On Losing a Spouse

14-Sep-2019 • San Francisco United States

This afternoon, as I was walking home after buying groceries in the supermarket, I heard a woman call out my name. I turned around and it was my hair stylist and long time friend, Carmelita. I went inside her salon and without wasting any time, she told me that her husband had passed away. I hugged her tight and fighting back the tears, I tried to stay calm and asked her when he died. "Last August 25th, he died in his sleep. He had a heart attack," she said.

I had known for the longest time that he was ill and that he had been having dialysis on a daily basis due to kidney problems. Each time Carmelita cut and colored my hair, we would talk about our lives in the US and our families. We would mention how lucky we were to be living in the US despite its numerous faults and defects and how content we were with our lives here. I knew that he stopped working several years ago and that he had been on disability since. Just last year, he underwent a kidney transplant after being on a waiting list for ages. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. The kidney he received was not a good match.

Carmelita told me that she had her husband's remains cremated since a regular burial was too expensive. "With cremation, I only spent $12,000 for the plot and the funeral arrangements. The wake was just for one night," she said. "That amount I could pay for in cash." she added. I commented how strong and in control of her emotions she looked. Her voice never quivered as she narrated the events that preceded her husband's death. She did tell me that she still cries every time she remembers him.

Although my partner is still around, I know what it is like to lose loved ones. "How can I not?" I have already lost four members of my small close knit family due to either sickness and/or age. It is never easy. Unless one felt absolutely nothing for the deceased, losing someone is, in my opinion, the most painful feeling.

Carmelita is not the first person I know whose husband died prematurely. I know of three other women, all neighbors, who preceded their husbands. All three couples were very close and did things together all the time for years. One couple was French and did not have kids. They meant the world to each other. I never saw each one without the other. They were together constantly. At home, in stores both shopping and just browsing, on the streets walking off the calories after a meal, in parties, everywhere. Likewise, once while I was on a MUNI bus here in San Francisco, I overheard a lady passenger ask her neighbor how she was doing. I could sense the lady friend, an elderly lady who spoke with a thick German accent, was very sad and distraught. She stated, "It is hard. We were together for so many years, then suddenly I am by myself." She got off the bus with her head down. I remember that conversation so clearly and it has remained in my mind all this time.

I still see the three neighbors I talked about previously and all three are doing fine. One has met a new friend while the other two are still grieving. Just how does one go on without one's spouse? Just last July, my partner had to return to the US earlier than I did. He had to go home and visit his mother who was diagnosed with cancer. Luckily, the disease was caught early and the intervention was swift and successful. I saw my partner off at the airport in Madrid. Just as I feared, I didn't feel okay by myself. As I took the Metro back to the hotel I was sad. My other half had left. As I opened the door of the hotel room, I let out a big scream and yelled "Marc!!!" I know it sounds silly. It was just a temporary separation. Just ten days. To think, I always get left behind every time he has to leave home and go away for business. Then again, my partner and I are close, you see, even though we've gone through some rough times. Just like what he tells me every time I yearn for my mom, my dad, my sister and my eldest nephew who were so close to me but are no longer here physically, he is quick to say "I am your family now!"

My partner is still around and I hope and pray he will be for many, many years. I do know I will be a wreck should he go before I do. I know I will be.