Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Melissa, or as it pertains to this story? I’m the nomad’s wife. He passed away in October of 2017 after suffering absolutely unforeseen complications after surgery. I had completely forgotten about this site until I was consolidating business umbrellas after his death, and I stumbled upon this little gem of his photography and videography while I was deciding what I wanted to keep chugging along on go daddy, and what I thought I could bear to let go of.
His byline for this site is the “One day. One mile. One story at a time.” Well, let me tell you, I never expected our story to come to such an abrupt end in the physical sense. I’ve understood for years that nothing is certain but when you’re married and you’re young–you don’t typically equate “sudden death” into the landscape as you survey your life. I used to work in medicine, in Emergency and Trauma services, actually. I appreciate that when you work in certain professions, the likelihood of that midnight call increases exponentially. Police, EMS responders, Firefighters–those are just a few occupations where you have to do far more to brace yourself that every time your loved one leaves the house to help save someone else, they might not come back. Nomad was a database administrator. Barring some sudden unforeseen uprising of the computers ala I, Robot? The most I found myself worrying about was his daily commute.
So there I was, sometime around 3 am on October 25, 2017–having gotten the call several hours before (code alarms screaming in the background) “Your husband’s condition has changed unexpectedly, and we need you to come in right away”– in a tiny conference room ironically named the solarium, staring bleary eyed at the surgeon still covered in my husband’s blood as he tells me “We’re so sorry, we couldn’t get your husband’s heart back. He died at 3:07. ” A lot more was said. Words I am not going to repeat, because they bring me to an abyss of emotion I have to be careful how I descend; lest I fall into that pit and find myself unable to bring myself back out of the gaping maw of despair and anger and recriminations and questions I know will continue to go unanswered. Words that are being investigated because they lack the backing of truth and professionalism that should be the golden standardof the medical community. Words that placed me in a quiet room with a door closed, while I held the limp, still warm hand of the man that I loved more than life itself, and tried desperately to find some spark of the vitality that I loved about him; some sign that this was all some horrible joke–that he would open his eyes and smile, and we’d laugh at how horrible his sense of humor could be. The moments ticked by. His chest was still, and his skin began to cool under my hands, in spite of the hot wash of tears freely falling from my eyes at that moment. I wanted to curl up on that bed next to him and will myself away so that we would not be separated. My reality, however, was much more complex. I had four children, sleeping in physician’s quarters in another part of the hospital, under the watchful eye of the unit nursing staff. I was all they had, and they needed me. I had always said to nomad that if it came down to him or our children, I would have to choose them. With a heavy heart, I kissed him goodbye. Closing the door softly behind me. I finished signing the papers allowing his body to be released to a funeral home, and I left–to gather my babies and to break the news to them as gently as I could.
For us, the “Next Chapter” of our story isn’t just a few pages of beautiful prose portraying a happy family and a wonderful ever-after. Our newest chapter is trying to salvage the remains of a novel, already written, with half the story ripped out, and to write the happiest ending possible from the wreckage. The next chapter is trying to grieve the loss of my soulmate, while helping honor the extremely different grieving styles of our children; two of them in diapers and unable to express their loss in words. The next chapter is trying to be present when I really wish that I had followed him; the stumbling aimlessly in the dark, cutting my hands and knees to ribbons as I try to forge a path forward for my family: To continue to build Nomad’s and my ideal of a happy, safe place for our children, where they can grow into their respective selves, and to know that they always have the love and backing of a family to return home to when the rest of the world lets them down.
The next chapter is about getting my bearings and finding my footing; of not just surviving, but thriving–and finding happiness. Something Nomad told me he always wanted me to have, when we had those hard conversations couples have leading up to what can be profoundly life altering circumstances. Nomad and I shared a love of music. Oftentimes we spoke in lyrical annotation, and when he passed? The music inside me died. It was days before I could bring myself to listen to anything–and when I finally turned on the radio? I felt this urgency pressing me to listen to, of all things, the musical Buffy the Vampire Slayer song “Something to Sing About.” I had forgotten that at the end, Spike rescues her and tells her “The pain that you feel, you only can heal, by living. You have to go on living. So one of us is living.” That message was as clear as Nomad had been standing there, telling me himself, that the only way is forward. That by living, I can work through and release the pain. That I must live for myself, for our children–but also live for him. To honor him, his vitality, to keep the wonderful person he was alive for our babies, and in some part, for the world.
Nomad was terrified of being forgotten. I have chosen to take over this blog, to continue the one story at a time, and to share him, and my journey through the long night of grief with the world. I plan on finding the dawn, in dancing when I reach the sunlight on the other side of this dark valley. It is a hard, tortuous path–and I hope that by sharing my experiences, other people who are suffering, who feel alone and isolated as I do, will realize that even though each journey is uniquely personal, there are those of us who do understand, and who are willing to offer a word or a shoulder when the going gets too difficult to be borne. This next chapter is the beginning of my story, and I plan to make it spectacular.
I love you, baby. You finally get to live your favorite literary adventure, Johnathan Livingston Seagull. Fly high, and enjoy the wind against your feathers.