Diary of a Widower

Daily entries by a husband, who stayed behind with his two sons

Longing for her soft, warm body

THURSDAY, November 26 – How long will it be before these memories slip away or will they remain with me forever? I have to write it all down, right now, so I won’t forget. As quickly as possible and as fully as possible:

The warmth, the softness of her cheek, that dear face that I continued to kiss until it was time to go, time to allow her to die physically as well, to leave the body for what it was and would become.  The earthly frame from which all life, mind and spirit had departed the day before. It was explained to me that her body was optimized at the moment she was declared brain-dead. On that Saturday morning, just before Jenn’s parents and her four brothers arrived, I helped the nurse to freshen up her body. We washed her face, combed her hair, and helped to encourage the flow of blood to her cheeks. The machines and medication were doing their work, not Jennifer herself. They were keeping her body in the best possible condition, in preparation for the operation to come, during which all the available organs would be removed for donation. I wanted her American family to be able to take leave of her in a dignified manner;  to say goodbye to her body and not to a corpse. Optimized was indeed optimized, extremely optimized. It was as if she wasn’t dead. For an instant I even wondered if I should bring the boys to the hospital again. Jenn looked much ‘better’ than the previous evening, when the three of us had said our goodbyes.  I immediately decided against that idea, since it would only give them false hope. She wouldn’t be any less dead than the previous evening and what could we add in the form of new and more significant words of farewell after the emotional and loving promises made on her deathbed? Yet, I hesitated. The nurse, who was also distraught due to the circumstances (‘We’re the same age… and I have children, too…’), quickly convinced me by shining a light into Jenn’s eyes.  There was only a dull, lusterless nothingness, a sign that the spirit had already departed from her body. After the nurse left the room, I sat down next to Jennifer, who was lying on the bed wearing only a pair of panties. I looked at her, felt her hand, kissed her thigh, ran my eyes over her body, the body I had held dearly, that had brought two sons into the world, that was so petite that she often had to shop for clothes in the girls’ department – which sometimes had led to playful, naughty and surprising garb that women of her age viewed with a mixture of admiration and jealousy. I looked at her breasts, and remembered that a few weeks ago I had made a note of her bra size so that I could get her some fancy lingerie for Christmas. I kissed her hand again, then held it up and stroked my cheek with it.  I began to talk, to whisper, to cry.  I bent over her face and kissed her cheek, her lips, her nose very carefully, her forehead, put my cheek against hers and we held each other for several minutes in complete silence.  An embrace on the knife-edge of life and death. I smelled her hair; but, most of all it was the warmth and the softness that I wanted to memorize.  Will I eventually forget these things? In any case, I’ve recorded it now and that means that it is real and that it will remain real, and not flicker like a mere figment of my imagination.

I write it all down, like a maniac because this morning I had coffee with Jennifer’s friend E and afterwards I embraced her warmly.  Kiss on the lips, then cheek to cheek, hands on her hips and her back. It wasn’t romantic, just a simple desire to hold a female body close.

That’s what I miss. The warmth, the softness.  Right now that loss is anchored in my longing for Jenn. After a while I may well develop a natural need for intimacy and the memory of Jenn’s dear, familiar body might well become less tangible.

This does not frighten me. In fact, it gives me a sense of hope, and I trust that what was there, will always remain. That’s why I’m writing this down – as a way of cherishing her, now and always.

23:30 – Happy Thanksgiving, dearest Jennifer.  We missed you terribly today, but you were in our thoughts, and not only in ours. We spent the evening with the P family, who are Americans. I didn’t know them, but through other friends we received an invitation and I accepted.

Real American hospitality, like the kind you were famous for. I wanted to make brownies, like you would have done.  Instead, I bought chocolates.  It was a traditional Thanksgiving dinner:  turkey with all the trimmings. Sander and Eamonn enjoyed themselves, but on the way home Eamonn became emotional.

He won’t leave my side, which is okay. He can sleep in my bed tonight and I also told him what he was getting for Christmas: Guitar Hero. When he heard that, he threw himself around my neck:  so hard that for a minute I could barely breathe. He was over the moon and he fell asleep right away.

Sander and I called your parents and brothers who, except for Jim, were all on Long Island. We followed the Nolan tradition of passing the phone from one person to the next. Although you’re not here anymore, Jennifer, you’re in everyone’s thoughts which means that you’ve been with us this Thanksgiving Day.

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