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Eight years after her initial stage-4 breast cancer diagnosis, my wife Dallis, the love of my life, succumbed to this horrible disease. She made a valiant and determined effort to live, and thoroughly enjoyed all the remaining days and years she was given, and yet on January 27 of this year, she breathed her last breath with me and her daughter Wendy by her side. Since then, my emotions and frame of mind have been swinging wildly all over the place, and I write to give voice to the internal struggles I feel and to try to make sense of my place in the world now that she is gone. Here is something I wrote a few days ago, and then let sit for a while before sharing. I wouldn’t read it if I were you!

Attending to the broken places
(Just when you thought it was safe to read my writings)

Among the questions that grip me and won’t let go are:
How was it possible for her to leave me?
How could she say goodbye to our shared life?
How was she able to give up on our future dreams?

The very questions trouble me, 
for they sound like accusations.
They also sound unanswerable, 
and yet not considering them hurts too.

My intellect tells me that my beloved 
needed to choose personal agency
over the constant intrusions of medical necessity.
Her quality of life had deteriorated so much
that no other path seemed tolerable.

In a sense, she had no choice but to say to everyone, 
including those dearest to her,
enough is enough:
I don’t want to do this anymore.
I feel more like a bundle of problems to be tackled
than the living, breathing human being
who once found so much joy in being alive!

Still, the questions haunt me:
How was she able to pull it off?
Was my love for her too little to hold her here –
at least long enough
to bring her nearer to a time a healing,
to tip the scales toward life and wholeness?

And lamentably there are other unanswerable questions:
How did she think I would feel when she was gone?
What did she suppose would be left of me without her?
Did she not imagine how abandoned I would feel?

In case there’s any doubt,
this is me stumbling around 
in the murky land of self-pity and blame.
This is me doubting myself and the adequacy of my love.
This is, in other words, 
the ugly, petty underside of grief
where it’s all about me,
all about my struggle to breathe again,
all about my pain,
my sorrow,
my emptiness
palpable in every room
every movement
every decision
every discarded dream
every flood of tears.

So, I urge you to avert your eyes.
This is the pathetic, needy portion of grief.
There is nothing lovely here,
nothing beautiful,
nothing worthy of admiration.
Only sad proof of all the broken places 
where my wounded heart now lives.

~ Mark Lloyd Richardson
March 7, 2021