I didn’t know Colby Cave. I don’t know his wife or his parents or any of the people who love him. But when I sat down at my kitchen table this morning, opened Twitter and saw that he passed away after suffering a brain bleed earlier this week tears filled my eyes.
At the other end of the table, Chris was doing a puzzle with our daughter. I told him. “No,” he said as he stopped what he was doing and sat there very still. Our 5-year-old looked at him.
“What’s wrong Daddy?”
“Oh I’m just feeling sad, lovey.”
She went back to her puzzle.
“It’s OK, Daddy. He’s in heaven now and nothing can hurt him.”
The tears trickling down my cheeks turned into a steady stream as I caught Chris’ gaze from across the table.
I saw in his eyes the same thing I know he could see in mine — the weight of grief, the heaviness of tragedy, the fear of loss and a depth that comes from constant proximity to profound sadness, the kind of sadness most people keep at bay until it rushes at them all at once and crashes hard into them, knocking them down, taking the wind from their lungs and leaving them shattered in its wake.
The kind of sadness Colby’s wife Emily is feeling now.
My tears today are for her. For the life she thought she was going to have. The babies she thought they’d welcome. The stages of life they’d go through, the old age they’d reach together.
Suddenly, she has to live the life I have grown used to picturing for myself for the last 10 months. I have spent so many days and nights wading into this sea of sadness, wondering when I’ll be tossed in without a say in the matter, now constantly hyper-aware of loss, of its injustice, of its impartiality, of how people manage to survive it, of how they somehow keep going. And my tears are because she’s been throw in, all at once, sinking in despair, drowning in heartache.
My tears are because today my husband is still sitting across from me. Because I laid my legs across his lap on the couch last night and hugged him when he handed me my coffee this morning. Because I am so grateful and because I feel so guilty. Who I am to get a miracle when Colby and Emily didn’t? When so many others right now aren’t?
My tears are because there is so much heartbreak. Because people are losing their loved ones without being able to hold their hands, without being able to say goodbye, without being there. Because the world feels like such a dark and scary place and, at the same time, here I am, in my warm house, playing games and watching movies and, yes, occasionally fighting, with my three favourite people in the world.
My tears are because it seems like now I constantly feel every emotion at once. I am sad and and I am happy. I am angry and I am grateful. I am worried and I feel peace.
Every single thing in my life since Chris’ diagnosis is just more than it was before. Every experience has more weight, every argument is more difficult, every cry is more cathartic, every laugh is more invigorating, every photograph is more precious.
In basketball if you get fouled too much in a game you’re rewarded with free throws. It’s called bonus, and maybe that’s what this is, right now, for us.
This time stuck in the house with my family is bonus. I wasn’t supposed to get it. The games of catch Chris plays with our kids, bonus. The dinners out in Toronto, when we went for his treatments, bonus. These days at home, these nights on the couch together, these hugs, these sunny afternoons on the porch, these snowy days in April, these tears, this laughter, these arguments, these good days and these bad ones — all bonus.
I look at my husband’s right hand and forearm, wasted away by a disease that remains incurable, that has always been 100% fatal. I don’t know what it’s doing inside his body right now. I don’t know if it’s been shut off or if it’s just moving so slowly I can’t yet see the damage it’s doing. I don’t know when the clock will run out on my time with him, if my babies will get to grow up with their dad next to them or what his mobility will look like a year from now.
And I don’t understand — why are we getting this bonus round? Why do we get this extra time, these days and weeks and months that have been made so much richer by his diagnosis and this constant awareness of all we stand to lose, when so many others are losing the people they love right now without even a chance to say goodbye?
I don’t know why me, why us, why this miracle came our way instead of going to someone else.
I don’t know.
I just know that, for all the people out there right now, crushed by grief and wishing for just one more day, one more minute, one more hug, I won’t waste it.