This is another "not a guest post" by my husband, Will. He hasn't featured as prominently in these posts as all the others, because his gift and sacrifice in all of this has been staying behind in Texas to run our lives and care for our sons so that I can be with my parents. He continues to do so, knowing that his goodbyes and support are on a different time table than the rest of us but doing it anyway and essentially supporting our family financially, emotionally, and physically while I stay to do everything I can to be with my mom and dad. Because my husband is awesome.
Here is his post:
Well, I’m off
There is no easy way to say goodbye. Goodbye isn’t even a full word, just a huge contraction of the phrase “God be with you”. When you and someone your love are separated for a short time all you can do is hope that God will watch over them until you are together again. What do you say when you know you will be separated for a long time? My Dad has dealt with this as he has handled trusts and estates and met with people to “put their finances in order” before they die. He likes the phrase, “Well, I’m off.” It’s simple and true without any subtext of the elephant in the room that is death. Very fitting for my Dad. I usually prefer a bigger exit and build up the idea of a goodbye in my head and needing the say the perfect, long-lasting, quotable words that will ring through the time that we are apart. But what are those big words?
I knew this day was coming. As Sara’s family was trying to see her, be with her, and feel of the comfort that always surrounds her my job was to stay in Texas, take care of our kids, and support Angie. A big part of that includes my job. I am very blessed to be have a great job where I can work for home most of the time so I have spent most of the school year at home making sure the kids get off to school, being here when they get home, making sure homework gets done, and making sure I get my work done while they are away or doing their homework. Working from home also means that I need to make sure I stay connected with my coworkers in the various offices. A large company meeting had been scheduled in Provo for February for months. When I saw Sara at Christmas I already knew I would come in for the meetings early and spend Feb 7th with her and that would be the last time I would see her on this side of death.
I flew in the night of Feb 6th and had a nice dinner with my siblings. I can’t remember a lot of what was said, just that I enjoyed being with them, laughing at funny stories and commiserating on all the hard parts of life. We are all solidly focused on our serious 30’s. Let me explain that comment. My oldest brother once told me that life is a cycle of work and freedom with your teens spent focused on school and getting into university, your 20’s you graduate from university and have real money and freedom, then in your 30’s you get serious with a career to move up the ranks and have a family, 40’s is a midlife crisis and you take back your freedom, 50’s you focus on career and saving for retirement, and 60’s you retire and are free again. We don’t talk about our 70’s or longer because my family doesn’t live very long. I only met one Grandma and she died at 66 when I was 4, 11 years after her husband had died at 61. The other Grandpa died at 74, 16 years after his wife died on April Fools Day at 51 when my Dad was 16. He hadn’t mention that part until recently. This is one of the reasons that my family talks clearly and too frequently about my parent’s health, final wishes, and what happens when they die. The other reason is that logistical planning is how most of us deal with emotions that are too big to feel.
I stayed in my parents' house overnight and talked with them so long in the morning that they missed church. Again, I don’t remember a lot of what was said, I just enjoyed being with them and hearing about the small and funny things that make up the frustrations of retired life. What I do remember is my Dad’s advice for seeing Sara and that I didn’t know how to say goodbye. He of course took me too literally and gave me the line of “Well, I’m off.”
I drove down a bit later than I had planned on. During the drive I got text messages from my in-laws and Siri told me they were about food being ready, detailed questions about my agenda, and then an apology as they realized I couldn’t safely answer detailed questions and drive. Clearly Sara’s habits live on well in her kids.
I walked through the door and was warmly met with kind greetings and hot food while the dogs jumped around me. I ate and we talked, again enjoying the great comfort that is family. After lunch we went upstairs to see Sara and have a small church service at home. I’m still not sure of how I fit in the dynamics of my in-laws, so I did what I knew Angie would do and sat down close to Sara and held her hand. Church services with family is something I’ve only been able to do a few times in my life, but a family singing, praying, and testifying of God together is a powerful thing. Sara shared her testimony. We recorded the last half of it but I don’t need the recording as it was not eloquent or drawn-out but rather a simple speaking of the truths that guided her life. God lives, family is important and we will be together as a family again, be grateful for the many good things in life, and be patient with the bad times. After the closing prayer I stayed and talked with the family there in the room with Sara throwing in a comment here and there. I changed a setting on her phone to fix a problem she was having and then fixed another issue on their laptop. After a few more minutes it was clear she needed to rest so we went downstairs.
Ciera’s family had to leave for their long cold drive. Steve and Judy stayed and we talked and played board games together. The idea of last words kept going through my head as I knew I really was just stalling out the evening until Sara would be awake again and I would have my last moments with her. After 8 rounds of trying to track down and defeat Dracula (Steve has a great collection of board games) Mike came down to bring up some pie and we got to talk to Sara again.
Maybe I’m getting old as I again have to admit that I don’t remember much of what we talked about. I remember Sara being so excited that she could eat anything that she wanted. I laughed at this dark silver lining and also was sad for the ideals and shaming we put on everyone but especially women about what they can and can’t eat. Then I remembered the last days of Steve Jobs and how his cancer made him not want to eat. One of his last meals was a few bites of a pie, the same as Sara was eating. Clearly my mind was trying to grasp onto anything to help distract me from being overwhelmed.
The other thing I remember are the last words. Sara didn’t have a lot of energy so after a few minutes I knew I had to go. Finally I said it, “Well, I’m off.” I knew I didn’t want it to be my last words so as I hugged Sara I told her to get some rest. She could always use the reminder to take some time to take care of herself and I love the subtext that we had everything under control. I wanted to reassure Sara that the million things that she had taken care of for so long were being handled.
“I love you, Will.” The tiny words came out so naturally to her now as they had since I passed her interview to be able to marry Angie.
“I love you too, Sara.”
“So much.” A simple I love you has never been enough for Sara. To make sure we really know, she always follows it with “So much”.
I should have known that Sara would again set the example for me. I had spent days and weeks thinking through the best thing to say. Sara’s last words to me were the biggest words she knew, “I love you.”