You just never know what the next tick on the clock will bring. For me, at 5:23 pm on August 5 it brought the end to the time on this earth for my soul mate and true love.
That’s when Patricia Renee Raidt drew her last breath after a gut-wrenching one-month assault from cancer. And my heart will never be the same.
It wasn’t a fair fight.
Pat had a history of cancer attacks and did all the right things. She made great lifestyle choices and had regular screenings and visits to her doctor and specialists. And still…
The last time I blogged – my return to blogging – was to signal my attempts to publish a new novel and the featuring of a short story in a magazine. Now that all seems so, well, meh.
It’s cliqued, but it’s amazing how quickly things can change. Below is an excerpt from my diary on July 31 to show you what I mean:
It’s the last day of July, a month that started with so much promise.
I had two weeks and change off from work, from Canada Day through July 15th. Pat was back home from taking care of her dad in Calgary and we were going to have our first long stretch alone together since she started looking after her parents back in November. First her mom was ill, then her dad was diagnosed with cancer. Kristina was coming home on the 9th and Anna was going to be in town, too.
July 10th was going to be spent hanging out with our girls before they hit the road to Calgary where Kristina would see Anna’s new apartment in the central neighborhood of Eau Claire. They’d do some Stampeding. Pat and I were going to pop down as well. Visit some friends, do some Stampeding of our own, and see more of the girls.
The first week went well. We had a fantastic time together, though Pat’s pain from the hip issue she’d been suffering from – and seeing docs, physio and naturopaths about– limited what we could do. But we were together. Kristina landed on the 9th as planned. I picked her up myself because Pat’s hip was hurting. Back home we had a great reunion. It was the first time seeing each other without a screen between us since Christmas.
The evening ended well.
We’d see Anna in the morning.
Instead, Pat’s pain intensified Sunday morning. Her breathing was tight. Alarmingly so. Kristina called an ambulance.
Today, I sit watching my bride lying on a bed in the Royal Alexandra Hospital’s Robbins Pavilion. She has a beautiful view of downtown Edmonton. If she could get up, she’d see a lovely park that she has no hope of ever visiting.
Pat is dying of cancer that has somehow savaged her entire body. Confoundingly, they tell us this is the work of the cancer she bravely battled –and beat, we thought – seven years ago. That took a hysterectomy, chemo and radiation. But the damn thing came back.
And it rapidly spread. To her left lung, her spine, bones throughout her body, her kidney and on and on. But it seems like it’s the kidney that’s going to get her. Perhaps in days. Maybe weeks. No more they say.
They doubt she’ll make our 25th wedding anniversary on October 4th. I’m holding out hope, if it doesn’t cause her too much pain. Her birthday on November 11th will almost certainly be a Remembrance Day of my time with her. Christmas? There really seems no way.
We’ve been together exactly 30 years. We started dating the same year my mom died of cancer at 58. Now, as my daughters follow in my footsteps at almost exactly the same age, my heart is ripping out from multiple directions.
What helps is my many talks with Pat over the last few days. Her breathing is difficult but through the gasps she exudes a bravery that, when it comes right down to it, seems based on both the simplest and most profound of things.
She’s content with the way she lived her life. Goal number one was to walk, really walk with our girls through their lives. To be there in every sense of the word. Hear them out, share, talk through problems. Really and truly. To go on fieldtrips, to volunteer in every event, be on the sidelines or in the crowd at every concert, competition, and ceremony. To cry with them when they needed to cry – day and night, 24-7. To move them to Toronto, to campus, to Calgary. Help set up apartments and clean them up. To cry and laugh. At the right time. When it was needed, wanted, no questions asked.
Pat did that. And she thanked me this week for helping her do it.
She told me that she won’t ask why this is happening to her. She’d love more time. But she says she’s content. She’s run a good race- a very, very good race. She told me she’s thankful for this and that’s enough. My bride refuses to be bitter. That, I’m sure, will help her into whatever is next.
Pat did this all while being a hell of a bride. She supported me through everything. Everything. Through my career whipsaw, my stroke recovering, and my writing. She was the first editor on my first two, as of yet, unpublished books. Her pen was on my blogs, on feature stories, and short stories that I’ve published.
She consoles me even now, while she’s in her hospital bed dying. She’s still giving advice and support to our girls. She called a counselling session to help her parents cope. She makes silly jokes to console us. Like a play on the old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Kindergarten Cop. There’s a line Arnie delivers when the kids are driving him crazy and he has a headache. A kindergartener suggests that it may be a tumor. Schwarzenegger says, in his thick Austrian accent: “It’s not a tumower.”
One day, out of the blue, Pat tells me and the girls, with a smile on her face: “It is a tumower.”
And for 30 years, I’ve tried to get her to fist pump me. She always explained that she doesn’t fist pump. But now, seeing the pain and fear in my eyes, she consoled me with regular fist pumps including an added end-of-fist-pump move that included a spreading of her hand and a ‘bowww’ sound.
What a woman.
This was the last day Pat saw Anna. Anna was to start articling at a law firm in Calgary and Pat insisted that she not put it off. She wanted to know, I believe, that before she passed, Anna had moved on to launch her career. Kristina remained with us, on a break from her post in Toronto. Pat now knew that both girls were launched full throttle into their career paths.
By the end of the following day, the love of my life slipped into a coma. I talked her ear off for the next week, as did Kristina and her friend Mary, before she passed away that Friday. It was beautiful that Pat was able to pass with that peace surrounding her. Her hands held; her hair stroked.
I was with her every day, all day from the time she was admitted, over night for the best part of the final two weeks. Before the coma, we had lots of great talks, though they were stilted due to the pain. In a weird way, they were some of the best days of my life. And I’m so happy for the peace she had knowing she’d run a great race and left this world with a great connection to her girls and me.
Now she’s ready for whatever is next…