When your ex dies

by Dating Goddess on July 2, 2015

My ex learned he had cancer 2 years ago. Since we didn’t keep in touch, I learned of it a year ago. He did semi-weekly podcasts for a few dozen friends to update them on his health. I listened to the previous 100 podcasts before reaching out via email.

He said he was thrilled to hear from me and was stunned that I would listen to all 100 previous podcasts. I’d asked if now we could be friends and he said he’d like nothing better. We exchanged a few emails and he said he’d like to talk about the end of our marriage as he was sure I had some questions — which I did. I asked for some good times to call since he was so overwhelmed with treatment appointments and recovery. However, he never closed the loop to set up a call, so I decided I’d make the 600 mile trip to visit him and have that discussion face to face. A few months ago, his doctors had given him 18 to 24 months, so there was plenty of time.

His last podcast was two weeks ago and everything sounded normal. So imagine my shock when his son called Friday and said he was in hospice and they gave him a few day or weeks to live. I scrambled to see if I could change my commitments to make the trip to visit. But his son said he wasn’t lucid, so come if I wanted, but he would likely be unconscious. So we wouldn’t be having that long-overdue conversation.

He died Sunday. I am overcome with grief. I had no idea I would be this sad. After all, we’d been estranged for 10 of the last 11 years, rarely talking, only communicating with an annual birthday card. So why these rivers of tears?

Partly it brings up old memories, good and bad. The good memories remind me of how much I loved him how much fun we had together, how much I’ve missed having him in my life. The bad are around how clumsily he ended the marriage and some of the hurtful things that he said during that ending time.

Part of it is because the door that we’d opened last year to being friends is now closed permanently. Even though he was sick, I thought there was time to nurture our friendship. There was not. So my stubbornness at not wanting him in my life, then my lack of pressing for a call robbed me of 11 years of laughter and great conversation.

So I grieve heavily, almost as if I were the current wife. I can’t imagine the grief she is experiencing. But she had 2 years to prepare and grieve along the way. She had the gift of enjoying his humor, tenderness and caring. She also had to deal with disappointments of treatments not working and watching her beloved slip away. That would be torture.

I am preparing a document for his son and granddaughter full of memories, stories and photos from our 20 years together. As I search for a picture to go with a story, I can’t believe I don’t have one. I have resolved to take more pictures of those I love.

I know I loved this man fully. I thought he was my soulmate. I did everything I knew to do to ensure we were together the rest of our lives. Were we a perfect couple? Far from it. But the relationship was built on a foundation of love. I’m glad I got to share 20 years with him and that he is now at peace.

I look at the lessons I learned from out marriage. I wrote “Requiem of a relationship” in 2007, 3 years after our marriage ended.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joan Price July 5, 2015 at 12:26 pm

I’m so moved by your grief and by the beauty of the way you wrote this. His illness overtook him faster than expected. I suspect that even if you had pressed for an earlier phone call, he might not have been able — between the illness and the medications — to be present for you.

Please take some comfort in knowing that he was happy to hear from you and wanted to clean up your understanding of the ending of the marriage. That’s a gift right there. Even though he wasn’t able to complete the plan, maybe you can construct what you hoped to hear, and that can become the truth.

My best to you,

Dating Goddess July 6, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Joan — thank you for your kind comments about this post. I appreciate it.

I am still suffering. The document chronicling his life together is now 79 pages long — a min-book! I had no idea I had so much to share. But it’s been a great exercise for me and I think his son and granddaughter will appreciate it.

I am exploring the odd place in society that ex-spouses have when there is a death of their previous spouse. It is not something a lot has been written about.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: