This is a guest post from a StoryCrafting Alumni, Rachael Onuigbo.
I run through the hospital. Everything is moving too slow and too fast at once. I run, the room numbers blurring. 201…202…203…204 and then finally, 205. Doctors are outside the room. A doctor moves out of the group when he sees me running towards them. He is saying something but I can’t hear him. I shrug out of his grip and push through to get in but I don’t have to.
Nurses roll out a stretcher. A body lies unmoving on it, completely covered. I refuse to believe till I see it. I struggle against the hands that hold me and pull the covering back then I see the evidence I need. The world becomes a roar. My husband is dead. The face that had smiled at me, the mouth that had kissed me goodbye this morning. Gone.
I start screaming and crying, begging the doctors to do something. To save the man that meant everything to me. My pleas and screams fall on deaf ears as someone pulls me away so the nurses can roll out the stretcher.
I feel like I’m in a haze, going through the motions but not really going through them. The accident is on the news and the phone rings non-stop but I don’t pick it. Pictures of both of us together are everywhere. Our wedding, our honeymoon in Paris, the impulsive vacation to Hawaii. Memories move as if in a slideshow and I know that I can’t survive without him. I can’t find the will to. Visitors come pouring in, offering their condolences and asking me if I’m okay. What can I tell them? I will never be okay. I am told that I have to eat. My husband will never eat again so why should I? Nobody understands how I feel and I doubt anyone ever will.
I stand in front of the mirror and cannot recognise the woman staring back. I have lost weight and my clothes hang off me in unflattering angles. My face is pale, my hair a messy bun. Before, I wouldn’t be caught dead with messy hair. Everything is now categorized as ‘before’ and ‘after’. Before my husband died. After my husband died. I can’t do this, I whisper to my reflection. I can’t do this. I give in and cry.
Today is the burial. I tune out what the priest is saying and look at the closed coffin at the altar. Everybody tells me that God knows best and He has a reason. To me, that means that God likes to see people suffer because why would he take away what was most important to me? The burial ends and we drive to the cemetery. I am quiet throughout. After the priest blesses the coffin, the pallbearers lower it to the ground. I feel like someone is cutting off my oxygen supply as I watch. Tears fill my eyes as I realise, yet again, how much I’ve lost. People come over and in a robotic voice, I thank them for coming. They offer words of encouragement that do nothing to help me and tell me I’ll be okay but I don’t believe them.
By now, I’m numb. I have locked my grief deep inside me because I’ve realised that sometimes, it is easier to bear your pain alone. People ask me if I’m okay. I nod and give a fake smile, knowing that they wouldn’t want to hear how I reach out on the bed for someone that isn’t there. Or how I wake up every morning thinking it is all a bad dream and break apart again when I realize that it isn’t. I cry myself to sleep every night, holding on to his things and inhaling his scent. I rage at God and ask questions that are never answered. My life is a big question mark and I wonder if the hole in my heart will ever fill.
I haven’t dreamt of him since he died and I am yet to decide if that is a good or bad thing. I push myself out of the bed and in front of the mirror and cringe at what I see. There are shadows in my eyes and hollows under them. I look like I have aged thirty years and I feel that way too. I put my hand on my chest. I can feel my heart’s steady beat. Even though my world has been torn apart and has lost its axis, I’m still alive. I decide to stay that way for him. I have to put all his things in a box and take them out. Oh God, I can’t do this. I want to crawl back into bed again but something in me refuses to keep drowning in the pain. I’ve been drowning for so long, maybe it’s time I learnt how to swim and for the first time in a long while, I have hope.
I’m at the cemetery, in front of my husband’s grave with a bouquet of white roses in my hand. I can’t believe a year has passed. I’m not the woman I was before or the woman I have become. I am something else entirely and I am trying to make that something good. My heart hurts in a million places as I drop the bouquet and kiss the headstone. I wonder if he is watching me, if he knows how much I miss him, if he knows that I will love him forever and will keep him safe in my heart so that death does not become what defines our time together. As I leave, I accept that maybe God had his reasons. It is time for me to live again. I cry a little in my car as I feel my heart go lighter and maybe I’m being paranoid but I feel someone-maybe God or my husband-smile at me from above.