It happened too quickly. The first time I met my wife, my beautiful Sarah, it was exactly like in the movies. Time stood still. She wore a simple white summer dress. But to me, there couldn’t have been a more gorgeous woman than her. What caught my eye was her kind smile and easy laugh. After two years of courting, 7 years of marriage, and two kids and a dog, my heart still melts when I recollect her smile.
Until two weeks ago. Now, the image of her smile does something far more excruciating. I feel a physical ache at the middle of my chest—like someone stabbed me to bleed and there is nothing but a gaping wide hole at the center of my being. My wife passed away two weeks ago.
When the doctor told us that her last round of treatment was failing, my world began to feel the first crack. When I turned to look at her, she looked like she knew this was coming. There was no fear, no pain, no regret. The look was that of wisdom—an intuitive knowing that the end was near. She took it in and spent an hour alone before she would let me back into the hospital room. She said she wanted to move back to our home. She wanted to be surrounded by our kids, our dog, and live the life we had before she got sick. She wanted to be able to bake for us and lie on the grass and visit the beach. I cried—after nearly a decade—as I held her and listened to all the things she wanted to do with the little time left. A part of me wanted to fulfill every wish and another part wanted to scream and pretend that none of this were true.
That late afternoon after tears from my end and a simple wishlist from hers, we went back home. My brother had helped move our stuff to the bedroom on the ground floor so she wouldn’t have to exhaust herself up the stairs. “But what about our view from the balcony?” she asked. We shifted back to our room at the top. She wanted to take in as much beauty and life as she could, and we couldn’t say no.
The last 26 days of her life gave me insights I wish I had caught on earlier. As I watched her laugh and have hot cocoa with the kids, I wondered why I had never paused to watch such precious moments before. Why did I let work steal moments like these from me?
When I heard her hum as she took her bath, I grabbed my phone to record her voice. She always hummed the same tune when she was relaxed and happy. Why didn’t I bother to know which song it was or play it on bad days to cheer her up?
She loved tasting the dish right from the pan before she served it for us on plates. It is more of a childhood ritual that she picked up when her grandma cooked for her than a task to check if there was enough salt for us. It reminded me that she was still a little girl at heart. I looked at her do her “duck face” to the kids. God, I can’t believe these days were numbered. I knew my world would come crashing down, and I knew it was going to happen soon.
There was a night when the kids went to bed early. We took a walk on our lane. She stayed silent for a long time I reached out to her hand and held it tight. I wasn’t ready to let go of her—the love of my life, the mother of my kids. Her hand felt weak, and I knew it took much effort for her to walk. She seemed to stare into space. I have seen that look before… it was the look that appeared between our arguments.
Her eyes would look like there was much to say, but her heart was too heavy to express itself through words. I hated myself at that moment for all the times I saw that look of pain in her eyes, yet had done nothing to make it go away. We always patched up after fights, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t stupid or arrogant at times. I wish I could erase it all and let her know what an absolutely kind, loving, and intelligent woman she is. I held her a little tighter and knew it was now or never. “I’m sorry for all the times I hurt you. I know you deserve better. There is no one who’s made me happier and feel more loved than you have.You are the kindest, loving, smart woman I have met. I’m proud of you.”That was the first time she teared up since the news of her failing organs. They were tears of joy and those of yearning.She needed to hear this long back; I thought she knew it already, but I was just lazy back then. I kicked myself again for it. We hugged and stayed under the night sky for a while.
“We need to talk about this,” I told her another day. “I am not ready to let you go. I cannot imagine a second without you. Forget a lifetime.” She teared up again. And this time, she let herself weep. Loudly. We just held each other. I just couldn’t find the words to tell it was going to be fine. Her pain was real. She had to give up her family, her life, her role as a mother that she loved fiercely. I realized what a lucky guy I was to have such a brave woman by my side, brave yet kind.
I don’t think pain is a good preacher. But pain can hit you hard and wake you up like no other. The last 26 days I spent with my wife made me realize how precious life is. So is the human heart. One piece of news, a stray bunch of words, a look of longing from someone you love—everything has the power to break your heart. And life is made of nothing but simple moments. If I could, I would trade all those late nights at work for more time with her. I would really look at her when she speaks, feel what she felt, and give her more than a cursory nod. I would tease a laugh out of her after a long day. I would take an extra moment to hug her before I left to work. I knew just a few sweet words from me can make her day. I would have been a lot more generous with my words.
The last week with her was surreal. It was at once the most alert time of my life as I was taking in everything of her. I took in her fragrance—a perfume she used since college. I closed her eyes and felt the contours of her face. I loved to hear her call out my name fearing that it might be the very last time. Her last days were graceful as she always was. It was messy, too, with much tears, confusion, and resentment (mostly from my end). But she was never afraid to show her feelings. She would weep right after a hearty laugh with the kids. And she let them see her as real as she was. And then the day I dreaded arrived. My Sarah left us surrounded by her family and loved ones.
To all of you out there, if you have a good woman or man by your side, take care of them now. Tell her how much she means to you now. Look at her, take in her voice, her scent, the color of her eyes, and her laugh now. You cannot imagine how much your life can change overnight. A strong woman often puts others first because of her good heart. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t long for you to express your love for her. A simple gesture can bring about a huge smile on her face. And trust me, if I could, I would do anything to see my beautiful wife break into a smile just one more time.