Living Where Your Husband Was Dying

photo 4Some would call it a coincidence. Maybe it was. A young woman walked into my apartment building looking around. “Just looking,” she said as if she was wandering around a store. She had short blonde hair and probably wasn’t older than 35. We started talking and she said she used to live here. I instantly knew she was going to say she had lived in my apartment. I don’t know why I felt that way but it was true. She said she had lived in my apartment a few years earlier.

“It faces north, the bedroom is on the left…?” she asked, excited that she remembered her old home so well. She went on about how she loved living here and I said the same. She said she had so many memories from this building and I know I do, too. Her face went dark as she started reflecting on the memories here. Her husband was dying of cancer while they lived in my apartment. He was too sick to use the stairs and had to be hoisted down an empty elevator shaft in the building whenever he had to go anywhere. He has since passed away. Her husband, Kyle. Gone. I said what we are all trained to say when we hear such things: “I’m so sorry for your loss.” What else is there that I could say to her? The long answer is this:

I am moving in two weeks from here and I have lived in your old apartment for two years. During those two years, I have laughed hysterically while watching Sex and the City with my sister and mom. I have spent hours cooking some failed concoction in the kitchen and then gone directly out to dinner with my boyfriend after. I’ve woken up at 6 AM, not once but TWICE, so that I could run 13.1 miles like a crazy lady. I have clinked glasses with my friends when the Super Bowl came to town. I’ve spent entire evenings trying on every outfit in my closet just to figure out what items go well with my new shoes. I’ve stayed up late packing for trips to California, Florida and New York.

During those two years, I only cried when a relationship was over or when one of those Sarah McLachlan commercials came on. I never had to take someone to the hospital or pick them up. I thought a week-long cold was the end of the world. The most exhausting two hours of my life was spent at a craft store figuring out fabric for the accent pillow on my bed.

In two weeks I am moving from this place… from our old home…  and I have nothing but good memories. Great memories. There were two or three moments that were stressful at the time but now I don’t know why I was ever upset. If anything, the only sad memory of this place will be you. I can’t open a drawer without thinking of you getting his medicine out. I can’t fall asleep in my bedroom without thinking of the restless nights you had here.

You left the building and sat in the courtyard after we talked. I saw you sit there peacefully as you slowly leaned your head back and looked up at the sky. He would have been glad that you had the strength to come back to this place. When you moved from this building, you moved with him. Now you return alone and I can’t imagine what courage that takes. You disappeared from the courtyard as suddenly as you arrived. In that short time, you made me realize how good I have had it here. We lived in the same apartment yet led such different lives and I finally realize how blessed I am. Whether your time here was good or bad, I hope you can finally remember this place as I will always remember it: a home where memories were made with the people we love.

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