On the final day of my trip across the southeast I met seventy-eight year old Sylvia in her antique store. She humbly shared stories of her life and her wisdom about death, which she had experienced a lot of recently. Most recently was the death of her husband.
Sylvia: I met him when I was a senior in high school and we were together for sixty years. I get lonely for my husband because there are little things that happen and I’ll say to myself, “wait til he hears this. I’ve got to tell him that.” And then, of course, I don’t get to tell him and I don’t get to vent. My son will listen but it’s just not the same. My husband and I were on the same wavelength.
And, we worked together too. People would say, “how do you manage that?” We just got along. We were in the antique business for many years together.
There’s an old adage that says, you don’t know what you’ve got til you lose it.” I always knew I had a good husband but I always thought he depended on me more than I depended on him. That was the thing that was so surprising because I found out that wasn’t true. I did depend on him a lot more than I thought I did.
Even though I had assumed a lot of the responsibilities in our old age, it was hard to get used to not having him to bounce things off of. Having to make single decisions is not good. I don’t like it.
It was Thanksgiving day and my husband was so thrilled that we were getting settled in our new apartment. He came out of the kitchen and leaned over. He looked like he was going to pick up a television to put it in the cabinet. I said, “Tommy, don’t do that!” And he just keeled over in the floor, face up. I thought he’d hit the back of his head but he’d had a massive heart-attack. We were living only three minutes away from the hospital so they arrived very quickly. They flew him by helicopter to the hospital in Charlotte.
He was there five days. He never really came back again. Those people at that hospital were so good to me and my husband. They let me stay in the room with him the entire time.
He was on life support and he was having constant seizures. When it came time, they finally told me that I had to make a decision. They had tried everything they could and nothing helped. So, I finally told them when I was ready. The chaplain came and wanted to know if he could stay with me while they took the life support off. I told the chaplain no. It was a very private thing.
I didn’t… I didn’t know if I could do it or not. I figured I’d lose it completely but some kind of strength came over me. The doctors told me it could take days after they took him off but it only took about six minutes and he was gone. But, I sat there and held his hand while he passed.
It was the best thing that I could have done and I was glad that I made that decision. It had been him and me for sixty years and it was just me and him at the end. It was very peaceful.
As much as I miss him and as much as his passing has changed my life, I know that things worked out the way they should have because I wouldn’t want him to be where I am now, without me. Not that I’m that valuable a person but to him I was. I don’t know that he could have managed or survived. I just think he would have been lost.