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This is a wife's moving story of her husband's battle with mortal illness-prostate cancer-of his death, of her descent into grief, and of her extraordinary journey back to life. And in this highly charged context it is as well the story of a marriage, from their first meeting on the Lexington Avenue subway through their twenty-nine years together. She was a student at the New School; he (later a book reviewer for The New York Times) was a ...
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This is the OVERSIZED softcover stated Knopf First Edition from 2005. Both the cover and the book are in excellent condition. There are no rips, tears, markings, etc.---and the ... pages and binding are tight (see photo). **Note: All books listed as FIRST EDITIONS are stated by the publisher in words or number lines--or--only stated editions that include only the publisher and publication date. Check my feedback to see that I sell exactly as I describe. Read more Show Less

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Overview

This is a wife's moving story of her husband's battle with mortal illness-prostate cancer-of his death, of her descent into grief, and of her extraordinary journey back to life. And in this highly charged context it is as well the story of a marriage, from their first meeting on the Lexington Avenue subway through their twenty-nine years together. She was a student at the New School; he (later a book reviewer for The New York Times) was a teacher there.

"The world of loss, of grief, of separation is a world of change," Sandy Broyard writes, "but change that is different from growth," and she shows us that change-so unlike all the others we have experienced.
Through her training as a psychotherapist and her dancer's knowledge of how the mind is expressed in the body (she was formerly a Juilliard dancer, a student of Martha Graham and Mary Wigman), Broyard begins to understand the ways in which grief persists. She saw how Anatole's ill body, once so beautiful, distorted itself, and discovered how loss expressed itself in her own muscles.

She tells how her experience of mourning Anatole was prefigured by the loss, thirty years before when she was twenty, of both her parents and a boyfriend. She describes the aftermath: "A friend gave me a tranquilizer with wine. I passed out and a few hours later woke up, the dark feeling gone. That lesson went straight to my heart and brain. And for the next fifteen years I used that combination, not knowing that sedating myself only served to cement the torment to my bones."

But with the second series of losses in midlife-her brother, a close friend, and then her husband-there were no magic potions to dilute or expungethe grief. Now the great sadness had to be translated into words. Realizing she could be truly alive only if she was alive to her grief, she started to write for herself, capturing the journey of her years as wife, mother of her son and daughter, dancer and writer. And she tells about the suddenness of her husband's cancer, shortly after their move to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the swift progression of his illness; he died fourteen months later.

She tells how she began to reshape her life-moving to Martha's Vineyard, traveling to the house in Cambridge and back- "commuting" between her old world with Anatole and her new world on the island, and settling into a whole new life on her own, open with possibilities.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Critic Anatole Broyard died of prostate cancer in 1990; his wife made these notes to record her pain over losing him. Her grief followed no tidy stages, but lurched from self-doubt to despair to bone-tiredness. She was angry at how death just grabbed people (first Anatole, then, less than a year later, her brother). Her grief was so relentless she wondered, "is it a way of being loyal to Anatole, staying close to him by sinking into this mire?" However, there's very little about Anatole in the book (although that's obviously its selling point). In fact, Broyard found herself looking for another love: "I want... to be with another man, but I'm scared that I won't be able to connect." To understand herself better, she explored a variety of wellness and body movement workshops (Kripalu, Feldenkrais) and consulted a shaman. Finally, Broyard let go of her grief and began appreciating simple wonders, like the water lilies that suddenly appeared in her backyard pond. Her journey to this fragile peace wasn't easy, and she's frank about her motivations: "I don't want to write a comforting book.... I want my words to be strong, to ring true, to reverberate with the pain and the hardness and the stink, the putrid stink of death." This brutally honest portrait of grief is often painful, yet still poignant. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. (Feb. 18) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A grieving account of the life of Anatole Broyard, the long-time New York Times literary critic. "I'm still very much with Anatole," says the author, his widow. "He is simply not here, and I am alone." The adjective "simply," however, belies the profound bruise that his death delivered to her. Broyard asks herself where she can go to engage in restoration. She finds herself scattered, anxious, and overwhelmed, feeling no confidence in her ability to remove the sorrow of this death, not to mention those of her brother and close friend, which followed soon after. How will Broyard escape her brooding sadness, end the clammy feeling of wanting to crawl into the bones of her husband, or make the void tangible? In fact, there's nowhere to turn, at least nowhere right now. The shadows and darkness are cumulative and dragging. Broyard can be morbid, filling her memoir with sorrow-driven words, yet, like a dancer, she can also find a step, an expressive movement, in her case the act of writing. She skips no details in the story of this dreadful time, just as her husband would have wanted. His well-known love of accuracy, precision, and precisely chosen words gives her a compass point, enabling her to make herself available to the hair-ripping anguish that makes her feel that she must be owed something for going through such pain. But why? And who is going to pay the bill? No one but herself, screaming in a quiet emptiness, grateful for family and friends, and finding solace in the privacy of writing. Difficult, yes, but also not wholly unlike life with her husband. Broyard's immersion and endurance are striking, and she weathers like a shingle. The pain gnaws, and writing that's about death can'tescape the smell of mortality, but Broyard's refusal to concede is also profoundly humane.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400042111
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/15/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandy Broyard was born in Bronxville, New York, and was educated at Mount Holyoke College and the Juilliard School of Music. She has taught and performed modern dance and is now a therapist on Martha’s Vineyard.
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Read an Excerpt

Embarking

After my husband died, I began to write in a notebook, on scraps of paper, deposit slips, anything handy. Putting words on paper was as necessary as breathing. Having grief-driven words tucked away in my desk allowed me to proceed with my life.

I am a therapist and each week I sit with people who are tormented, confused, adrift in their lives, and I hear echoes of my own story. They are entangled in and living their own painful drama. Sometimes it is cumulative. For some from early childhood on there have been endless cycles of deprivation, bad luck, a mean world. Sometimes the onset has been sudden, tragic, with an illness, loss of work, a death. I see them ensnared in the jaws of an animal trap, the metal prongs clamped onto their flesh and bone, while they bite and gnaw to free themselves. When people first come into therapy, they don’t understand that the piercing pulling away from the source of agony is not the answer. But rather, being still and using words, this is the medicine that slowly lessens the pain.

Listening to their distress has given me the courage to stay with my own pain, and as I have listened to them and been helped, it is my hope that these words will in turn help others.

The world of loss, the world of grief, of separation is a world of change, but change that is different from growth, from the normal, developmental flow of seasons, cells multiplying, learning, the transformations that keep things going. Loss is change that is abrupt, wrenching, change that leaves gaping holes, torn tendons, torn roots, jagged edges, a plant ripped out of the earth, a boulder moved aside for a highway. The open rawness demands ahealing. But how to do that, how to proceed? It is not enough to restore the surface look of things. Oh, it’s important to dress, to bathe, to comb your hair, mow the lawn, but the healing asks so much more of everything else you know how to do.

The troublesome part is this. Where is there a place or space for those of us who are engaged in this restorative process to be once more ourselves? The world that I found where I could most truly be myself, most truly feel myself was not with my friends—although they are good and patient friends who have listened and hugged and cried and laughed with me so generously—no, not with people, but rather by myself in a car. This is where I could cry without checking my tears to answer the phone, where I could scream obscenities, muse without interruption about my husband and my brother who had died, ponder my fears, mull over the absurdities of my life. And there in the standby line in Woods Hole waiting for the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard I found the space, the place, the time to be truly with myself, aware of myself. Hard chunks of hard facts loosening, drifting onto the notebook page. Images to soften or was it to release the bitter hurt of separation. A world, encapsulated like a snow globe. Soft liquid inside the car, its motion punctuated by the slow, deep breaths of two dogs sleeping, one next to me in the passenger seat, one in the back. Soft liquid with bits of myself lazily drifting up and out and then down around me. A consoling blanket of white, innocence returning, warming in its fragile way.

I have been patient working with these words. Why have I done this? Really, truthfully, it’s because I do not have a choice. The alternative would be to numb out, to tune out, to change the dial of the radio that is tuned in to my particular history, my particular life. And I don’t want to do that.

My parents and my boyfriend died, all unrelated deaths, when I was twenty. A year and a half later, episodes of uncontrollable shaking and sobbing began to happen without warning. A friend who witnessed one of these crises gave me a tranquilizer that I swallowed with a glass of wine. I was in Paris at the time. I passed out and a few hours later woke up, the dark feeling gone. That lesson went straight to my heart and brain. And for the next fifteen years I used that combination, not knowing that sedating myself only served to cement the torment to my bones.

Thirty-some years separates these early deaths from losing my husband, my brother, and a close friend in my fifties. With this second series of losses there were no small pills or magic potions to dilute or expunge the grief. The great sadness became words.

Final Days

September 2, 1990, Sunday.

6:10 p.m. Left for the Brigham.

6:40 p.m. Anatole admitted with a low temperature of 96.

6:50 p.m. Waiting for treatment in the emergency room, my husband says, “How can medical science and all their technology leave someone in their pain like this? Why do I have to wait?”

Five minutes later we are taken to a small examining room and joined by a fourth-year resident and a nurse. Anatole is given an injection of morphine.

“Right now it feels like the blood clots are birds trying to get out of their cage.”

“I don’t feel hopeless. I feel the proper equipment is in. We may be able to restore order and then I can function for a while.”

Anatole has a body spasm. The sensation, he says, is like an excretion pushing through all his organs, only nothing happens. Perhaps he thinks he can push out the pain and the tumor.

“I think of them strangely enough as flowers, the little sources of pain. And when it goes away, they close up.”

Our nurse, Jan, had been an army nurse and is now in the Reserves. She speaks with pride of her ability to handle extreme situations.

Anatole groggily asks the doctors for time. Time to finish his books. “I always had a writing block until I got cancer. Now everything flows.”

These words take me into the darkness. My heart is trapped in itself as I remember Anatole trying to write in the hospital. He asked for paper and a pencil and could only make an illegible scrawl. I try to know or imagine how that felt for him. That’s my profession, to be empathic. I need to have a sense of his dying. I want to smell and taste the agony of his dying, of how he was stripped of his faculties, the strength to walk, the ability to pee, to sit up without help, write a word on a page, have a mind free from the numbing of morphine. I am staying alive by staying with my husband’s dying.

Now, some years later, what I remember most vividly is not my husband’s pain and his struggle to survive but the long, tortured walk from where we parked the car to the ER. That was the last time Anatole walked. I loved his walk more than anything. When we first met, I was taking ballet at the Joffrey Studio in New York on Sixth Avenue and Tenth Street. I would have a place at the barre by an open window. The studio was on the second floor, and sometimes I would look down and see him walk by in the soft summer light of early evening, a warm Greenwich Village evening, his arms and legs swinging, slightly syncopated, back shifting right, left, right, and it would excite and please me to know that I knew this man, that I shared walks with this man.

Later that night of September 2, as I waited for our son Todd to pick me up, the hospital front entrance reminds me of an airport. What trip had just ended? The bag I travel with, a small flowered duffel, was now emptied of Anatole’s glasses, toilet articles, a few books, two pencils, and a notebook. At home around midnight, while Todd and a friend were watching a video, I do laundry in the basement, crying, and then wash out a toilet. Earlier in the day, before going to the hospital, Anatole told me he had notes of how my face looked when I cried. Normally my Norwegian face, he said, looked like a cathedral of apricot stone, but when I cried it crumbled, the portals, the doors, my mouth breaking into pieces and falling apart.

Anatole was admitted to the Brigham Hospital because his kidneys were failing, and the cancer was breaking down internal tissue. Three days later he was transferred to the inpatient unit at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute across the street. He died on October 11. Through those final weeks I kept a notepad by my side so I could hold on to words that he could not write for himself.

“I’ve always had a problem in my life. Whenever I’m with my friends I feel responsible for the conversation.”

“I’m cold. There’s a draft here. No, it’s cold inside around the heart. That’s from Eliot.”

My husband says these things while we’re waiting in a hospital corridor after a session of X-rays. He’s lying on a gurney, and I’m standing near his shoulders, shielding his face from the eyes of people walking by.

Some days later we have this conversation.

“Why are they making such a big fuss over me in this hospital?”

“Who?”

“The women.”

“They always have.”

“But why now? I’m skinny, shrunken, invisible. I’m practically invisible.”

And at another time.

“My reality weakens so she doesn’t hurt me as much. Who is she, the analyst?”

Perhaps Anatole in the fog of morphine and his illness was remembering lines from his favorite poet, Wallace Stevens.

The softest woman,

Because she is as she was, reality,

The gross, the fecund, proved him against the touch

Of impersonal pain. Reality explained.

It was the last nostalgia: that he

Should understand. That he might suffer or that

He might die was the innocence of living.

Esthétique du Mal

Eleven days before he died Anatole and Dr. Patterson, the attending intern, talk about the possibility of going home. Anatole apologizes for his impatience, saying that his life is his writing and he hadn’t made the effort and arrangements to do that work in the hospital. Anatole explains that writers need their special nooks to work in and perhaps he should have made one in the hospital. Dr. Patterson assures him that up to now he’d been too sick to do that.

The next day I see Dr. Ho, a young doctor who had been involved in Anatole’s treatment in his previous hospitalization. I remind him about the time he sat next to Anatole on the bed. Anatole asked him about getting the pain under control. Dr. Ho assured him that this could be done. Then my husband asked Dr. Ho if he could take care of his soul. Anatole was sitting up in bed, Dr. Ho next to him. The two men side by side, hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder. The young doctor was quiet. He said nothing, but he stayed there. He didn’t pull away. He didn’t try to fill the silence or change the subject, even though he clearly did not know what to say. The two men sat for some moments breathing quietly. Dr. Ho tells me that Anatole had said to him that his illness had made him feel like a child again with emptiness inside, but within the emptiness a spark remained.

On October 8 our friends Suzy and Hugh from New York come up for the day. This is how they’re spending their twenty-ninth wedding anniversary. Ours, Anatole’s and mine, our twenty-ninth anniversary is the following Sunday.

We had met on a subway train, the Lexington Avenue IRT. At the Fourteenth Street station we walked onto the same car and held on to the same pole. He asked me what class I was taking at the New School. He’d seen me leave the Twelfth Street building. I replied, a Chinese Art History course taught by a professor with an unintelligible accent. Anatole said he was teaching a class on Sociology and Popular Culture. I laughed and said, Yes, I’d noticed that class and thought, How typical of the New School to be so trendy. We got off at Grand Central Station and had a brief drink at the bar in the Vanderbilt Hotel. He went off to meet friends and I took a train back to Mamaroneck, where I was living with my sister and her husband.

Eight months later we were married in the Greenwich Village townhouse that belonged to the mother of a close college friend. The minister we’d found taught drama at Union Theological Seminary. Friends and family, about fifty in all, ate deviled eggs and wedding cake from a local bakery. During the ceremony Anatole and I both noticed that the minister had dandruff on his shoulders, clearly visible on his black vestments.

Suzy and I share memories of courtship, early marriage, babies. Hugh sits next to Anatole, who is mostly unconscious now, reading the Sunday Times while holding his hand. Suzy looks at her husband sitting there with his dying friend and tells me that Hugh hadn’t been able to do that with his own father.

Our daughter, Bliss, comes at seven. Her face is pained as she looks at her father. She went to Walden Pond today with a college friend, Robin, and worked on a story. Todd, our son, here for the weekend, went back to Connecticut, where he lives and works. A week ago Wednesday Anatole put his arms around me. Tuesday he kissed me, but his last smile was for his nurse, Myra.

As I remember my husband’s final smile, I also imagine him as a baby in his mother’s arms, eyes attuned, and then the first shy smile, the small movement of cheek and mouth and eyes that connects parent and child. We are held, we are seen, we are loved, and we smile.

There is a photograph of Bliss and her father. She is eleven months and is seated on her father’s lap at a kitchen table next to a window, holding a piece of an English muffin in one hand. Her head is tilted up. She is looking into her father’s eyes. His head bows toward hers. Morning sun lights her face. Both father and daughter are smiling.

I’m not a photographer, but over the years of pointing and shooting occasionally the film captures a moment that contains what I knew and felt to be there at the time. The solid happiness of a child, your child on your husband’s lap, smiling up at him, sunshine on her face at the beginning of a new day, a day when the world will be sunny and warm, inviting one to play, to work, to learn.

When I look at this photo or just think about it I get teary. Being the mother, the wife, being part of something so fine and alive as this smile of father and daughter, this moment of trust and contentment is a thing quite simply glorious.

There was no camera for my husband’s final smiles, but I remember them clearly. His smile for Bliss or Todd as they entered his room or left, saying, “I love you.” His smiles for me as I would lean over him and kiss his brow at midnight before going home to sleep. Anatole’s ability to smile remained when he could no longer speak.

Now I think about the first and last smiles of my husband’s life. They appear as luminous parentheses to all the words he spoke and wrote. The first smile. Yes, it’s me and you’re my mom. And at the end, the last glancing smile, a brief surfacing of final contact, more amorphous than the first, a smile to embrace all his years, all his experience, eyes gazing up to the caring face of his nurse.

Gwindale remembers Anatole saying, “Will I like it there? Some men don’t like music.” Gwindale, the wife of Anatole’s closest friend is a classical pianist. She adds that this was not said with fear or despair but rather with a sense of pragmatism.

October Through April

The amazing thing about grief is that it doesn’t hurt all the time.

People tell me to keep busy, not to be alone, which at first was necessary. Now I can risk sitting by myself with my thoughts. My one feeling is that I want my husband. I want him beside me as I walk down the street. I long for his impatience. I miss his knowledge, his memory, his ability to quote passages from prose and poetry. I miss his taste, his pronouncements about books, writers, movies, his likes and dislikes. I miss our partnership. But most of all I miss the happiness of our companionship.

When Anatole was sick I had to function each day putting fear and anxiety aside. That habit persisted in the weeks after his death. Now I’m beginning to fall apart.

Walking back from Harvard Square I am filled with sadness. I begin to cry. There’s an intimacy to it. I compare these tears to tears shed during the marriage when I felt I wasn’t being understood, wasn’t acknowledged, or when I was angry at Anatole for his pigheadedness. There was always an intensity and intimacy because there was an other, a he. Now here on the street, walking down Mass Ave., my tears again bind me to Anatole. As I cry, I wonder if I am crying over my loss, or am I crying for Anatole, for his loss of his life? A friend wrote a week after he died, “My sadness is mainly at what Anatole is missing, his enjoyment and pleasure in friends.”

With Anatole’s death I begin to sense that I have less of an investment in my own ego. There’s a paradox here. As I begin to find out about my ability to live by myself I’m less interested in my own narrow satisfactions.

While he was ill Anatole kept a notebook in which he jotted down his thoughts in preparation for the articles he wrote about his illness for the New York Times and for a book, never finished, on the same subject. He had thought of calling it Critically Ill. He wanted to do justice to cancer as a momentous experience. He wanted the book to be personal, a narrative, a love story.

“Our sexual life and passion is not isolated in the genitals.”

Nor is it bound only to physical touch. After twenty-nine years of marriage it’s part of the whole fabric of a relationship. Perhaps it continues with these words, these memories, this effort to tell the pain of separation.

“Language, speech and stories are the most effective way to keep our humanity alive.”

“With my father’s death, cancer started me as a writer 40 years ago.”

With my husband’s death, grief is pulling me into myself, where I am finding solace with pencil and paper and words.





When I go to the North Cambridge post office the closest parking spaces are by the side of Long’s Funeral Home, where Anatole’s body was taken after he died. I imagine him there, alone in an empty room, dark, cold.

I startle because only now do I realize that it didn’t occur to me to bring him clothes to be cremated in. I sit here losing my breath as I become desperate to know if sheets or drapes or coverings of any sort are used for the dead who are waiting to be burned. Why didn’t I think to ask?

Anatole’s body was still him, and he needed, more so then than at any other time of his life, what he himself could not ask for but what he would have asked for if he had been able to. If he could have, he would have called me from the funeral home saying that he wanted his blue striped shirt, the one with long sleeves that he’d gotten on the Vineyard, and to bring his old khakis, since they had a smaller waist and he’d lost weight, then tan socks and his Cole Haan docksiders. He would have said that he’d decided on a casual look for his cremation, since it was taking place in the Gothic Chapel in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. The weather was sunny and warm, a Saturday morning, early, at 8 a.m. He would have wanted to wear for his final appointment on earth what he would have worn had he and I been taking a walk that day. Anatole was a casual guy, but clothes and comfort were important to him. I recoiled from the skin and tissue I knew so well when his breath stopped and his mind stilled. His body was no longer him, yet sitting here tonight I know I was wrong. The still, cold body in Long’s Funeral Home continued to be my husband, and it is terrible that I did not bring him his clothes.





I need to go back and consider these things because it wasn’t possible at the time. The moments and events and details are too important to let disappear and fade away.

As I read for the first time Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Illich, I see Anatole, not Tolstoy’s hero, I hear about Anatole not from his bed at the Dana Farber hospital but from a room in Moscow.

“Something terrible, new and so important was taking place in him and he alone knew of it.”

“We sick people probably often ask inconvenient questions.”

“At the bottom of his heart Ivan Illich knew he was dying. He simply did not grasp it.”

“Pain rivets Ivan Illich’s attention to death. Arguing dispelled thoughts of death. It was a lie that if Ivan Illich kept quiet and followed the doctor’s orders he would be better.”

“And he had to live thus, on the edge of the precipice alone.”

This is a time to get to know my husband in another way. There is distance and quiet now. Where was he? How was his death for him? I remember his eyes, as Tolstoy writes of Ivan Illich, “shining with terror and hope.”

How do other people die? Did I or we, family and friends, do Anatole a disservice? Did we help him to have the kind of death he would have wished or did we botch it? Did we acknowledge his dying as fully as he would have liked? All this haunts me. I’m afraid to look as I know I must.

What about my efforts to get Anatole to eat? I would prepare a fourteen-grain cereal, moistened the night before with apple juice, and remind Anatole to take the pain meds before eating so that the nausea would be less. He would get halfway through a meal and then lie down on the love seat so as not to vomit. I’m confused. Did I make a mistake? Did I misread the discomfort and sickness of the Gonzalez treatment?

The final months of his life Anatole tried an alternative can- cer approach offered by Dr. Nicolas Gonzalez of New York. The protocol was pancreatic enzymes, vitamin and mineral supplements, 160 pills a day together with a diet of organic foods. The enzymes made Anatole very sick. We saw this as the price for a cure. But were the nausea and vomiting really the symptoms of dying?

Another hard day. Grief is essentially a solitary activity. I didn’t call anyone because I wanted to stay with and not crawl out of the pain. I’m scattered, overwhelmed, forgetful, unfocused, constantly anxious, and unable to concentrate. I’m eating too much sugar. Fran, a friend who’s a therapist, says this is normal. I’m exhausted. I woke at five-thirty this morning. Stayed in bed until seven. Finally got some bills paid.

Went to the movies with Ann McGhee. We tried Cambridge and Fresh Pond but the lines were too long. Ended up at West Newton and saw C’est la vie. As we were driving from town to town I kept noticing funeral parlors. In Newton after the movie we walked across a bridge that spans the Mass Pike. I remembered Marie, with whom I’d worked ten years ago. She had tried to kill her herself by jumping onto the New England Thruway from an overpass after her husband died. Badly injured, she survived.

On my bookshelf there is a small fragile New Testament, its leather binding thin and flaking at its corners. My father had carried it with him when he was in France during the First World War, driving an ambulance for the American Field Service. In the flyleaf there is an inscription dated Decem- ber 17, 1916. “Verdun, the city that has held out against and overcome her enemies. If only all men would do the same against their enemies.” Late one night two and a half years later in Canton, China, where he was living and working for an American bank my father wrote again in the flyleaf: “Be a man and hold fast that which is good.” I don’t know what he was struggling with, but I recognize the voice of a weary, weakened soul.

I haven’t prayed since Anatole died. Last Easter I prayed all day, at church in the morning and through to the evening. I have nothing to say to God now. I don’t blame him. I no longer have a connection with him. I don’t trust him.

When I don’t cry I am beyond tears in a place where there is no emotion. The degree to which I miss Anatole is so great that tears and sadness have no relationship to the void that is in my life now. Tears are for something specific. Losing my husband is like losing who I am. It is losing the texture, the denseness, the three-dimensional quality of my life. Now I am only flat. I am not even me.

Tomorrow is Easter. A celebration for a resurrection. Yet I remain prone.

In Anatole’s study I come across a book, The Illness Narratives, written by Arthur Kleinman, who is both an anthropologist and a psychiatrist. Dr. Kleinman had asked Anatole to come talk to his class at Harvard about the experience of illness. In the book Anatole had made a mark beside this sentence.

“An illness narrative makes sense and gives value to the experience.” Perhaps with these words a grief narrative will do the same.

Time may ease but it doesn’t erase loss. Loss stays with you. I still miss my parents and Ben, my college boyfriend, who died at twenty-two. I miss all my animals, Smudge, Pepper, Bounce, Becky, Hicks and Daisy and Benny. Losses are like crustaceans or barnacles that you accumulate through life. They slow you down.

This Saturday I went to Newport for the day with a college friend to tour the mansions. I couldn’t tolerate the possible loss of an old black glove. It had fallen out of the car in the parking lot and I walked back a half mile to retrieve it. It would have been too much to have lost both a husband and a black leather glove.
My car has a flat tire. Will flat tires always remind me of Anatole’s operation the month before he died? That afternoon his bladder had burst, and I had to make the decision about whether to let him die then or give him a few more weeks of life by repairing the internal hemorrhaging. After he had been stabilized by a crisis team of doctors and nurses, I was allowed to see him. He was lying on a bed that was a board, his feet higher than his head, his face ashen, like a dying Christ figure in a sixteenth-century painting where the artist was working with perspective and immediacy.

His doctor and a nurse led me to the visitors’ waiting room and closed the door. I sat on a couch opposite the doctor. He told me that my husband would be dead in a few hours. Bands of sunlight stretching across the rug held my eyes steady, but my mouth opened wide in a long scream that had no sound, and then I swallowed and looked up. The doctor said that an operation might give him a bit more time. I couldn’t let Anatole die that day.

An ambulance was ordered to transport him across the street to Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He was in no shape to be rolled through the long corridors and skyways that connected the two hospitals. When I asked, the surgeon said, yes, I could accompany my husband in the ambulance. He would do the same if his wife were ill. I stayed with Anatole until he was taken into the operating room. He had regained consciousness by then. The last thing he said to me before the operation as I leaned over to kiss him was “You have whimsical taste in men.” I had said, “I love you.” The date was September 10. The operation began at midnight, and at four in the morning we learned that he would have more time. Todd, Bliss, and I walked over to Todd’s car on Brookline Ave. There was a flat tire. Todd began to change it. I remember the emptiness of the street, no cars, a lone man on a bike with a helmet.

Just now as I walked back into the house I thought of how Anatole was at that point. We were just glad that he was alive, still breathing. But where was he? Where was his brain? Could he still dream? Where was his soul? His body had been cut and parted and patched and sewn. I never asked the surgeon what he saw when he opened up my husband.

I don’t want to forget Anatole’s suffering. As I hold on to the memories of the most intimate moments of our love life, I also want to know these other details. For his sake I don’t want to erase the sharp edges of his purgatory. I am his amanuensis. My job is to testify, to report, to tell others about his suffering and the ravages of the cancer. What it did. Why it was so terrible.

I don’t know what this past year was like for the children. I can’t place them last summer. It was as if Anatole and I were on an iceberg together. I only remember Janie Hitchcock, a friend from New York, calling. Otherwise we were cut off.

Our last walks together were in early August, to David Kantor’s, a therapist and friend that we spoke to a few times who lived a block away. And we went to Fresh Pond, but Anatole was only comfortable with a few steps up a hill to a bench. I kept hoping he could go farther. I assumed that by wanting something it would be possible.

When I am thinking about Anatole and his illness, I feel I’ve come back to myself, that I’ve returned to my life. Escaping doesn’t work.

Thoughts are forcing me to write. If I don’t write, I don’t know where these memories will go or what will happen to them. They are too important to not pay attention to, these images of how my husband died six months ago. When they come back to me, they take my breath away. The pain that Anatole endured makes me want to scream. He suffered so much, this man that I had loved and continue to love, a man I had lived with for thirty years, who is the father of my two children, who was my provider, my home port, a man whom I never got tired walking toward.

What do I do with these memories? Do I recount the horror of his physical death? I can allude to it, but I can’t tell it all. There are some things in life that are either so beautiful or so brutal that they must be kept to oneself as if they were sacred to the self. Perhaps they are. Moments that go beyond your imagination, beyond your expectations of what you’d assumed you were capable of doing or feeling, moments of either great joy or great horror.

Anatole wrote, “There must be something beyond love. I want to get there.”

Could it be that when I recall these things that I shall never tell anyone, stories that are only for myself, that then I will be in that place beyond love?

I continue to look through Anatole’s notebooks, and there I find a correspondence between his illness and my grief.

“the aloneness of the critically ill”

“a solitude as haunting as a de Chirico painting”

Anatole had written in an essay about books on illness that there are many that tell you about the waking hours but “not much about daydreams and fantasies and how the illness transforms you.” He also felt that with these subjects there was sometimes a tendency to be too pious, to avoid the ugly, to tiptoe through the sick man’s room so as not to disturb. He wrote, “I want to wrap my story in the specific.”

We are waiting for the results of some X-rays at the Brigham, which will tell us if the cancer has spread to the bones. We watch a doctor with a bag of popcorn give another patient good news about her tests. We continue to wait for our results. Finally the doctor comes back with the popcorn still in his hands to say that the previous X-rays can’t be found, which means that he has no baseline, nothing to compare with. We get no news, no sense. We are too numb to think of any questions that might give us some information. The popcorn bag seems like a shield for the doctor to hide behind. Has he really seen something bad and does not want to be the one to tell us? That’s what it seems like.

Copyright © 2005 by Sandy Broyard
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First Chapter

Embarking

After my husband died, I began to write in a notebook, on scraps of paper, deposit slips, anything handy. Putting words on paper was as necessary as breathing. Having grief-driven words tucked away in my desk allowed me to proceed with my life.

I am a therapist and each week I sit with people who are tormented, confused, adrift in their lives, and I hear echoes of my own story. They are entangled in and living their own painful drama. Sometimes it is cumulative. For some from early childhood on there have been endless cycles of deprivation, bad luck, a mean world. Sometimes the onset has been sudden, tragic, with an illness, loss of work, a death. I see them ensnared in the jaws of an animal trap, the metal prongs clamped onto their flesh and bone, while they bite and gnaw to free themselves. When people first come into therapy, they don't understand that the piercing pulling away from the source of agony is not the answer. But rather, being still and using words, this is the medicine that slowly lessens the pain.

Listening to their distress has given me the courage to stay with my own pain, and as I have listened to them and been helped, it is my hope that these words will in turn help others.

The world of loss, the world of grief, of separation is a world of change, but change that is different from growth, from the normal, developmental flow of seasons, cells multiplying, learning, the transformations that keep things going. Loss is change that is abrupt, wrenching, change that leaves gaping holes, torn tendons, torn roots, jagged edges, a plant ripped out of the earth, a boulder moved aside for a highway. The open rawness demands a healing.But how to do that, how to proceed? It is not enough to restore the surface look of things. Oh, it's important to dress, to bathe, to comb your hair, mow the lawn, but the healing asks so much more of everything else you know how to do.

The troublesome part is this. Where is there a place or space for those of us who are engaged in this restorative process to be once more ourselves? The world that I found where I could most truly be myself, most truly feel myself was not with my friends—although they are good and patient friends who have listened and hugged and cried and laughed with me so generously—no, not with people, but rather by myself in a car. This is where I could cry without checking my tears to answer the phone, where I could scream obscenities, muse without interruption about my husband and my brother who had died, ponder my fears, mull over the absurdities of my life. And there in the standby line in Woods Hole waiting for the ferry to Martha's Vineyard I found the space, the place, the time to be truly with myself, aware of myself. Hard chunks of hard facts loosening, drifting onto the notebook page. Images to soften or was it to release the bitter hurt of separation. A world, encapsulated like a snow globe. Soft liquid inside the car, its motion punctuated by the slow, deep breaths of two dogs sleeping, one next to me in the passenger seat, one in the back. Soft liquid with bits of myself lazily drifting up and out and then down around me. A consoling blanket of white, innocence returning, warming in its fragile way.

I have been patient working with these words. Why have I done this? Really, truthfully, it's because I do not have a choice. The alternative would be to numb out, to tune out, to change the dial of the radio that is tuned in to my particular history, my particular life. And I don't want to do that.

My parents and my boyfriend died, all unrelated deaths, when I was twenty. A year and a half later, episodes of uncontrollable shaking and sobbing began to happen without warning. A friend who witnessed one of these crises gave me a tranquilizer that I swallowed with a glass of wine. I was in Paris at the time. I passed out and a few hours later woke up, the dark feeling gone. That lesson went straight to my heart and brain. And for the next fifteen years I used that combination, not knowing that sedating myself only served to cement the torment to my bones.

Thirty-some years separates these early deaths from losing my husband, my brother, and a close friend in my fifties. With this second series of losses there were no small pills or magic potions to dilute or expunge the grief. The great sadness became words.

Final Days

September 2, 1990, Sunday.

6:10 p.m. Left for the Brigham.

6:40 p.m. Anatole admitted with a low temperature of 96.

6:50 p.m. Waiting for treatment in the emergency room, my husband says, "How can medical science and all their technology leave someone in their pain like this? Why do I have to wait?"

Five minutes later we are taken to a small examining room and joined by a fourth-year resident and a nurse. Anatole is given an injection of morphine.

"Right now it feels like the blood clots are birds trying to get out of their cage."

"I don't feel hopeless. I feel the proper equipment is in. We may be able to restore order and then I can function for a while."

Anatole has a body spasm. The sensation, he says, is like an excretion pushing through all his organs, only nothing happens. Perhaps he thinks he can push out the pain and the tumor.

"I think of them strangely enough as flowers, the little sources of pain. And when it goes away, they close up."

Our nurse, Jan, had been an army nurse and is now in the Reserves. She speaks with pride of her ability to handle extreme situations.

Anatole groggily asks the doctors for time. Time to finish his books. "I always had a writing block until I got cancer. Now everything flows."

These words take me into the darkness. My heart is trapped in itself as I remember Anatole trying to write in the hospital. He asked for paper and a pencil and could only make an illegible scrawl. I try to know or imagine how that felt for him. That's my profession, to be empathic. I need to have a sense of his dying. I want to smell and taste the agony of his dying, of how he was stripped of his faculties, the strength to walk, the ability to pee, to sit up without help, write a word on a page, have a mind free from the numbing of morphine. I am staying alive by staying with my husband's dying.

Now, some years later, what I remember most vividly is not my husband's pain and his struggle to survive but the long, tortured walk from where we parked the car to the ER. That was the last time Anatole walked. I loved his walk more than anything. When we first met, I was taking ballet at the Joffrey Studio in New York on Sixth Avenue and Tenth Street. I would have a place at the barre by an open window. The studio was on the second floor, and sometimes I would look down and see him walk by in the soft summer light of early evening, a warm Greenwich Village evening, his arms and legs swinging, slightly syncopated, back shifting right, left, right, and it would excite and please me to know that I knew this man, that I shared walks with this man.

Later that night of September 2, as I waited for our son Todd to pick me up, the hospital front entrance reminds me of an airport. What trip had just ended? The bag I travel with, a small flowered duffel, was now emptied of Anatole's glasses, toilet articles, a few books, two pencils, and a notebook. At home around midnight, while Todd and a friend were watching a video, I do laundry in the basement, crying, and then wash out a toilet. Earlier in the day, before going to the hospital, Anatole told me he had notes of how my face looked when I cried. Normally my Norwegian face, he said, looked like a cathedral of apricot stone, but when I cried it crumbled, the portals, the doors, my mouth breaking into pieces and falling apart.

Anatole was admitted to the Brigham Hospital because his kidneys were failing, and the cancer was breaking down internal tissue. Three days later he was transferred to the inpatient unit at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute across the street. He died on October 11. Through those final weeks I kept a notepad by my side so I could hold on to words that he could not write for himself.

"I've always had a problem in my life. Whenever I'm with my friends I feel responsible for the conversation."

"I'm cold. There's a draft here. No, it's cold inside around the heart. That's from Eliot."

My husband says these things while we're waiting in a hospital corridor after a session of X-rays. He's lying on a gurney, and I'm standing near his shoulders, shielding his face from the eyes of people walking by.

Some days later we have this conversation.

"Why are they making such a big fuss over me in this hospital?"

"Who?"

"The women."

"They always have."

"But why now? I'm skinny, shrunken, invisible. I'm practically invisible."

And at another time.

"My reality weakens so she doesn't hurt me as much. Who is she, the analyst?"

Perhaps Anatole in the fog of morphine and his illness was remembering lines from his favorite poet, Wallace Stevens.

The softest woman,

Because she is as she was, reality,

The gross, the fecund, proved him against the touch

Of impersonal pain. Reality explained.

It was the last nostalgia: that he

Should understand. That he might suffer or that

He might die was the innocence of living.

Esthétique du Mal

Eleven days before he died Anatole and Dr. Patterson, the attending intern, talk about the possibility of going home. Anatole apologizes for his impatience, saying that his life is his writing and he hadn't made the effort and arrangements to do that work in the hospital. Anatole explains that writers need their special nooks to work in and perhaps he should have made one in the hospital. Dr. Patterson assures him that up to now he'd been too sick to do that.

The next day I see Dr. Ho, a young doctor who had been involved in Anatole's treatment in his previous hospitalization. I remind him about the time he sat next to Anatole on the bed. Anatole asked him about getting the pain under control. Dr. Ho assured him that this could be done. Then my husband asked Dr. Ho if he could take care of his soul. Anatole was sitting up in bed, Dr. Ho next to him. The two men side by side, hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder. The young doctor was quiet. He said nothing, but he stayed there. He didn't pull away. He didn't try to fill the silence or change the subject, even though he clearly did not know what to say. The two men sat for some moments breathing quietly. Dr. Ho tells me that Anatole had said to him that his illness had made him feel like a child again with emptiness inside, but within the emptiness a spark remained.

On October 8 our friends Suzy and Hugh from New York come up for the day. This is how they're spending their twenty-ninth wedding anniversary. Ours, Anatole's and mine, our twenty-ninth anniversary is the following Sunday.

We had met on a subway train, the Lexington Avenue IRT. At the Fourteenth Street station we walked onto the same car and held on to the same pole. He asked me what class I was taking at the New School. He'd seen me leave the Twelfth Street building. I replied, a Chinese Art History course taught by a professor with an unintelligible accent. Anatole said he was teaching a class on Sociology and Popular Culture. I laughed and said, Yes, I'd noticed that class and thought, How typical of the New School to be so trendy. We got off at Grand Central Station and had a brief drink at the bar in the Vanderbilt Hotel. He went off to meet friends and I took a train back to Mamaroneck, where I was living with my sister and her husband.

Eight months later we were married in the Greenwich Village townhouse that belonged to the mother of a close college friend. The minister we'd found taught drama at Union Theological Seminary. Friends and family, about fifty in all, ate deviled eggs and wedding cake from a local bakery. During the ceremony Anatole and I both noticed that the minister had dandruff on his shoulders, clearly visible on his black vestments.

Suzy and I share memories of courtship, early marriage, babies. Hugh sits next to Anatole, who is mostly unconscious now, reading the Sunday Times while holding his hand. Suzy looks at her husband sitting there with his dying friend and tells me that Hugh hadn't been able to do that with his own father.

Our daughter, Bliss, comes at seven. Her face is pained as she looks at her father. She went to Walden Pond today with a college friend, Robin, and worked on a story. Todd, our son, here for the weekend, went back to Connecticut, where he lives and works. A week ago Wednesday Anatole put his arms around me. Tuesday he kissed me, but his last smile was for his nurse, Myra.

As I remember my husband's final smile, I also imagine him as a baby in his mother's arms, eyes attuned, and then the first shy smile, the small movement of cheek and mouth and eyes that connects parent and child. We are held, we are seen, we are loved, and we smile.

There is a photograph of Bliss and her father. She is eleven months and is seated on her father's lap at a kitchen table next to a window, holding a piece of an English muffin in one hand. Her head is tilted up. She is looking into her father's eyes. His head bows toward hers. Morning sun lights her face. Both father and daughter are smiling.

I'm not a photographer, but over the years of pointing and shooting occasionally the film captures a moment that contains what I knew and felt to be there at the time. The solid happiness of a child, your child on your husband's lap, smiling up at him, sunshine on her face at the beginning of a new day, a day when the world will be sunny and warm, inviting one to play, to work, to learn.

When I look at this photo or just think about it I get teary. Being the mother, the wife, being part of something so fine and alive as this smile of father and daughter, this moment of trust and contentment is a thing quite simply glorious.

There was no camera for my husband's final smiles, but I remember them clearly. His smile for Bliss or Todd as they entered his room or left, saying, "I love you." His smiles for me as I would lean over him and kiss his brow at midnight before going home to sleep. Anatole's ability to smile remained when he could no longer speak.

Now I think about the first and last smiles of my husband's life. They appear as luminous parentheses to all the words he spoke and wrote. The first smile. Yes, it's me and you're my mom. And at the end, the last glancing smile, a brief surfacing of final contact, more amorphous than the first, a smile to embrace all his years, all his experience, eyes gazing up to the caring face of his nurse.

Gwindale remembers Anatole saying, "Will I like it there? Some men don't like music." Gwindale, the wife of Anatole's closest friend is a classical pianist. She adds that this was not said with fear or despair but rather with a sense of pragmatism.

October Through April

The amazing thing about grief is that it doesn't hurt all the time.

People tell me to keep busy, not to be alone, which at first was necessary. Now I can risk sitting by myself with my thoughts. My one feeling is that I want my husband. I want him beside me as I walk down the street. I long for his impatience. I miss his knowledge, his memory, his ability to quote passages from prose and poetry. I miss his taste, his pronouncements about books, writers, movies, his likes and dislikes. I miss our partnership. But most of all I miss the happiness of our companionship.

When Anatole was sick I had to function each day putting fear and anxiety aside. That habit persisted in the weeks after his death. Now I'm beginning to fall apart.

Walking back from Harvard Square I am filled with sadness. I begin to cry. There's an intimacy to it. I compare these tears to tears shed during the marriage when I felt I wasn't being understood, wasn't acknowledged, or when I was angry at Anatole for his pigheadedness. There was always an intensity and intimacy because there was an other, a he. Now here on the street, walking down Mass Ave., my tears again bind me to Anatole. As I cry, I wonder if I am crying over my loss, or am I crying for Anatole, for his loss of his life? A friend wrote a week after he died, "My sadness is mainly at what Anatole is missing, his enjoyment and pleasure in friends."

With Anatole's death I begin to sense that I have less of an investment in my own ego. There's a paradox here. As I begin to find out about my ability to live by myself I'm less interested in my own narrow satisfactions.

While he was ill Anatole kept a notebook in which he jotted down his thoughts in preparation for the articles he wrote about his illness for the New York Times and for a book, never finished, on the same subject. He had thought of calling it Critically Ill. He wanted to do justice to cancer as a momentous experience. He wanted the book to be personal, a narrative, a love story.

"Our sexual life and passion is not isolated in the genitals."

Nor is it bound only to physical touch. After twenty-nine years of marriage it's part of the whole fabric of a relationship. Perhaps it continues with these words, these memories, this effort to tell the pain of separation.

"Language, speech and stories are the most effective way to keep our humanity alive."

"With my father's death, cancer started me as a writer 40 years ago."

With my husband's death, grief is pulling me into myself, where I am finding solace with pencil and paper and words.





When I go to the North Cambridge post office the closest parking spaces are by the side of Long's Funeral Home, where Anatole's body was taken after he died. I imagine him there, alone in an empty room, dark, cold.

I startle because only now do I realize that it didn't occur to me to bring him clothes to be cremated in. I sit here losing my breath as I become desperate to know if sheets or drapes or coverings of any sort are used for the dead who are waiting to be burned. Why didn't I think to ask?

Anatole's body was still him, and he needed, more so then than at any other time of his life, what he himself could not ask for but what he would have asked for if he had been able to. If he could have, he would have called me from the funeral home saying that he wanted his blue striped shirt, the one with long sleeves that he'd gotten on the Vineyard, and to bring his old khakis, since they had a smaller waist and he'd lost weight, then tan socks and his Cole Haan docksiders. He would have said that he'd decided on a casual look for his cremation, since it was taking place in the Gothic Chapel in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. The weather was sunny and warm, a Saturday morning, early, at 8 a.m. He would have wanted to wear for his final appointment on earth what he would have worn had he and I been taking a walk that day. Anatole was a casual guy, but clothes and comfort were important to him. I recoiled from the skin and tissue I knew so well when his breath stopped and his mind stilled. His body was no longer him, yet sitting here tonight I know I was wrong. The still, cold body in Long's Funeral Home continued to be my husband, and it is terrible that I did not bring him his clothes.





I need to go back and consider these things because it wasn't possible at the time. The moments and events and details are too important to let disappear and fade away.

As I read for the first time Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Illich, I see Anatole, not Tolstoy's hero, I hear about Anatole not from his bed at the Dana Farber hospital but from a room in Moscow.

"Something terrible, new and so important was taking place in him and he alone knew of it."

"We sick people probably often ask inconvenient questions."

"At the bottom of his heart Ivan Illich knew he was dying. He simply did not grasp it."

"Pain rivets Ivan Illich's attention to death. Arguing dispelled thoughts of death. It was a lie that if Ivan Illich kept quiet and followed the doctor's orders he would be better."

"And he had to live thus, on the edge of the precipice alone."

This is a time to get to know my husband in another way. There is distance and quiet now. Where was he? How was his death for him? I remember his eyes, as Tolstoy writes of Ivan Illich, "shining with terror and hope."

How do other people die? Did I or we, family and friends, do Anatole a disservice? Did we help him to have the kind of death he would have wished or did we botch it? Did we acknowledge his dying as fully as he would have liked? All this haunts me. I'm afraid to look as I know I must.

What about my efforts to get Anatole to eat? I would prepare a fourteen-grain cereal, moistened the night before with apple juice, and remind Anatole to take the pain meds before eating so that the nausea would be less. He would get halfway through a meal and then lie down on the love seat so as not to vomit. I'm confused. Did I make a mistake? Did I misread the discomfort and sickness of the Gonzalez treatment?

The final months of his life Anatole tried an alternative can- cer approach offered by Dr. Nicolas Gonzalez of New York. The protocol was pancreatic enzymes, vitamin and mineral supplements, 160 pills a day together with a diet of organic foods. The enzymes made Anatole very sick. We saw this as the price for a cure. But were the nausea and vomiting really the symptoms of dying?

Another hard day. Grief is essentially a solitary activity. I didn't call anyone because I wanted to stay with and not crawl out of the pain. I'm scattered, overwhelmed, forgetful, unfocused, constantly anxious, and unable to concentrate. I'm eating too much sugar. Fran, a friend who's a therapist, says this is normal. I'm exhausted. I woke at five-thirty this morning. Stayed in bed until seven. Finally got some bills paid.

Went to the movies with Ann McGhee. We tried Cambridge and Fresh Pond but the lines were too long. Ended up at West Newton and saw C'est la vie. As we were driving from town to town I kept noticing funeral parlors. In Newton after the movie we walked across a bridge that spans the Mass Pike. I remembered Marie, with whom I'd worked ten years ago. She had tried to kill her herself by jumping onto the New England Thruway from an overpass after her husband died. Badly injured, she survived.

On my bookshelf there is a small fragile New Testament, its leather binding thin and flaking at its corners. My father had carried it with him when he was in France during the First World War, driving an ambulance for the American Field Service. In the flyleaf there is an inscription dated Decem- ber 17, 1916. "Verdun, the city that has held out against and overcome her enemies. If only all men would do the same against their enemies." Late one night two and a half years later in Canton, China, where he was living and working for an American bank my father wrote again in the flyleaf: "Be a man and hold fast that which is good." I don't know what he was struggling with, but I recognize the voice of a weary, weakened soul.

I haven't prayed since Anatole died. Last Easter I prayed all day, at church in the morning and through to the evening. I have nothing to say to God now. I don't blame him. I no longer have a connection with him. I don't trust him.

When I don't cry I am beyond tears in a place where there is no emotion. The degree to which I miss Anatole is so great that tears and sadness have no relationship to the void that is in my life now. Tears are for something specific. Losing my husband is like losing who I am. It is losing the texture, the denseness, the three-dimensional quality of my life. Now I am only flat. I am not even me.

Tomorrow is Easter. A celebration for a resurrection. Yet I remain prone.

In Anatole's study I come across a book, The Illness Narratives, written by Arthur Kleinman, who is both an anthropologist and a psychiatrist. Dr. Kleinman had asked Anatole to come talk to his class at Harvard about the experience of illness. In the book Anatole had made a mark beside this sentence.

"An illness narrative makes sense and gives value to the experience." Perhaps with these words a grief narrative will do the same.

Time may ease but it doesn't erase loss. Loss stays with you. I still miss my parents and Ben, my college boyfriend, who died at twenty-two. I miss all my animals, Smudge, Pepper, Bounce, Becky, Hicks and Daisy and Benny. Losses are like crustaceans or barnacles that you accumulate through life. They slow you down.

This Saturday I went to Newport for the day with a college friend to tour the mansions. I couldn't tolerate the possible loss of an old black glove. It had fallen out of the car in the parking lot and I walked back a half mile to retrieve it. It would have been too much to have lost both a husband and a black leather glove.
My car has a flat tire. Will flat tires always remind me of Anatole's operation the month before he died? That afternoon his bladder had burst, and I had to make the decision about whether to let him die then or give him a few more weeks of life by repairing the internal hemorrhaging. After he had been stabilized by a crisis team of doctors and nurses, I was allowed to see him. He was lying on a bed that was a board, his feet higher than his head, his face ashen, like a dying Christ figure in a sixteenth-century painting where the artist was working with perspective and immediacy.

His doctor and a nurse led me to the visitors' waiting room and closed the door. I sat on a couch opposite the doctor. He told me that my husband would be dead in a few hours. Bands of sunlight stretching across the rug held my eyes steady, but my mouth opened wide in a long scream that had no sound, and then I swallowed and looked up. The doctor said that an operation might give him a bit more time. I couldn't let Anatole die that day.

An ambulance was ordered to transport him across the street to Brigham and Women's Hospital. He was in no shape to be rolled through the long corridors and skyways that connected the two hospitals. When I asked, the surgeon said, yes, I could accompany my husband in the ambulance. He would do the same if his wife were ill. I stayed with Anatole until he was taken into the operating room. He had regained consciousness by then. The last thing he said to me before the operation as I leaned over to kiss him was "You have whimsical taste in men." I had said, "I love you." The date was September 10. The operation began at midnight, and at four in the morning we learned that he would have more time. Todd, Bliss, and I walked over to Todd's car on Brookline Ave. There was a flat tire. Todd began to change it. I remember the emptiness of the street, no cars, a lone man on a bike with a helmet.

Just now as I walked back into the house I thought of how Anatole was at that point. We were just glad that he was alive, still breathing. But where was he? Where was his brain? Could he still dream? Where was his soul? His body had been cut and parted and patched and sewn. I never asked the surgeon what he saw when he opened up my husband.

I don't want to forget Anatole's suffering. As I hold on to the memories of the most intimate moments of our love life, I also want to know these other details. For his sake I don't want to erase the sharp edges of his purgatory. I am his amanuensis. My job is to testify, to report, to tell others about his suffering and the ravages of the cancer. What it did. Why it was so terrible.

I don't know what this past year was like for the children. I can't place them last summer. It was as if Anatole and I were on an iceberg together. I only remember Janie Hitchcock, a friend from New York, calling. Otherwise we were cut off.

Our last walks together were in early August, to David Kantor's, a therapist and friend that we spoke to a few times who lived a block away. And we went to Fresh Pond, but Anatole was only comfortable with a few steps up a hill to a bench. I kept hoping he could go farther. I assumed that by wanting something it would be possible.

When I am thinking about Anatole and his illness, I feel I've come back to myself, that I've returned to my life. Escaping doesn't work.

Thoughts are forcing me to write. If I don't write, I don't know where these memories will go or what will happen to them. They are too important to not pay attention to, these images of how my husband died six months ago. When they come back to me, they take my breath away. The pain that Anatole endured makes me want to scream. He suffered so much, this man that I had loved and continue to love, a man I had lived with for thirty years, who is the father of my two children, who was my provider, my home port, a man whom I never got tired walking toward.

What do I do with these memories? Do I recount the horror of his physical death? I can allude to it, but I can't tell it all. There are some things in life that are either so beautiful or so brutal that they must be kept to oneself as if they were sacred to the self. Perhaps they are. Moments that go beyond your imagination, beyond your expectations of what you'd assumed you were capable of doing or feeling, moments of either great joy or great horror.

Anatole wrote, "There must be something beyond love. I want to get there."

Could it be that when I recall these things that I shall never tell anyone, stories that are only for myself, that then I will be in that place beyond love?

I continue to look through Anatole's notebooks, and there I find a correspondence between his illness and my grief.

"the aloneness of the critically ill"

"a solitude as haunting as a de Chirico painting"

Anatole had written in an essay about books on illness that there are many that tell you about the waking hours but "not much about daydreams and fantasies and how the illness transforms you." He also felt that with these subjects there was sometimes a tendency to be too pious, to avoid the ugly, to tiptoe through the sick man's room so as not to disturb. He wrote, "I want to wrap my story in the specific."

We are waiting for the results of some X-rays at the Brigham, which will tell us if the cancer has spread to the bones. We watch a doctor with a bag of popcorn give another patient good news about her tests. We continue to wait for our results. Finally the doctor comes back with the popcorn still in his hands to say that the previous X-rays can't be found, which means that he has no baseline, nothing to compare with. We get no news, no sense. We are too numb to think of any questions that might give us some information. The popcorn bag seems like a shield for the doctor to hide behind. Has he really seen something bad and does not want to be the one to tell us? That's what it seems like.
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