This is the hardest part. The absolute hardest part. Trying to hold on to my sanity as the hours tick down and he drifts farther and farther from me. Eight weeks ago I came home with him and made him a promise. Actually, I made two promises - one serious, one not-so-much. The serious promise was to stay with him, never let him be alone, and support him in his decision to die at home. The other promise was to have everyone call me "The Widow Mullins" once he's gone. We both thought this was a riot.
Here's where we are right now. Asa is what they call "actively dying." This means his end is coming - any minute now. The nurses tell me he can still hear me, so while I'm cleaning the apartment or sitting next to him beading a piece of art, I talk to him - reminiscing, talking about books and movies, watching and commenting on his favorite TV shows. When he sleeps, I find I'm distracting myself more often by reading articles about the book trade, playing internet Scrabble with my daughter and one of her friends and indulging in my favorite time waster, jigsaw puzzles.
When we were getting ready to move the bookstore, I started playing jigsaws. Putting all the pieces together, symbolically putting things right, making sense of things. It helped me get my thoughts focused and kept my creeping anxiety at bay. Once the move was complete, I didn't play as often, but as Asa's illness took over more and more of our lives I found myself playing almost compulsively. And it really does help.
We said everything we needed to say to one another before it was no longer possible - once you've said I love you forever, what more do you need to say? I have not regretted one single moment I've spent here beside him as he works his way through this sometimes frightening, often exhausting, journey. Remembering that for us the journey continues from here.
A brief aside about how hard the universe can suck:
Last Friday I got a call from my next door store neighbor. Both of our shops had been broken into. I called a friend who came to my rescue instantly and had her sit with Asa as I ran over to the shop to assess the damage. Bastard or bastards unknown popped my shop's door lock, doing no damage whatsoever to it. It was like they had a fucking KEY. Give 'em that - they were very professional. They stole a 5+ year old netbook that ran on Windows XP (I'm sure there's a HUGE resale market there), a tray of coin change - maybe $25 total, and the entire contents of the gift cabinet - three dozen pieces of handmade beaded art and jewelry. My work. Years of my work. Kick me a little harder, why dontcha. Here's a link to the stuff that was stolen: AnotherCountry BeadWorks. So just when I need to have all my concentration, all my focus on Asa - this shit rains down. Later in the afternoon I filed an online police report, explaining my circumstances, and was subsequently contacted by phone by a very understanding officer. I'm not filing an insurance claim - all I want is my stuff back. I am, against all reason but not without experience, optimistic.