In my blog titled LIFE AFTER DEATH (1), I discussed the issues that can arise dealing with Wills and Inheritance, who gets what and who doesn’t and the conflicts that arise splitting families.

This time my blog titled Life After Death (2) is based on my own evolving experience from my wife’s death after 55 years of marriage.

Two years ago Dora received a diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer Stage Four. My wife and I were very healthy. We had little experience of age infirmity. This launched us on an emotional and life odyssey. After asking a Beginning question as to why and what she might have done wrong, our goal was treatment.

Gratefully we spent a lot of time together and she was determined to live. Looking back I am so glad we engaged each other so intimately.

While she was still vibrant we took a trip to Panama, where she built a lovely apartment overlooking the sea. We later rented it out during her illness. She went next door to The Trump Ocean Club and negotiated with her broker for a smaller beautiful apartment on the 50th floor overlooking the sea. I could not understand why she was doing this. She replied “you will be happy here and if I am alive on Thanksgiving, I will come down and furnish it for you.”

Dora brought a lot of emotional timber to my life. She was very alive, vibrant and expressive. I wrote a blog once titled “I Think and She Feels”. I wasn’t expressing superiority, but that she was intimately in touch with her feelings.

I remember at about seven months into her treatment, one day she became very irritable. I realized that she was disappointed, and with tears she replied that she had hoped to defeat the cancer, and that she knew she would be unable to. We embraced with loving intensity.

Later she was in and out of the hospital twice for different procedures. She then decided she would not do that anymore, and that she would remain at home with home hospice.

Now closely allied with our daughter, she asked her never to forget her. Over the next weeks she met with her nieces and family and distributed her lovely jewelry. She was Tia Dora. She was going to end her life her way. She felt she had a good life and she was ready to go. Determined that her life would end on her terms, she did not eat or drink for two days.

I remember the last night. We always slept together in a double bed. We had one for years. I could feel some of her pain. At about 8 AM her body grew stiff. But her face was so peaceful and beautiful.

They removed her body when I wasn’t looking; I had let her go.

The mourning period was so strange and surrealistic. I would play the song “I’ll be seeing you in all the old places,” and she was alive and beautiful to me, overcoming the sadness. Some months later I found that CD and thought of playing it, but I was afraid to be overcome.

One last Piece: A year has passed. On a bright sunny day I look at our home and I think of her and her skill and taste. At night it is dark and I feel alone and lost. A friend organized a date for me with a nice lady. This was not a dream or a hallucination, but I saw myself talking to this woman about me. I called out “Dora don’t go, wait for me” as the dream faded away. Afterwards I thought, “what did it mean. Did she want me to get on with my life?” That would be Dora.

Jerome Leff, LCSW

Got thoughts or opinions on this topic? A helpful anecdote you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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