Those of you who follow me on Facebook, or who are in my readers group there, already know what’s happened.
For those of you who don’t, I’m poly. I have Spouse (formerly Hubby before she came out as trans earlier this year) of 24 years now, and the Viking, who is my poly partner of nearly two years.
Even typing those last few words makes me want to rage against the Universe. Because on Thursday, October 28, after the Viking had uncharacteristically been out of contact with me for too long, I drove across town to his apartment and discovered him there. He’d passed away, most likely somewhere between the hours of 6pm and midnight on Tuesday, based on various factors.
He had a couple of pre-existing medical conditions, and had been hospitalized in December and January for DVT, congestive heart failure, and had a sepsis infection of a picc line they’d put in, in addition to past cardiac issues. In retrospect, I believe he had another leg clot in his left leg, but I didn’t recognize the signs that past weekend when I’d spent it with him. He thought he’d injured it in judo. I last saw him in person on Monday the 25th, after spending the weekend with him. My last text from him was late Tuesday morning. But the last words we exchanged in person were, “I love you.” His passing was, for him, extremely peaceful. It looked like he laid down on the couch to watch TV, went to sleep, and simply didn’t wake up. Absolutely no signs of pain, or anguish.
Those emotions are left for the ones he left behind who loved him.
The only blessings in this whole thing are that he went peacefully, and that his siblings, who lived out of state, have embraced me. Because none of us were his legal next of kin, there have been some delicate legal and emotional bumps to negotiate, but that is all in progress and everyone involved is functioning as best they can given the sudden circumstances of his passing and the lack of specific written instructions.
He was supposed to attend Shameless Book Con with me next week. He was really looking forward to coming and helping and seeing what I do. At first I thought I would cancel, but with the love and support of friends I’ve decided I am still going to attend. He would have wanted me to go. So please forgive me if I’m not at my best. I want to toast him and pour one out for him at the Saturday night event, and beside me I feel his spirit holding me, urging me to keep putting one foot in front of the other even though it feels like I can’t breathe.
Needless to say, Incisive isn’t posted yet. Anyone who pre-ordered it in print, I will ship it to you at my expense once I have the print copies in hand. I’m going to cancel the pre-order for the non-fiction writing guide on Amazon, because I’m barely functioning right now. I am going to push releases for other books out to future dates. My Spouse has been amazing, especially considering that the Viking was a dear friend to her, too, and she’s understandably grieving his loss and also unable to do anything to alleviate my suffering.
I…don’t handle grief well. I never have. Yes, I have a pending referral from my therapist to a trauma specialist, because I already have CPTSD even before this. The circumstances of me finding him on top of that has created patches of disassociation. That whole night is already becoming a patchwork of holes in my memory, and I don’t want to lose a second of my memories of him. Logic and reason tells me he was gone long before I went over there and there was nothing I could have done. My heart hates me for not picking up tells over the previous weekend and not dragging him to the ER, or driving over at midnight Wednesday night, when my gut was screaming at me that something was wrong. (Yes, brain berates me for those thoughts but it is what it is.) It doesn’t matter what the logic of the situation is–I need help to deal with this and I admit it, and will seek help for it. Still, at my request, Spouse has filed a request with the county for the 911 call tape and body cam footage from the responding deputies, because I need to see them. I need to see what I’ve forgotten or what I just flat can’t remember. I know my “lizard brain” kicked in, the rescue diver training, the emergency situation training I always hammer into my students in my classes on safety, and my auto-pilot “emergency mode” engaged, but I still need to look at them and see what happened, what I did.
My Viking was an amazing, sweet, loving man. He was a protector. He was intelligent and fun and complex. He was playful and yet intense. He was so full of life and the only promise he ever broke to me was that he would never die before me. We didn’t even have a full two years together, and 55 was too fucking young for such a bright, shining soul to be ripped from our lives like this. He accepted me for who and what and where I was, and I did the same for him. When I was diagnosed with ADHD last December, instead of shying away from that he embraced me and asked me what he could do to help me. He never backed down from a challenge. He kept me laughing. He made it his mission to make me smile.
He entered my life at the darkest point in my existence, when grief had nearly incapacitated me and was gaining ground every day. When I met him I was literally self-medicating with work and…well, work. I’m not saying he magically fixed me. But with his calm and quiet strength he built me a safe, supportive space and taught me how to breathe again, how to pry my fingers from the hamster wheel, and learn how to relax and engage in self-care. He provided me a safe, judgment-free space to take the lessons I’d somehow managed to absorb over the previous five years of searing, disabling grief, and in that space I was able to sit there and carefully start the process of reassembling who I was. It is not an exaggeration to say I might have already worked myself to death by now had I not met him when I did.
He didn’t “fix” me; he sat with me and protected me and encouraged me while I began assembling the puzzle of all the pieces I’d learned so I could start building a new me. He did not do it for me–he witnessed me and provided a desperately needed buffer and voice of reason, and yes, sometimes a perfectly timed kick in the butt to motivate me. But always with love and never with mean-spirited or ridiculing words. Always with love.
The Goddess blessed me with his love and presence in my life. And I truly believe his entrance in my life when it happened probably saved my life when I had finally hit the point where I honestly woke up every morning feeling disappointed my eyes opened. (No, not suicidal, so don’t panic. Just… At that point in my life I wasn’t exactly resigned if the Universe decided to put me out of my misery.)
Spouse and my friends adored him first because they saw how he lit up my life and how I finally started making an attempt to actually live again. How I actually smiled again. How I relearned how to laugh. Then, as they got to know him, they fell in love with him for the great guy he was, the protector, the fixer, the guardian. The Viking. He helped me through the worst times of my chronic pain and life felt a thousand times easier to manage with him in it.
I dreamed about him last night, about how he always snuggled his head against my shoulder, and he talked to me. I pray to the Goddess he meets me in my dreams every night. If that happens, then it will get me through one more day if it means I can still have that brief snippet of him at night, those sweet, sweet dreams.
One of our daily routines, if we weren’t together at night, was to text each other I love you, sweet dreams.
I think of the last look I had of him that night before they took him away, lying there on his sofa. How I laid my hand on his head, stroked his hair, and told him one last time how much I loved him. The last picture I took of him alive was from only a couple of weeks earlier when we’d been watching TV on that same sofa. He dozed off and I got up to use the bathroom. When I returned he was lying in almost the same exact position as how I found him that day, except his left arm was extended, waiting for me to return. I took the picture because he looked so adorable, and when I snuggled back against him he wrapped that strong arm around me and nuzzled his head against against mine and told me he’d missed me before dozing off again.
For now, what I choose to desperately cling to (besides my bottle of Xanax) is the thought that my sweet Viking is dreaming right now. That he’s dreaming sweet dreams and waiting for me to return so he can curl that strong arm around me and tell me he missed me. That even though I can’t see him, his spirit walks beside me, protecting me the way he did in life.
I know he would want me to keep trying, and as I talk to him even now I tell him I will keep trying as long as he remains with me and visits me every night in my dreams. If he does, then I will do my best to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Everyone who’s been through this type of loss assures me that time won’t heal this gaping maw in my soul but it will incrementally get easier to breathe without pain. That one day I’ll be able to tell stories of him without crying. I have to trust their advice.
FYI, if you’re in a polyamorous or long-term relationship with someone who you aren’t legally “married” to, PUT STUFF IN WRITING. Make sure to have contact information and final wishes and phone and computer passwords, all of that. Don’t unintentionally traumatize your loved ones a second time by them being paralyzed and unable to move forward in some ways because there are things in limbo due to no instructions or legal ability to handle things.
Also, take videos of your loved ones saying, “I love you.” Take videos and get pictures and never miss an opportunity to take selfies together, no matter how bad your hair looks or whatever.
Take the fucking pictures. Make the fucking videos.
Say the fucking words.
Because at least there is one regret I am not left with, and that is our final words to each other were, “I love you.”
Sweet dreams, Russ. I love you, baby.