The children were finally asleep. “Bridie, I don’t want to talk about this now!” Doug was growing exasperated with his wife. He stood and began to pace slowly back and forth across their family room. “We have this gift, this little gift of time to enjoy….” He turned his tear-rimmed eyes to meet hers. “We have this brief but precious gift of like three months. Can we let the rest go?”
Bridie sat quietly, unsure how to proceed. She knew dying was her own hard work but the cascading impact could not be ignored. “Doug, you know me. You know I am always thinking six steps ahead. You have relied on that over the years….”
“Bird, we’re not talking about planning a vacation, or re-carpeting the house!”
“No sir, we are not.” Bridie said with authority. “We are talking about how I will spend my last few months on earth. And by Jesus I will do it the way I want!”
Doug slumped down wordlessly beside her on the couch.
“I want to talk about this with you. I need to talk about this with you. I don’t want to leave it all to the end. Inside my head thoughts are tangled up like a ball of string. I grab an end but when I pull it just tangles more. Hear me out….help me.”
Without responding, Doug reached for Bridie’s hand, drew it into his lap and clasped it tightly.
Taking his silence as an invitation, Bridie proceeded. “I’ve been thinking. I’ve been very lucky in life.” She spoke softly, looking down at her feet. “My parents raised me through some pretty rough times. We didn’t have much but we had fun. Even though I didn’t get to University the way I wanted, I got a good office job that I enjoyed and I was good at. I found you and we have had a very good marriage.” Doug’s grasp tightened. “We wanted two kids and we were blessed with three. We even had a dog who didn’t bark too much.” She paused for a moment to smile at him but he did not see it and could not reciprocate.
“We have a nice house, which I wish I had seen re-carpeted a few more times…OK, I’m making this a bit light because I want to say that when I am gone, like not right away but at some point, I know you will re-marry.” That did it for Doug. He let go her hand, stood and faced his wife.
“No! I will not talk about this.”
“Doug. This is important to me. It’s not in my nature to be selfish but you will talk with me about this. Don’t leave me alone with these thoughts.” This final plea hit its mark. Doug sat, cross-legged on the floor in front of her and placed his head in her lap, holding each of her hands in his corresponding pair. Now that she had his attention, Bridie didn’t know how or where to start.
“I love you. I will miss you. At least I believe I will. I don’t know what it will be like to be dead. That’s part of what occupies my brain. What will that be like?” She felt more than heard Doug sob. She had second thoughts. She wondered if it was fair to share these dark thoughts with him. She decided it might be better to back into this conversation.
“I brought up you getting married at some, much later, point because when I was talking to the social worker at St. Germaine’s after the kids appointment a couple of weeks ago she mentioned to me that they had a studio there where I could record messages for the kids. You know, like for birthdays, graduations and so on. I had already thought about making up cards; actually I had already started composing the messages. Anyway, I got to thinking what if the person you re-marry doesn’t support the kids to see the messages, or doesn’t like the idea of it….”
“Bird! What are you talking about?” The last poke woke the bear. “First of all, I’m not getting re-married, I told you that. Second, even on the very, very outside chance I re-married, fifty years after you were gone and the kids were grown ups, by the way…what makes you think I would ever marry a woman who wouldn’t love our kids enough to share these precious videos with them?”
Bridie felt immediate regret raising this in the clear light of Doug’s logic. “Well, you see this is what happens when I rattle these thoughts around in my head all by myself. I build them into something else. And anyway, its not so far fetched. Can you imagine that Paul McCartney’s second wife tried to erase all the Linda from him? Even his kids didn’t like her.”
Doug sat up straight, shocked and confused by this turn. “You don’t know that!”
“I read it somewhere. I’m pretty sure its true. That’s why he dumped her.”
“Sweet Jesus Bridie. The only good thing in all this is you comparing me to Paul McCartney.” Doug was still shaking his head in disbelief. “But you are right, you can’t let your head control all these wild thoughts without some kind of external management.”
“Okay then. I’m glad we, I’m glad I talked. But there are another couple of points I want to be clear on and that I need you support on.”
“Does it involve any more about the Beatles?”
“No, sadly. I’m done with the Beatles.” They sat in silence for the next few moments while Bridie collected her thoughts. “I don’t want to actually die in front of the kids…” She paused to let this sink in. When Doug did not respond Bridie decided maybe more detail was required. “What I mean is that when it comes close I want you to be on guard and take them out for ice cream or something so they aren’t scared, or they don’t have a final memory of me gasping for breath, or even worse glassy eyed and not making any sense.”
“As strange as this may seem, I was thinking about this myself.” Doug responded, to Bridie’s surprise.
“So, obviously you have your own dark thoughts you aren’t sharing with me.”
“It was fleeting and I didn’t consider it dark. It came to mind when we told the kids. Remember the oncology team said to base our description in reality and all I could think of was going to see my Grampa when he was so sick and unresponsive. I don’t honestly know how much reality kids can bear. Well, I think they can bear a lot but I don’t know that I want them to. I agree to re-visit this topic another time. But, for the record, I will not revisit the idea that I will re-marry, as much as I like being compared to Paul McCartney. Any other items on the agenda for tonight?”
“One last thing, I’ve always said I want to be cremated. Well, I want to be cremated in my pajamas…”
“Like those pajamas?” Doug looked up and tweaked the jersey bottoms she had on.
“No.” Bridie replied after a pause. “No, I think I’ll buy some new ones.”
“Can we go to bed now?”
“Thanks Baby. I don’t think you can know just how much better I feel right now. I’ve been carrying this weight of worry. It’s lighter for me now I maybe I’ve just passed the burden to you.”
“I was already haulin’ it, Bird. Now we are sharing it. I’m serious, can we go to bed now?”