Grief: The Day He Died

The day my husband died was like any other day. It was a Saturday, Labor Day weekend. He was a longshoreman (a ship-to-shore crane operator). He worked weird hours. He left for work before I woke up. We spent the morning texting each other about what we were going to do when he got off work at noon. I went for a walk around my neighborhood. Then, I played video games waiting for him to come home.

I can’t pinpoint the exact time, but shortly after 12:30pm my neighbor rolled into my driveway and honked his horn. I ignored it; as I usually do with all unannounced visitors. He honked again. I looked out the window and saw him getting out of his car. I went out the garage door because my dogs are assholes when anyone comes to the front door. I knew something was wrong. I thought maybe he’d ran over my cat.

As he walked down my front porch steps he said, “Your husband’s been in an accident.” I immediately freaked out. I am not good in situations like this. That was Gregg’s territory. I kept saying, “Oh my god. Oh my god,” over and over again. I ran into the house, grabbed my purse and muttered something to my kids about their father being in a motorcycle accident and that I was going to the hospital. 

I jumped in my neighbors car and immediately called another neighbor to see if she could go to my house and sit with my kids. I called my parents and told them Gregg had been in an accident and to get to my house. My mom seemed really confused (I’m sure I wasn’t very coherent). I told her, “Get to my house, now.” I called my older son and told him his dad has been in an accident and I was on my way to see what was going on.

Once we arrived to the accident site I repeatedly said, “Please, be okay Gregg, please be okay..” The officers at the scene told me to stay in the car. I did. One officer came to the window to take down my information when they learned I was the accident victim’s wife. As she was taking my information, another (plain clothes) officer said to another person on the scene, “this is going to be a fatality.” I heard him. I knew what he said, but I tried to convince myself he said, “This is NOT going to be a fatality.” 

The ambulance left the scene with my husband, and my neighbor took me to the hospital. He tried to convince me that everything was going to be okay because they were not taking him to a trauma hospital. When we arrived at the hospital, I went inside and paced. Another officer at the hospital offered me a seat. I couldn’t sit; all I could do was pace… back-and-forth, back-and-forth, while repeating, “Please be okay, Gregg, please be okay.” 

After what felt like an eternity, they took me back to a room. It was me and the officer that was with me in the waiting room. I continued to pace. After a while (time is iffy in death), the doctor, a nurse, and maybe one-to-two other people entered the room. The doctor said, “Your husband has been in a motorcycle accident (duh… I knew this); I am very sorry but he died (or something to that effect).” I said, “No.” I said, “No,” repeatedly. I collapsed to the floor as the officer held on to me. I stared at the floor tiles and said, “This isn’t real,” over and over again. I screamed, “No,” at the top of my lungs (at least twice). All the cliché shit you see in movies and TV shows, I did it.

At some point the doctor had left the room. I sat there staring. The investigator said a bunch of stuff I don’t remember. I asked if I could see him. This surprised me. I usually don’t want to look at dead people. It makes me feel weird. 

They warned me about how he would look. I went into the room. He was on a gurney. The sheets were pulled up to his chin. He was intubated. There was a little bit of blood around his mouth. These are the parts they prepared me for. They did not prepare me for his eyes. His left eye was completely closed.  His right eye was slightly open. I felt his forehead. He felt cold. He was gone. I didn’t feel him anywhere. I turned my back to his body.  Everyone was staring at me. I wanted to know what I was supposed to do now.  They kept saying, “whatever you need to.” That’s not what I was asking… I wanted to know what I needed to do to get out of the hospital and home to my children. I stood there with my back to my dead husband facing 3-4 other people with pity and sadness in their eyes. I wanted to get the fuck out of that room.

Finally, they took me back to the other room (I think I asked to leave the ‘dead husband room’), and I tried to call his parents. Cell service in hospitals suck! The officer ended up telling his parents what was going on. Eventually, the officer took me home. She gave me her number and went on her way. 

I faced my kids. My oldest asked me if their dad was okay. I said, “no.” I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I told them their father was gone. My youngest son said, “Did Dad die?”  I told him, “yes.” My kids cried. I cried. My neighbor cried. I called my parents (or, maybe they called me). They couldn’t get to my house. The road was blocked (due to the accident). I had to walk them through how to get to my house the other way. Eventually, my mom asked me, “Is Gregg home with you?” As much as I tried to avoid it, I finally had to tell her he was gone. 

Once my parents arrived at my house, my neighbor left. Then, came the difficult task of letting my immediate family know. My mom told my sisters. My oldest sister told my nephew. My dad called one of his sisters to inform the rest of that side of the family. I had to inform my husband’s job. I sent a text to a friend of his from work. He called me. I told him. He handled it from there. 

Then, later in the evening, came the Facebook post. The posts, the calls, the texts, became overwhelming, but they were also a welcome distraction (except for the psycho bitch that kept calling and texting, but I’ll save that for later). Everything felt so surreal. Was this really happening? 

My oldest sister called me. She was trying to assess whether or not she needed to come that night or the next day. She asked me, “What do you want?” Through sobs and tears, I replied, “I want Gregg back.”  She said, “I’m coming tonight,” and she did. I barely slept that night. How was I supposed to sleep? 

The next morning, I made toast with butter and cinnamon sugar… I broke down, right at the table. I cried so hard I didn’t think I would ever stop. I had toast in my mouth. My husband was dead. My life was completely altered. The person I spent the past 19 years, 6 months and 23 days with was suddenly gone. What am I supposed to do now?

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