It was three years ago today that Patrick asked me to marry him.
We were in his hospital room. He was laying in bed, and I occupied my regular spot beside him. While so often Patrick was plagued with confusion and anger from the highly malignant tumor growing in his brain, this was a good day. He was as clear as he had ever been since the last day before the seizure that changed our lives forever.
"Will you do me a favor?" he asked.
"Of course," I replied.
Patrick looked up at me with the sweetest expression, full of love and hope. "Will you marry me?"
My eyes immediately welled with tears. I said yes. We cried together. My next thought was, "I hope he remembers this!" Luckily, he did. We were married two months later on 5/24/2015. He took his final breath on 7/11/2015.
When you lose someone, there are so many anniversaries of happy moments: birthdays, when you met, engagement, marriage. When that loss involves a chronic illness, there are a lot of painful ones, too: first seizure, date of diagnosis, brain surgery, when hospice was brought in. After more than two and a half years, I often wonder if I will ever forget any of these dates, good or bad. So far, they are all still etched in my memory. Each time one arrives, an ache in my heart is ignited that burns as deeply as ever.
This morning I was going through my phone to write down all the notes I have jotted down since Patrick died, many of which involve specific encounters with him. There have been a lot of them. (Ask me about the time when he called me two months after he passed away. No, I am not kidding. There was a witness!) I came across something that I wrote while on a flight to San Diego last year, when I had a moment of clarity and gratitude for all that our love and his loss has taught me. It feels like the right day to share, so here it is:
"If today was my day, I would be fine with that. I have lived a good life. I have done what I believe God would want me to do. I have loved deeply and known that love in return. I don't know what more I can ask, actually. I understand the word serenity and I do know peace. In this very moment, I have peace.
I thank you, God, for my life today. I thank you for the incredible blessing that was Patrick. He changed me forever. He believed I was funny, and smart, and beautiful - and he told me every single day. He believed in me and saw things in me that I didn't even know existed, and I may have never seen them if he hadn't told me. We had our issues but I never doubted how much he loved me. What a gift.
Today it is my job to tell myself those things that Patrick told me: that I'm intelligent, and capable, and worthy of being loved. He believed all of that so honestly and wholeheartedly, and I trusted him so much, that I hope if I keep trying I will believe it someday. Patrick was a very sharp guy. He had to be on to something.
I am not being punished. I am not a bad person. I am a good person who had a terrible thing happen. Because of that, I know there will be good again in my life. Patrick would have it no other way. I have no doubt he is up there putting in a good word for me.
For a long time I thought that this wasn't what I signed up for. But you know what - it is exactly what I signed up for. No one ever told me my life would get perfect by getting sober and doing my best to live in alignment with the spiritual principles of recovery. Now, I may have heard differently, or expected differently, but what they told me was that it would get different. They said I would be given a set of tools that would allow me to deal with life on life's terms with some degree of dignity and grace. Precisely to what degree that is depends directly on whether I am living in fear or in faith.
There have always been things I just knew I couldn't stay sober through. One of them was getting married. I did. Probably the biggest was losing a spouse. I mean, I wouldn't blame myself if I drank over this. But I don't have to. There has never been a question in my mind that drinking was not going to help me here. That doesn't mean I have sat on some spiritual cloud - quite the opposite, I sat in my bed watching "The Real Housewives" and eating my feelings for months. But I haven't wanted to drink. If I didn't believe in miracles before, I have to with that one.
Give it back. Say yes. Show others that they, too, can survive the trials they face. Help as much as possible, as often as possible. The day they throw the dirt on me, I want to have cultivated a beautiful garden of a life so that when I see Patrick on the other side, the first thing I can say is "I have so much to show you" and know that he will be proud of what he is about to see. And so will I.
Maybe it doesn't get better. Maybe we get better."
About a year after Patrick died, I had my rings resized to wear on my right hand. Most of the time, I don't wear my engagement ring. Today is different. Today, I'm still his and he's still mine.
Lisa O'Leary is a lawyer, cat mom, widow, sports enthusiast, truth seeker, soul searcher, meditator, and consciousness practitioner who is actively engaged in quieting down the mind to allow the song to play.