My wife took her last breath on Saturday night, March 23rd, and her remains were cremated after her funeral this past Friday night. Her ashes (and mine, eventually) will be buried in her maternal grandmother's family plot in rural Ontario.
After the unimaginable diagnosis last fall, Kate seemed to be improving in November and December. After a summer and fall of not being able to lie down in our bed, she was able to fall asleep in my arms and recover from the chemotherapy for 4 or 6 or 8 hours. I believed that my amazing wife was going to be able to add cancer survivor to the long list of plaudits and achievements. To me, it seemed no less possible than becoming a national class athlete or a world class scholar or an unbelievably great mother. She could do it. She was the most capable person I've ever met -- because of the force of her will. She attacked every major challenge in the same way, immersing herself in it and giving her all, whether rowing or teaching or research or child rearing or fighting cancer.
But she couldn't. She didn't get better. Nothing really helped the cancer that had spread to her bones -- the only thing that had any effect was the radiation she hated so much, and that was only temporary relief. Even by the time we moved to Virginia she was starting to experience anemia from the cancer and the return of pain in her neck and back. When we got back from her 2-week stay in the hospital, she was so thin she looked like the old films of concentration camp survivors.
At every stage I thought we would have more time. In December I thought we would have years. A month ago I thought we would have months. The last week I thought we would have weeks. The last day I thought we would have days. It just does not seem possible -- even now, the woman who was so vital, so forceful, so firm, so tender cannot possibly be gone. As I look at the photo I took of her at 32 from the summer we moved from Ann Arbor to Evanston, part of me thinks I must be able to find her back in the yard beside her house at 214 West Ann Street, smiling at me and our future.
This woman was amazing and I still can't believe she fell for me. I had a sense early on that she could open up the world for me and she was certainly part of the <a href=\"http://lwinling.livejournal.com/18839.html\" target=\"_blank\">class movement</a> I was feeling a few years back. So what are some of those amazing experiences she made possible?
1. The <a href=\"http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanoasis/5432317925/in/set-72157625890302941\" target=\"_blank\">sun setting</a> on Marrakech, Morocco after a day of <a href=\"http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanoasis/5432249759/in/set-72157625890302941\" target=\"_blank\">bargaining in the market</a>.
2. The <a href=\"http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanoasis/3428512063/in/set-72157625890302941\" target=\"_blank\">Paris cafe</a>.
3. <a href=\"http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanoasis/6908166946/\" target=\"_blank\">Fatherhood</a>.
4. <a href=\"http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanoasis/6160108304/in/photostream\" target=\"_blank\">Everything in Italy</a>.
5. My career, now <a href=\"http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanoasis/6919328795/in/photostream\" target=\"_blank\">based in Virginia</a>, enabled by her total support.
She was the one with the ideas and who provided the direction in our relationship. Now I've got to figure out who I am without her. After every decision and every action for the last 8 years was made with Kate and our partnership in mind, I've got to face each decision and each day with only my own feeble mind as a resource. And I've got to figure out how all the old relationships will work without her. And it's pretty terrifying -- I need her now more than ever. Thank God Ernest is too young to understand.
Originally posted in March, 2013.