In the widow group I belong to on FB, I learned a new term of endearment for to refer the anniversary of my husband’s death. In my previous three posts, I’ve share the story of the days that preceded the day Kevin was called home. Today, in my Life After vlog series, I share how I plan to spend this actual angelversary and how some others have spent theirs.
When I awoke Sunday morning, December 17, 2017, Kevin didn’t speak to me when I said “Good Morning” to him. I knew he wouldn’t but I always tried to show him my willingness to move on. I was determined have a good day.
This was the 3rd Sunday of the month. I wasn’t scheduled to work in the trustee office but I was going to church anyway. My son and I. After church, I wasn’t ready to go back home to deal with the tension-filled, silent environment, so Nate and I went to the movies.
We returned home about 4 o’clock. Kevin was in the bathroom, a place he treated like his private office. He had his MacBook, his keyboard, and a beat machine that he creating original beats with. About a month before he’s started uploading his creations to his page on a site called Soundboard.
I didn’t have to worry about cooking dinner. On my caregiving journey, I’d finally learned how to ask for help. I’d enlisted the help of my in-laws to help me out with meal preparations. One of Kevin’s was cousins was a caterer. He’d hooked us up with a pan of baked chicken, green beans, and roasted potatoes. I ate some food and propped myself up on the couch to watch a few Hallmark holiday movies, something I was entertaining for the first time ever.
Kevin remained in the bathroom for the remainder of the evening. I was on the couch. Nate and Tya, my kids, and our two dogs were upstairs. Around 10pm, Kevin emerged, appearing in better spirits. He was going to go out for a drive and asked me to make him a couple of tanks. I did, knowing he’d be in even better mood when he returned. He always was after getting some fresh air.
I returned to the couch for my Hallmark holiday and eventually drifted off to sleep. When I heard Kevin come in, I got up to assist him with connecting back to the home oxygen tanks. Before he walked back to the bathroom, he kissed me softly on my cheek and said, “Thank you.”
The small gesture of kindness was monumental. My heart smiled.
Less than an hour later I was awakened by the smoke alarm blaring through the house. Though I’d heard it before, for some reason, that night, I knew something was wrong. I jumped off the couch and ran into the entryway of the kitchen and saw Kevin holding himself up against the wall, looking down. I looked down to see what he was seeing. One single flame coming from the oxygen cord that would change the everything.
I wanted to ask, “What the hell happened?” But that wasn’t the time for questions. It was a time for action.
After our efforts failed to put the the flame out, I found the courage to pick the cord up and carry it through the living room, and then out the front porch, dropping it on the bank of snow of the porch.
The flame was extinguished. I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought the worst was over.
Everyone made it out of the house, including Kevin. But he wouldn’t come off the porch. When I urged him to get in the truck with the kids, he said, “I can’t.”
Those were the last words I heard from my husband.
When he sat down on the porch I thought he was waiting for help to arrive. That’s what I was waiting for. We literally lived less than a block away from the fire station.
The fire trucks and ambulance finally arrived. I immediately directed them to Kevin.
“He needs his oxygen,” I instructed them like I was the professional. As the tended to Kevin, I watched flames tearing through the little cute house we had just moved into.
In hindsight I wish I had run to Kevin’s side, grabbed his hand while it was still warm.
By the time the fire inspector finished questioning me and I was able to get to hospital where they’d taken Kevin, the doctor told me Kevin had gone into cardiac arrest and was on life support.
By this time it’s nearing midnight. The hospital transferred us to another one. They gave me hope that Kevin could come out of this state. I wanted to hope but I felt like he was already gone.
I can’t properly remember my husband without remembering the bad times. As a married couple, we had just as many of those as we had good days. And even more as his health worsened.
Having a great night like the one we’d had the night before didn’t prevent me and Kevin from have a typical Kevin and LaCharmine argument. The kind where the real small things blows up into something much bigger.
After Kevin and I got home the Friday night, he went back out. Apparently his car wouldn’t start so he asked if he could take mine. I’m like, “Sure honey.” He goes about his business. I go to sleep.
The next morning, per usual, I’m up early, preparing to go out for my morning errands and such. I go outside and immediately notice my truck kinda hanging off the driveway . My first thought was like, “Hmm.” I get into the truck, crank up the engine, put in the reverse to back out the driveway. The wheels were spinning on the snow covered driveway but the truck wasn’t moving. Then my thought changed to , “Kevin, what the F$ck?”
I go in the house, fuming. Just not understanding why he couldn’t turn into the driveway like a normal person.
I say, “Kevin, my truck is stuck. I can’t get out the driveway.”
He says, “Oh yeah. I meant to tell you that. We’re going to half to call AAA.”
I think to myself, You forgot to tell me this important detail as I walking out the door.
But what I said was, “Well we don’t have AAA anymore. The membership expired. Are you going to pay it today?”
He says, coolly, “Nope. I paid for it last time.”
This ticked me off but I kept my mouth closed. I called AAA, paid the membership and put in the service call. The tow truck arrives in 20 mins.
Cool, I think. I can get out of here.
Now this is where the day went downhill…
Kevin says, “I need you to take me to get this part for my truck.”
Blank face…What, sir? I think to myself. Then I say something like, “You didn’t want to pay for the AAA to get the truck pulled out the ditch BUT you want me to put you above my plans for the day and do what you need me to do. I don’t think so!”
The yelling and cursing began.
I eventually caved and took him where he needed to go. But I was not happy about it. In the car, we continued to argue. At one point he threatened to get out of the car! LOL. I think I literally laughed at him on that one.
I dropped him off at home to tend to his car and finally got about my day. I knew I would pay for mouthiness with him later. Kevin was a silent treatment kind of guy.
That particular day, I was like, whatever. It was my 5th Deltaversary. I was going to enjoy my day with my line sisters.
My line sisters and I met at a local Applebees to have our annual toast for our Deltaversary. I was having a great time but Kevin was not far from my mind. I really hated arguing with him. Particularly because he held on to anger like a dog holding on to a bone.
Back at home, like I suspected, Kevin wasn’t speaking to me. I remember going to bed thinking, Damn. There’s goes our Merry Christmas…
The anniversary of my husband Kevin’s death, 12/18/17, feels more like a weekend event rather than one day. Because we had such an eventful weekend leading up to his death, my memory of his passing begins on the Friday before that fateful day…
In December 2017 the 15th fell on a Friday. Kevin and I are had plans to celebrate his sister’s surprise 50th birthday which was the day. I remember being at work that day and talking to my friend about possibly not going to the party. The terminal illnesses Kevin was dealing with, interstitial lung disease, caused him to be increasingly angry, resentful, and quite frankly, not pleasant to be around. For me, as his caregiver, at least. I was beginning to tire of the Kevin that Kevin became in the presence of his family. Positive, glass half-full, God is good all the time Kevin. Because with me, in the privacy of our home, I witnessed the total opposite. Full disclosure, he was often a jerk. But the expectation was for me to be with him. Not because he enjoying my company but because I was his wife, his support.
However, this day I was considering letting him go on his own and use the time with him away to enjoy some peace at home. I had a conversation with my coworker about it and she understood but she encourage me to go. And by the end of my workday I decided to do just that. Putting Kevin’s needs before my own.
I didn’t tell Kevin that I had thought about not going to the party. That would have just soured whatever mood he was in when I got home. Plus I had decided that we were going to have a good night. I was not going to press him about us being on time to the party to be apart of the surprise. He hated when I rushed him for anything. I told myself, “This is his sister’s party, and we will get there when he wants us to.” Once I relieved myself of that pressure, I was able to relax to tend to his his needs.
While Kevin prepared himself for the party, I prepared Kevin for the party. I put 8 full sized metal oxygen tanks & all five of the liquid oxygen tanks in the back seat of Kevin’s truck. We would need enough oxygen for the 35 minute ride to and from party and for the time we were at the party and anything that came up along the way. The time we had been dealing with life with supplemental oxygen we tried our best to prepared for anything.
Thankfully we made big to the party in time to yell “surprise” along with everyone else. Though kevin was physically struggling breath, I could tell he was happy. Kevin loved being around his family and his family loved to be around him. There was a lot of love between them.
If there was a prayer to be a given during a family gathering, Kevin was always the one to do it. But at this event, after taking family pictures, Kevin’s mom or sister requested prayer for Kevin. We formed a circle around him as the minister present prayed for him. When the prayer was finished Kevin had his own words to share.
“I don’t want y’all to worry about me. My God’s got me and I’m gonna be alright!”
He’d moved everyone in the room, in kid me, to tears. In that moment I couldn’t have been happy that I decided to attend the party with him. To witness the heart of a dying man who thought so much of his family to have comforting for them when he was one in greater need of comforting.
When we got home, I was in such a good mood. Kevin was too. The night had been a good one.
This vlog series was conceived in early 2018 when I realized that I had a lot to say about what was happening in my life following the passing of my husband after his terminal illness and a devastating house fire in 2017 that ultimately claimed his life. I started recording videos when topics revealed themselves to me. What I didn’t record on video, I wrote about in my journal or in the notes section of my phone. I wasn’t sure if I was gathering material for a book, a vlog, a blog, or all three.
I decided to go ahead to get started posting. After the stroke I suffered a month ago, I realized just how much I can’t afford to hold on to ideas that I conceive until the perfect time to reveal them. The perfect time doesn’t exist. I don’t know what’s going to come of it, but I’m sure if will be a blessing to someone. I can’t promise that every video is be as inspiring as this one because that wouldn’t be real. And I want to provide a very real experience for viewers. The day I recorded this video I was feeling good, glad to be back in my house, and encouraged by a good word at church. I wanted to be encouraging to others. However, there are other recordings when I’ve been sad, angry, depressed, frustrated.
My journey is not over. As long as I’m living, I’ll always be living a life after that fateful night that changed everything.
If you like the video, please subscribe to my channel.
I drove a familiar route to my eyebrow touch up appointment this afternoon, passing two special places. IHOP and Bucharest Grill.
Neither are my favorite places to dine–well, IHOP used to be–but after November 2017 they will forever be in my heart. That was the weekend Kevin and I attended our first Weekend to Remember hosted by Family Life Today Ministry. I can hardly put into words how excited I was to be there, how perfectly God aligned everything so that we could attend. That’s a story for another post.
Nevertheless, the event was in the Renaissance Center, downtown Detroit, which is full of dining options. There was no reason for us to have to leave the venue to get something to eat. But that was #myKevin. He always did things “his” way.
Having a limited supply of portable oxygen with us for the weekend was of no concern to him. He wanted to get out of the hotel, into his truck, and into the streets so that’s what he did. Here’s what was involved: filling up 4-5 portable tanks, me pushing him in a wheelchair through the hotel down to the valet to retrieve the car, then driving to wherever, getting back into the car, back to valet, wheelchair ride for him (drive for me) back to our room. The words on the page don’t do it justice how tiring this was. It was totally against what I had in mind for our weekend. I expected the most walking we would do would be from our hotel room to the workshop sessions, just a floor below. I figured whatever food we wanted we could grab in between sessions or have delivered to our room via room service. I was willing to pay that cost for us to have relaxing weekend.
Relaxing? Hmph. Kevin wasn’t having it! But I was always the one accused of not being able to sit still. Anyway, we left the hotel 3-4 times over that weekend. It was ridiculous! I was furious in the pit of my belly but I said nothing. We were going to have a good weekend. I was determined.
Back to the restaurants.
IHOP was our first stop on day one. Bucharest Grill is where we went for lunch on the second day after the morning sessions. Regardless of how irritated I was–and boy was I–there was peaceable joy in my heart being in any time and space with him. As life does, I had no idea that would be the last time I’d go to those particular places with him. Now that time is forever etched in my mind. Not the irritation of it but the memory of sitting across from him enjoying a meal. The memory of him connecting with our IHOP waiter over a mutual interest they shared. The memory of watching him walk out of Bucharest Grill with our food in hand as I waited outside in the truck, probably praying that we weren’t late getting back for the afternoon session. Lol.
I know there are memories all over this city awaiting their time to fall upon me. Anytime, any place. I’m ready for them, my box of tissue just a reach away.
It’s Saturday night. Ten o’clock but my clock is set for eleven in preparation for daylight savings time. I’m laying on the right side of the bed–my side of the bed–with a cup of warm lemon ginger tea on the nightstand in the special cup given to me by a dear friend in my first days of settling into my family’s temporary home.
If Kevin were still with me, I’d probably still be in bed or laying on the couch, in for the night. Even before sickness invaded our lives, we weren’t a couple that engaged in too much night life. Though he was the life of any party he went to, he was really a homebody, where he could be himself. So sitting up in my bed, binge watching the Murder She Wrote marathon on the Hallmark Channel is not out of the ordinary for me on a Saturday night. However, tonight the volume on the T.V. is turned down low as I sing along with some of my favorite R&B jams playing on the Whitney Houston station on Pandora radio.
Kevin loved to listen to me sing.
“Girl, I love to hear you sing,” he’d said since the first time I sang with him in my car. I was singing Tamia’s song, Last First Kiss. He said that was the day he knew I was a keeper.
It was no accident that I was listening to that song when Kevin got in the car. We’d been seeing each other for a couple of months by that time and I had fallen so hard for him. It’d been quite some time since I’d felt so strongly about a man.
No lyrics ever rang so true as those did for how I felt about him then and throughout our relationship:
“When it comes to you I wouldn’t change a thing…I wouldn’t even change the things I could change. ‘Cause babe you’re perfect, perfect to me, simply means that you’re perfect for me…”
I never mistook Kevin’s feelings about my singing. He said he loved to hear me sing, not necessarily that I could sing particularly well. The love he had for me made my singing music to his ears. He was the one with the real singing talent.
Now, alone in my bedroom, turning pages of photo album filled with pictures of us, I’m singing my heart out, comforted that Kevin is resting well. Comforted by the love that we shared, the love that will always be in my heart.