If nothing else, we loved each other like fire.
My husband was my everything. And he loved me as simply as anyone ever could– with every breath he took, with everything he had.
We were so proud of each other. We loved to show each other off– him with his pretty, petite, clever, clean wife; me with my big, broad confident Aussie guy.
And we loved what we had… the perfect suburban family. And that’s light and shadow, a double edged blade– I’m so grateful we had what we did. I know it made him happy. I know we made him feel complete, I know I made him feel loved.
But (isn’t there always a ‘but…?’)… I wish I’d known the pressure it caused him, to maintain it: how important the appearance and upkeep where… I would have told him it didn’t matter, it’d never matter– give me a shack and a fire to cook on; if I had him and my children I could find happy, somewhere amongst that..
We fell in love the moment our eyes met, and if that sounds corny, I don’t care– it’s true. It was a given, decided after our first date by both of us, but not spoken of until weeks later, that this was it– the final relationship either of us would ever have. We’d each found the missing pieces of our puzzle. (”Love at first sight, was it?” asks a friendly secretary as she takes our details, the skin of my stomach stretched tight over the girth of our first unborn child; and I hesitate in my reply– of course it was, but I’d never verbalized that to the man who would become my husband. “Yeah, sure was,” he replies, big grin, all nonchalant as if that was already public knowledge and I couldn’t stop a shocked, happy smile teasing at the corners of my mouth, so infinitely proud that he had chosen me to love, chosen me to be have his child.)
My whole life I’ve had doubts about the concept of love– the main doubt being that it is no more than a concept, a justification for a choice driven purely by reproductive biology. I think that’s where the clandestine love for gothic romances eventuates from– Tess of the Dubervilles, Romeo and Juliet– they all loved with an intensity that defied logic, an intensity that surpassed any kind of natural instinct. A love that burned so furiously it overrode their natural biological sense of self preservation.
If I taken nothing else from this, I have been given the knowledge of something amazing. My whole life I’ve wanted to believe that love– romantic love, above and beyond the biological kind– is the equivalent to a literal force of nature. That it is real enough to be tangible, to be measured; to be counted and stood against not only time itself, but the organic constraints of the human body.
I wanted to know that love could exist beyond a heartbeat, beyond a last breath, beyond a simple firing of neurons in a certain pattern to produce enough a of a certain hormone to make you believe you had fallen in love with someone who was simply primally attractive.
If it comes to some kind of sad existence– I live a long, long life, content but alone, never again having that connection with another soul, another spirit…. then at least I have been shown, been proven, time and time again, that love– romantic, blissful love; where it’s kissing and laughter and the air itself is drinkable and sustenance enough to live, and it all tastes of peaches– is indeed a tangible, weighted quality; far more than a fairy tale or a construct of Western society. I’ve had my faith laid bare, and had it shown to be true. I’ve genuflected in agony and been blessed with some kind of balming reprieve.
A ring in a toaster. A rose on an anniversary. A woman who says she has a connection, who spoke in my husbands tone of voice and used phrases as he would, despite never having met him, when he’d been dead, psychically existing only as carbon matter in brine, for ten months already.
The irony of this doesn’t escape me, nor does the slightly skewed irrationality… but then, nothing about love is ever rational. But the touchstone I reach for, time and again, is the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given; and it stung like flesh eaten to the nerve as it was said to me. It’s my Holy Grail, my essence of truth, not proof of life but proof of the existence of love as a driving, moving force, a connection of cells and souls and a place where minds can meld, just slightly, so they are capable of thinking the same thoughts and their hearts can beat in the same rhythm… so they can lay together perfectly intertwined, breathing in an offbeat lullaby and being filled with each others scent.
And, of course, stupidly, serendipitously; that proof, that touchstone is something biological. An involuntary reflex of the human body that served to prove to me that love is actually much more than just that.
“We don’t know what will happen.” The ICU doctor is compassion and calm personified. She has done this a thousand times before, probably will a thousand times again. But she is a healer, her soul so deep and empathetic I wonder if she ever really leaves this ward, or simply psychically goes home for a while. “He’s not responding what we’d call ‘normally’ to the treatments we’re giving him.” We know this already, his mum and sister and I, his cheer squad assembled. “And,” the doctors clear grey eyes meet mine and I’m struck by her dignity, even in this uncomfortable green room where nightmares are dissected and people’s whole lives dissolved into portions and blood types and salts and MRI’s; “his blood pressure drops perceptibly by twenty to thirty points every time you walk in the room.”
My husband’s blood pressure skyrocketed continually throughout those one hundred hours in purgatory. The medications they gave him- heavy doses as he was already comatose and side effects would be minimal- did little to bring it down.
The very presence of his wife in the same room as him… that was enough.
That’s my proof, my faith gratified and vindicated. I lost it, dropped and fumbled for it in the darkness of grief and trauma and lonely nights that stretched on for hours… but I present it to myself time and again as undeniable evidence that, despite the anger and hurt and burning, horrible heat of those last few minutes of his conscious life… he loved me.With everything he had.