Terry always put on a great face for everyone. He was more concerned about how you were doing than with himself. His infectious smile may have fooled others (which was what he wanted) but, it didn't fool me. I could always tell when the pain was raging within him. It breaks my heart to think back at the handful of people who unkind to Terry because he was a little "off", or that he was slow (I'm guilty of impatience on this one). Those who brushed him off for whatever reason. His valiant spirit and strength to work and play through his pain.
He contracted pneumonia at least once each year. It was always pretty bad. His fever would rage into dangerously high numbers. Many times we had to take him to the ER to get it back to normal.
The two weeks leading up to Terry's death he was not well. I would suggest he go to the doctor but, he thought it would pass and everything would be okay. But it wasn't. The night before "the worst day" he was in bed all day. He tried to come down to visit the girls and their husbands...and Eloise. However, Melissa saw him heading for the stairs and told me he was up. I rushed upstairs to turn him around and to head back to bed. I gave him a glass of ice water and cooled his head and face with a cold washcloth.
I would often sleep in the guest room when Terry was ill. That night was no exception. After the girls left, I once again went in to Terry and refreshed his drink and cooled him down again. I told him I'd check on him in a while. Then, around 11:00pm, just before I headed to bed, I went in one last time ("one last time" makes me so sad). I found him kneeling on the floor by the bed. It looked like he might be looking for something. So, I went to him and asked "What are you doing?" I was a bit perturbed that he hadn't followed my orders and stayed in the bed. He didn't answer so I asked it again, maybe with a little sharpness in my voice, "What are you doing?" Then he replied with the last words I'd ever hear from him:
"Well, maybe I was just trying to say my prayers."
The next morning, being President's Day, I slept in until about 8:30 before I went in to check on Terry. I quietly opened the door in case he was sleeping. Sleep was always a gift for him so I didn't want to run the risk of waking him if I didn't have to. I peeked into the room. All was still. Leo, out little maltese, was sitting upright by Terry's head. "Good" I thought. And I quietly closed the door to let him sleep.
Around 2:00 pm, I repeated the last scenario. Nothing had changed. Leo was still sitting in the exact same position as before. This was very strange because Leo would have normally jumped down to come to me. I knew that something wasn't right. I decided to wake Terry to take his temperature again and to see if his fever had broken. What I found there has changed my life forever. It's the scene that has tortured my life since then. I grabbed his hand. Of course, I knew. I knew he was gone. I knew he wasn't coming back to me. I didn't know what to do. I still felt for a pulse. I was hyperventilating. How could this be? I touched his face. I looked into his eyes. It was just a body.
I didn't know what to do. So, I called my best friend, Kathe. I remember saying something like "I think Terry's dead". She asked if I'd called 911 and then quite forcefully told me to do it and I did. The rest of the day was a blur. People say that all the time and now I know what it means. I have muddy memories of ambulance and police car sirens. Of the EMT showing up. Of the pity that was in their eyes as they confirmed that my boyfriend was gone. Of people arriving. Of sending people away. Of the excruciating pain in my daughters's eyes...probably reflecting my own.
I remember that my son-in-law took on the difficult task of notifying all of Terry's children. Bless him. I remember that Kathe and her husband made it to me in record time from Springville. The calls, the texts, the emails, the Facebook notes...all a blur. All I wanted to do was be alone and to go back to bed and to wake up again and find that this had all been a dream.
It wasn't a dream. It was real. I had lost the only man I had ever TRULY loved. And the only man (besides my dad) who had TRULY loved me. It was the worst day. The worst. I prayed and prayed that the image I had when I found that Terry could be taken from my memory. It wasn't. Even now, the scene replays in my mind and I feel like my insides are on fire. Maybe someday it will be erased.
I love him, so.