The Two-Year Anniversary of the Worst Day of My Life

The worst day of my life was not the day my life mate/soul mate died. That particular day was sadly inevitable, one I actually had looked forward to. He’d been sick for so long and in such pain, that I was glad he finally let go and drifted away. After he died, I kissed him goodbye then went to get the nurse, who confirmed that he was gone. She called the funeral home, and I sat there in the room with him for two hours until they finally came for him. (They came in an SUV, not a hearse. And they used a red plush coverlet, not a body bag.) I might have cried. I might have been numb. I don’t really remember. All I know is that I sat there with him until almost dawn. I couldn’t even see his face — they had cleaned him and wrapped him in a blanket — so I just sat there, thinking nothing.

The worst day of my life came fifty-five days later, exactly two years ago. I spent all day cleaning out his closet and drawers, and going through boxes of his “effects.” He had planned to do it himself, but right before he could get started, he was stricken with debilitating pain that lasted to the end of his life, and so he left it for me to do. I would not have undertaken the task so early in my grief, but I had to leave the house where we’d lived for two decades and go stay with my 95-year-old father, who could no longer live alone.

I knew what to do with most things because my mate had rallied enough to tell me, but still, a few items blindsided me, such as photos and business cards from his store To Your Health (where we met). Every single item he owned was emotionally laden, both with his feelings and mine. The day was like a protracted memorial service, a remembrance of his life, a eulogy for “us”.

How do you dismantle someone’s life? How do you dismantle a shared life? With care and tears, apparently. I cried the entire day, huge tears dripping unchecked. I have never felt such soul-wrenching agony. I’ll never be able to do anything else for him, so the work and my pain was my final gift to him. I was glad I could do that one last service, but I sure don’t want to ever go through anything like that again.

The only good thing about living the worst day of your life is that every day afterward, no matter how bad, will be better than that day.

I’m not particularly sad today — the sadness came yesterday. Despite it being Saturday, my sadder day, and a day of sporadic tears, I woke with a smile. I’d dreamt we were cleaning out the house (which is odd considering that I did not remember until afterward that today was the anniversary of when I went through his effects). In the midst of the usual chaotic dream images, there was one short clear moment. We were sitting side-by-side. He smiled at me, kissed me gently, and I rested my head on his shoulder.

This was the first time in almost two years that I’d dreamt about him. It was lovely seeing him again, if only in my dreams.

11 Responses to “The Two-Year Anniversary of the Worst Day of My Life”

  1. Rhonda Parrish (@RhondaParrish) Says:

    That was sweet and super touching.

    ~ Rhonda Parrish

  2. mlfhunt Says:

    Pat, I am so glad that you finally dreamed of him. Dreams are bittersweet in that waking up…they are gone again but I feel it is worth that pain to be together for those moments in a dream.

    I know you had no choice but to clear his belongings out right away (55 days IS right away) but I am sorry you had to do it that so soon. I guess I also envy you that it is behind you. I still have not done that and every time I open his closet, I grab his shirts and just sob and say…”another day”. I have an entire woodworking shop in the basement also. Someday…. I guess the only consolation is that these things only have meaning for me now….not him. I know that clearing them out just confirms his absence and I guess I am not ready for that reality trip right now.

    I agree, that once the worse day has happened….there are no more “worst” days. No matter what happens, it will never be worse that March 27, 2010, a day we share sadly. My heart reaches out to you today.
    Peace, Mary

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Clearing away his belongings is not completely behind me — I still have boxes of his things that I will never use but cannot bear to throw away. In fact, most of our life is in boxes. One of these days I will be moving on to the next phase of my life, and I will have to unpack our kitchenware, bedclothes, and all the rest of our things now in storage. I think that will be comforting on one hand and excruciatingly painful on the other. As hard as these past couple of years have been, I’ve only been using a few of our things, so I have not been steeped in the remnants of our life. So many different steps to take! And all of them painful.

      But . . . never as painful as two years ago. I do not know how I lived through that day.

  3. Joy Collins Says:

    I agree with both of you. Clearing out the “effects” [I hate that word] is gut-wrenching. I have not been able to do it. John’s slippers are still where he left them [although I dust them every so often], and his robe, and his desk with its messy papers, and his tools, and his medicine chest, and…..and….and….Someday for me too. Just not today. Certainly not this week. Today starts the march down to the two-year mark. Two years ago today we left AZ for our trip to NY, the trip from which I returned alone.
    I’m glad you had that dream, Pat. And I wonder if it was actually a “visit” rather than a dream.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Joy, I’ve been thinking of you as you count down the days to your second anniversary. Reaching the day feels as if it should accomplish something, but it just adds another day to our life without.

      How odd that we share this day. I was sobbing while you were beginning your journey into loss. Maybe if we could stand back far enough to get perspective, and had good enough eyesight, we could see how everything fits together. A bereft friend signs her emails, “The universe is unfolding as it should.” Maybe it’s true. And maybe the dream was a visit.

      Wishing you peace.

      • Joy Collins Says:

        John’s favorite saying was “Things are happening the way they’re supposed to.” I keep trying to remember that.
        And I know even inside sadness there can be a little gift – your friendship is one of those gifts. Thank you.

  4. Carol Says:

    After my uncle died, my aunt continued to do some of her painting by the window in the room that had been his bedroom during his last months of life. He had enjoyed watching her work, and afterwards, with her back to the bed, she sometimes felt he was still watching. Then, every so often, when she was in the room painting, the bedside lamp would suddenly come on of its own accord. She said the timing was such that she became convinced he was somewhere “out there”, wanting her to know he was still watching.

    Her family have checked the lamp for loose wiring, switch and bulb, but apparently it’s fine. She has since moved and taken the lamp along, and is comforted by its occasional “message”. I don’t try to dispute what she believes even if it seems unlikely to me. She’s entitled to take comfort in whatever form it comes.

    Which is all to say, like Joy, that I’m glad you had that dream and it brought a smile… something precious to remember.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Carol, Many people have such experiences. One friend from my grief group experienced something strange every Monday, the day of the week her husband died. I don’t know what causes such things, but as you say, the bereft are entitled to take whatever comfort they can find. And I took comfort in dreaming about him. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful comments.

  5. mlfhunt Says:

    A friend who lost her daughter had the bedroom closet light go on every night. She did not think much of it until it happened in Spain and a year later in Ireland on trips there…..

  6. Malene Says:


    I can imagine how difficult that day two years ago must have been; and I know that feeling that nothing ever in your life will be as hard again.

    Your first dream of him, eh? I have heard of people for whom it takes a very long time – as with you – before they dream of their mate. I wonder why that is? Some will have that it’s because it’s simply too painful and that, consequently, ones “energy” is blocked. This is most often a thesis posited by those who believe that the dreams are indeed, as Joy suggested, a “visit” and that the energy block has to do with the beloved not being able to penetrate that barrier. I am so, so glad for you that it made you wake up with a smile!

    In the past 9 months all that I thought were my beliefs and my knowledge has been tossed into the stratosphere and now rain – sometimes in torrents and sometimes merely as mist – back on me in fragments or,morphed into new and unrecognizable shapes – you may know that experience. I thought I was a an atheist – a staunch, well-informed and well-argued one at that. Now … since my love died, I’m not so sure.

    I have read voraciously – scientific publications, pseudo-scientific ones, personal accounts, spiritual approaches about what happens when we die and after. In search, of course, of meaning, grounding, belief, hope, understanding. The result so far is that I am, at the very least, more open to accepting that may indeed, as the adage goes, be more between heaven and earth. An acknowledgement of which, scarcely a year ago, I would have been deeply skeptical. Funny really, given how deeply connected AC and I were. Somehow it never occurred to me to question the origin of that bond; It just felt normal and natural that we were so bonded in ways that really can’t be explained “rationally”.

    All of this to say that,like Joy, I will cede that there is a possibility that what you had was a visit. I hope, I want to believe, for you and for me and for all the others who are bereft that this is what it was.

    A the risk of being too personal, given that I am still new to your forum, I am going to relate what happened to me very early on. As you know, AC died suddenly and very unexpectedly. He was, we thought, the picture of perfect middle-aged health: Never, smoked, ate well, worked out, didn’t drink alcohol, or even caffeinated drinks for that matter. What claimed he was, ultimately, called a “catastrophic arrhythmia”. The shock was beyond anything I even have words to describe. Nothing had prepared me, or any of his other loved ones, for that matter, for this. Approximately 10 days after his death; when I was still in a complete fog, I had a dream of him but it was SO real in a way that dreams, however vivid they may be, usually, are not; at least not for me. I dreamed that I was standing with my back turned to a crowd of friends and acquaintances. Looking at his picture I was weeping. My mother was there. She turned and explained to the small gathering of people that I was crying because my partner had died. AC was one the people in the crowd. He got very upset at this news. Somehow, he thought that there was a partner, other than him in my life. I turned around and walked up to him – I could only get within a distance of about 3 feet. I then showed him the picture of him that I was holding. He was immediately relieved that it was he who I was mourning, not someone else. He had no reaction to the news that he was dead; a fact of which he seemed not to be aware until that moment. I wept, but through tears managed to ask him if we were indeed destined to be together again. He smiled and answered “3 more times”. I responded with “And then, will it be forever”. He said “Yes”. My final question was really more of a plea: “Will it be soon?”. I cannot truthfully remember what his answer was, but I know what I believe it to be.

    Pat, I want to believe that this dream was more. That it was a visit. It may not have been; but its something that I hold on to for dear life as I make my way through the morass. I have had 3 other ‘experiences’ subsequent to the one I just described. I won’t bore you with them now. Has your journey also taken you on a path of querying what, if anything, happens after we are here no more? If so, do you have any blog-posts about that? I’d love to read them.

    Thank you again for all that you are writing. It’s a great gift to the likes of me! Sorry for the long-winded comment.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Malene, I am delighted you are thinking out loud here — the only good thing about this grief journey is the people I have met along the way. It’s a honor to be able to see others grappling with such hard questions.

      How wonderful that you had such a remarkable dream. Sometimes such “visitations” are all we have to hang on to. In most of my dreams during the first year of grief, all I did was search for him. Night after night, I’d wander up and down store aisles or streets in my dreams looking for him.

      My only otherworldy experience was not a dream. Right after he died, as I was driving home from the hospice care center, I hit a patch of black ice. Went careening, around and around, back and forth, totally out of control. I thought I was going to die, but oddly, I never left the road. The car finally came to a halt facing the wrong way on the highway. I was fine. So was the car. I remember wondering if Jeff had stopped by on his way out of this world to leave me a final reminder to be careful, or maybe he was shaking his ghostly head, thinking that after his being gone only two hours, I was already getting careless. I had a strong feeling of something passing, of a finality.

      I couldn’t find any specific blogs about the spiritual aspect of my grief, and the questions I ask. I touch on the subject a bit in many blogs, and I collected the bits for you. It was so long, I posted it on the blog itself instead of in this comment.

      I’m glad my writing has helped. It is important for us to know that others are grappling with the same issues we are.

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