Writing this out helped me to make (a little) sense of things. Perhaps reading it will do the same for you. It couldn’t hurt..
I have two frameworks of thought that help me to deal with Tony’s death.
1) His death was always already happening.
From the moment Tony was diagnosed (hell, from the moment he was born), Tony was going to die from leukemia. From this perspective, the future was not stolen from Tony. It was never there. He had a path for his life; it was completed in full. Those of us who were lucky enough to be in Tony’s short life were there for a reason—We were present and involved because we had something to give and something to learn. So, our marriage was never a marriage for a lifetime. It was a sweet season of my life from which I was to give, to grow, and to be changed. I am honored that the powers-that-be assigned me to this noble purpose: to be some form of brightness in his life, to help ease this pain, to create laughter, to help carry him through. Though I was labeled as the “caretaker,” it is very clear to me that I was the one being taken care of.
My prayer is that my tears and pain become those not of sorrow for a future together lost, or for a friend lost. I want my pain to be seen as a representation of the influence Tony had on my life. Growing hurts. Perhaps the strength I will find at through this grieving process is Tony’s last gift to me. Perhaps the tears that fall off my face as I write this are the last of the tangible proof I have of Tony’s influence on me.
My biggest regret is that I did not look at the situations through this lens during the time that Tony was alive. If I had known that our time together was going to be so short, I would have done things differently. I was always hoping for and waiting for something that was never going to happen. In some ways, I fear that I was loving the idea of Tony (what I saw as his potential for our future), and maybe sometimes I was not loving Tony was who he was at that very moment. I can’t be too hard on myself; I delighted in him on a daily basis. I just wish I would have been better at taking one day at a time.
Be gentle. Be patient. This is what Tony taught me. And that is no tragic ending.
2) Tony’s death was part of his life.
Before Tony was admitted, we had a few precious nights together during which we spoke very specifically and openly about our fears related to the upcoming procedure. Death was Tony’s second-best option, he said. He was tired. He was so weak and (this is the part that just kills me now) he was sick of being a “burden.”
I think he was trying to make some kind of deal with God. He said that if he got better he would make a difference: He would write a book, volunteer at the hospital, do things that would influence people’s life.
As it turns out, Tony’s death was necessary in order to accomplish the things he wanted to do with his life. In almost a strange Christ-like way, Tony’s death was part of his life. It is his platform. People, myself included, don’t really think about life until they are confronted with death. Tony had a message to share about life, which wouldn’t be fully heard and understood without his death.
Now that Tony is gone, all the things he wanted to do while living are happening. I am overwhelmed, daily, as I think about how his life serves as a model to thousands. People I don’t even know are writing to me, saying what an effect Tony had on their lives. Here’s one very small but beautiful example, of hundreds:
We’ve never met, but I know Jaime and I saw her post last week about Tony. I found it really upsetting that such a young, vibrant man could pass away so suddenly and I read a few of the links she posted about him to get a better sense of what was going on, what happened, and what it all meant. I never knew him and I am sorry that I did not.
After reading about Tony, I was immediately struck by how this man chose to spend his “one wild and precious life,” and it’s staggering the effect he had and will continue to have on those who never even knew him. He was more than brave. He was pure courage, in the literal sense. I don’t need to have met him to realize that he did what almost no one can do: live and act from the heart, without compromise, without hesitation, without fear. He was more than passionate. He clearly embodied love, and poured it into everything around him. The world is a better place for having him in it, and though he is no longer among us in a physical sense, his influence will persist indefinitely, powerfully, majestically. I know he influences me. He’s one of those rare people who lights the way.
I agree: he’s just one of those who lights the way. These paradigms of thought do not take away the pain of Tony’s absence. They do, however, help me to see his life, his death, and my special part in it all in a very new and empowering light.
Stop back weekly: I’ll be posting stories.