Mireya Vela

writer and artist

Thoughts on Death

I’ve been thinking about death a lot. My father-in-law passed away in late November. Watching my husband go through this process with his own father, made me miss my own family but it also made me realize what I have with Dan (husband).

I watched him fight for his dad’s right to die at home. Even in moments of severe panic, when dad was collapsing or changing colors, Dan talked people into calmness.

“Call the nurse,” he said on the phone.

Then after a long pause of listening to the person on the other line, he said, “Remember how the nurse left her number on that notepad? It’s because she wants you to call her when these things happen. Call her. I’m on my way.”

Then, he drove two and a half hours to be with his dad. That night, when his dad was in severe pain, Dan played him music till he found the song that calmed down dad’s pain.

It was an old Mexican song that Dan and I danced to at our wedding. The song is sensual and full of promise. I don’t know what it felt like for his dad, but I’m relieved it brought him peace.

Watching my husband go through this with such calm and elegance, made me love him more. I knew that his dad’s wife was hysterical and emotional—and likely deciding she couldn’t do this, realizing she was completely unprepared for this part of their love story and she didn’t want to do this. I don’t know what it feels like to lose the love of one’s life.

What came to concrete realization for me was what my husband’s love was a solid mass. It wasn’t romantic or ethereal. It wasn’t romantic.

I felt the heaviness of his love and I panicked as I questioned whether I was prepared to offer him the same in return. At the end of our days together, might I be able to physically care for him at home? Might I fight for his right to be here till his final days? I don’t know.

Of course, this entire thing makes me think of my place in life. It makes me think of myself as a mother and as a daughter. I don’t speak to my mother. I won’t be there when she dies. Of course, I also remember her telling me she didn’t want me to be there when her time ends.

I think about parenting and loving my son Nathan. I think about those people who liked to tell me that “god never gives you more than you can handle”. I remember my rage. It’s hard to unravel the message inside my stomach at that point. I wanted to yell, “I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this!”

I’m also starkly aware that those people were telling me, “You’ve got this.”

That message is also difficult to unravel.

What I know is that I was a single mom to a special needs child. What I know is that the experience broke me again and again. Sometimes, to stay in a relationship, it means to be broken. And like with my mother, I get to choose which relationships I get to stay within.

Like this marriage. Understanding I may break again and again. And stubbornly staying present, placing one foot in front of the other.


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