Grief: Survivors Guilt

“If I die,” Sam told me from his hospital bed, “I want you to be okay.”

“You’re not going to die.” I told him. Though he probably couldn’t hear me, even with his CI (Cochlear Implant) on. It was always hard for him to hear when he was distracted, and he was very distracted at the moment trying to detangle all the i/v tubes in his arm.

We got a brand new CI just a month before. Sam didn’t think it was better than his 2002 model, but I knew that it was because he could hear me when he wasn’t facing me. I thought it was a miracle. He could hear me from across the room! That was a first.

He didn’t wear his CI very often because he preferred the silence most times, and he was worried the CI would get damaged somehow.

Sam was always paranoid. He was, after all, schizoaffective. But people don’t die after gall bladder surgery. That’s what I thought. Sure he had lots of stomach problems the last few months, but I blamed it on him eating like a Hobbit. A Hobbit from Louisiana. I called him my Hobbit specifically because he loved food. He would try just about anything at least once. He loved my cooking, and would have cooked for himself except we banned him from the kitchen and the barbeque when he burned his eyebrows.

Sam was going rapidly blind, and was already deaf. These complications probably lead to his paranoia and schizophrenia. It must have been very difficult to try and navigate as an adult male, keeping your independence, while your world was silent and getting dark. It’s a wonder he didn’t lose his marbles more often than he did.

“I want some water so bad,” he said. He was almost crying about it. I had a bottle of water with me. He probably couldn’t see it. I was sorely tempted to give it to him.

But I didn’t.

24 hours later he was dead.

I should have given him the water. I shouldn’t have given him that chipotle jelly that he hid in the cupboard. It was moldy by the time I saw him with it, eating it. I told him it was moldy and I’m pretty sure he threw it away, but how many other moldy things was he eating?

The first time I cleaned his coffee holder, a huge 32 ounce covered cup a trucker would envy, taking the cover off, it was covered in streaks of black in all the cracks and joints. I confiscated and cleaned it regularly after that.

I couldn’t remember how long he’d had stomach problems but I remember we switched him from his carbonated drinks to something less active. He didn’t drink coffee anymore as a card carrying member of the LDS church, but he did drink herbal tea for his stomach. I pretended I didn’t see the smuggled coffee he’d hide in the closet from time to time, but it’s hard to hide things as a blind man from your fully sighted spouse and your step kids who watch you ALL the time.

At least the cat never told on him.

After Sam passed, the death cert read he died from complications from gall bladder surgery.

I don’t think so.

I wanted to sue the hospital, but lawyers aren’t interested in malpractice cases unless their clients dead spouse was rich, or very well off. They told me I had a great case. They turned Sam away the first time he returned with stomach pains after the surgery. They didn’t have interpreters there for him when he was admitted, even though it was required by law. There were all sorts of reasons my case was good. But Sam was the homemaker. I was the breadwinner. They couldn’t get enough money for the loss of wages.

They told me to go to the press.

I didn’t have the mental energy to deal with the press. I was still going through probate while my sister-in-law made things as difficult as possible because, as she said, “I don’t want you to benefit from having been married to him.” And “I put more time into him than you did.”

I guess she should have married him.

They did argue all the time. I never worried much about it while he was alive, and I suppose I found out exactly why they argued so much after he died.

She’s a A1 quality bitch.

There are so many things I wished I had paid more attention to. I wish I had more things. More pictures. More videos. More letters. More everything.

I wish we had more time to use the CI. It was so awesome. It helped so much as he was unable to read my ASL hardly at all. It really helped with communication. We were the closest we had ever been.

I knew things were going well between us. We were SO in love. He would tell me how much me loved me all the time. He would tell everyone how much he loved me. And I was so proud of my hobbit. We did still argue. We even went to counseling, mostly because he couldn’t go alone and talk to any counselor about how to deal with this transition into being completely blind.

I wish we had the CI more than a month…

I wish I could eat Cajun food, but I hate it. I wish I had insisted he go to the doctor for his stomach, but he hated going to the doctor. I would have to take time off to interpret for him. I had so little time to take off by the end of the year because I’d taken so much for the kids and Sam. I couldn’t even get sick. But I wish I had taken more time off and took him to the doctor. I know he wouldn’t have asked me to because he was so glad I got that new job. He tried to do everything on his own that last few months.

There were so many times he’d tell me the driver left because no one answered the door. Those are the sorts of things you have to deal with when you’re deaf with a hearing, full time working wife.

So many things that could have been done different, but none of them would have changed his abilities.

None of them would have ultimately saved his life, because I don’t even really know what killed him.

I don’t think the doctors treated him with respect. They saw Deaf Blind Schizto on his first alert tag and treated him like he was crazy.

He wasn’t crazy. Not at that moment, anyway.

He was incredible.

He was brave and intelligent, compassionate and stubborn. He advocated for justice and fairness. He loved deeply and was too honest for his own good.

I always knew he was all those things. I hated when other people couldn’t recognize it.

I wish they understood.

Maybe they would have treated him seriously. Maybe they would have listened to him as an expert on his own body.

Maybe he’d be alive today.