, I’ve built up an emotional wall. A big, strong, bury-my-feelings wall - I haven’t been ready to feel the gravity of her loss. I wanted to be strong for Johnny, for Andrew, and for Tom. For her parents, Bob and Marilyn. For my kids. I was strong, and for that I’m thankful. I’m typically the kind of person who sobs over dumb commercials and country songs - Love helped me keep it together, forge through, and remain stable for those who needed me.
Today at the grocery store I was in line to checkout behind a woman who appeared unhealthy. I couldn’t help but wonder why this woman was alive and Robin wasn’t. I wanted to trade her in and get Robin back. It isn’t fair. I shamed myself for having such a thought; That woman deserves life, and likely has family that loves her as we love Robin. But the unfairness, of such a young soul being yanked from us prematurely - I suppose I will always wonder why. I can’t reconcile it in my head or heart.
I’ve been mad. Life doesn’t play fair, and events unfolded that created deep disappointment within my heart. And while I sure hate to be mad, it has been a welcomed distraction from the feelings of sad. But we are home again. The funeral has ended. The distractions are gone. I don’t have to appear strong anymore, for anyone, and just as Robin - I’ve come undone, and all at once.
Tom wrote something on his Facebook page today ... It absolutely crumbled my internal wall.
“Several years ago one of my patients was in my office quite distraught. Her father had recently passed away. Through her tears she told me that it was so unexpected. I asked how old her father was. She replied he was 104.
Hemmingway said of his own bankruptcy it came on very slowly then all at once. My job deals with life and death everyday. But the suddenness and finality of death is always shocking. It takes most of us a half a year to get the year right on a check. How long will it take for me to get my head around this? My Dad has been gone for several years now. But I can’t take the reminder out of my calendar to call him every Thursday. And every Thursday when the reminder dings I smile in remembrance. Sometimes I even start to call him.
At least 100 times a day I turn to make a comment to Robin, but she’s not there. Might be a picture of the grandkids or something goofy one of the dogs just did. Or just a fun memory. I go ahead and say them out loud anyway. I take after my Mother in that way, always talking to myself. Something that Robin teased me about mercilessly, I even miss that.”
Robin’s name is in my favorites on my phone, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take her off. l went through all of my deleted voicemails and retrieved the ones from Robin. I’ve listened to them over and over. One message in particular is especially precious because she is ooey-gooey over a photo she had seen of Wright. It’s a treasure I’m thankful Wright will have, especially since she got the least amount of time with her Grandma. A loss of this magnitude ... It takes your breath away.
We are mourning for Robin, but we’re equally devastated for Tom. It’s difficult to explain their dynamic; I hadn’t really experienced anything like it outside of them. My best attempt to describe them would sound sugary sweet and corny ... But they’ve been the model of “true love”. They existed as individuals who were better together. A true team. I crack in half when I imagine Tom’s pain and hurt - It’s as unbearable to feel as the loss of Robin herself. I know she worried about him more than herself. Part of him is forever gone, with her. That hurts to know.
Robin’s final gift, per her usual, was to unite. I’ve never loved this family of mine more deeply. I’ve seen kindness, strength, and love like never before. I’ve seen her friends and community rally together, help, care for and mend. It spoke volumes to us of the kind of woman she was to see the enormous outpouring of love and support. I hope that because of, and for Robin, we will bond tighter together in her memory. We will keep her nest full. I know that’s what she would have wanted ...