For those of you reading this who do not know me, on January 28, 2021, at 12:20 p.m., my husband Frank passed away due to complications from a stem cell transplant.
On the night of January 27th, I left our 4-year-old son in a hotel room with my mother in Houston, TX. Due to Covid restrictions, I and my two bonus sons were allowed to go to the hospital and be with my husband until he passed.
Leaving our son to go be with him was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I knew that when I returned everything would be different. I would be a different mom, friend, and daughter. A different woman. I knew I would be a widow and our son wouldn’t have his father anymore. I knew my entire existence would change. Leaving meant the process had begun, and I wasn’t ready.
But I gave myself a little talk and made myself ready. I hugged my mom and, I remember her having a hard time letting go of me, which looking back, was very sweet. I hugged our son, maybe a little too tight. I told him I was going to be with Daddy, to be good, to listen to his Maw Maw, and that I would be back.
I got to Frank around 10:30 p.m., and I didn’t leave until 4:30 p.m. the next day. With respect to Frank and our family, this is my account of the last 18 hours with the love of my life.
I had seen Frank on FaceTime in his condition, but nothing prepares you for what it will look and be like in person. I really didn’t know what to do or how to act, initially. The nurses told me I could do whatever I wanted. This is the part in the wedding vows that you dread the most—til death do us part. It was here for me, and I didn’t want to mess it up.
So, I sat in the chair next to the bed, and for a while, I just looked at him and thought of all the wonderful moments we have shared. I looked at the man who swept me off my feet 10 years ago. The man who told me I took his breath away the first time he saw me and who described me as “fetching and delightful.” But who also described me, endearingly, as a “horrid little creature.” The man who taught me to take chances and that when you love someone, you tell them. The man who gave me two wonderful bonus sons and who gave me the best present anyone will ever give me, our sweet Jackson. The man who chose me to be a part of his extraordinary family, with whom I remain close today.
The man who didn’t drink but kept the drinks coming for me and danced with me all night in Mexico. The man who took me to New York City because he knew it had been my dream since I was little. The man who never wanted to see Jackson upset and would rub his back when he was crying. The man who loved to cuddle with Jackson more than anything and who gave him kisses all over his face while Jackson laughed uncontrollably.
The man who always strived to give his boys everything they needed and wanted. The man who built computers with Ben and who geocached with Elliot. The man who loved watching Elliot play tennis and who loved having deep, philosophical conversations with Ben. The man who would show up at his dad’s house, unannounced, because he knew his dad loved it when he did that.
The man who liked to shoot fireworks with a gun instead of blowing them up the normal way. The man who loved drones, fast cars, and creme brûlée. The man who loved making his family happy and sometimes had a hard time saying no. The man who made everyone feel better when everything seemed to be falling apart.
The man who went through hell and back in order to stay here with us. And the man who always made my dreams come true. The man who adored me.
I sat there and I just stared at the bravest, strongest, most selfless man I have ever known.
I sat there and told him what had been going on lately with Jackson, Ben, Elliot, and the family. I told him things that, even after knowing him for 10 years, I was a little shy to say.
I played all of his favorite songs, which included “The Feather Song” from Forrest Gump,” Sky Blue and Black,” “Comfortably Numb,” and “Have I Told You Lately,” our song. I sang to him a special song I wrote for Jackson. I played videos for him of Jackson, so he could hear his voice, and I played messages people wanted him to hear. I FaceTimed those who wanted to say goodbye, and I had my mom put Jackson on the phone so Jackson could talk in his ear. I wanted the energy in the room to be complete love and peace.
I lay in the bed with him and rubbed his head and his hands, as he loved to be touched. I told him we would all miss him but not to worry because we would keep on living and be happy.
I made him some promises. I promised him Ben and Elliot would be successful and happy and that I would continue to take care of them and continue our amazing relationship. I promised to give Jackson all of the things he deserves and what we always wanted him to have. I promised to teach Jackson how to dance, cook, be polite, patient, etc. I promised that my dad, my brother, his bubbas, and the men in his life—present and future—would teach him what it means to be a man and how to be a gentleman.
And I promised him if someone worthy came along, I would give them a chance.
Around this time, Ben and Elliot were allowed to come into the room. We just sat and talked to him. We told stories about Frank. Some funny, like the time Elliot dripped Dr. Pepper down Frank’s butt when he was bent over and the time Ben said “Are you on your man period, Dad!?” and Frank laughed hysterically. They talked about staying up late and playing video games with him, McDonald’s breakfast they had together, playing with dry ice, and living in the house where the crickets came up through the floorboards.
They talked about how they always knew they could count on him and how he always allowed them the space to be themselves. They talked about how he always knew what to do, how he always made everything better, and how many lives he changed through his work. He made everyone around him better.
After the stories had been told, the laughs had been had and the goodbyes had been said, it was time to let him go. The nurse came in and she very gently started the process of comfort care. We had no idea how long it would take or what it would be like, but we were together and that’s all that mattered.
We surrounded him. Ben and Elliot at his hands and me by his heart. We held him and talked to him until he drew his last breath, and then he was gone. It was quick and quiet. No noise. Just peace.
We stayed with him for a while, and then I had the thought, “Frank would want me to go to Jackson.” I told him I loved him, that I always will, and that I would never stop talking about him. Whenever Frank and I had to leave one another we had a little kissing ritual. Once on each cheek, head, nose, and chin, then softly on the lips.
I did that for the very last time, gently touched his hands, and walked out of the room.
When I got in my car, I sat for a few minutes just to give myself a few moments. I screamed and cried, just a little, just to get it out, and then I drove to the hotel.
I got back to our room and after I gathered myself, I walked up to Jackson and I hugged him—again, just a little too tight—and I told him I was sorry for what has happened. He hugged me back and then wanted to play, just as a 4-year-old would.
It was at that point, I knew my new life as a single mom had begun. I took a deep breath, looked at that sweet boy, and thought, “Well, here goes nothin’ . . .”