Grief & Loss,  Love

Dan’s Last Texts

I do not understand how it’s been five years since Dan died.

My first thought is that somehow, I don’t know how, I have managed to survive for five years without him. After that, I think, I don’t know how I got through the pain, but I did because I am here.

Then I realize that not only did I survive, I have thrived. Yes, I have suffered terrible sadness and loneliness and unbearable grief, but I have also been very happy, and deeply loved, and unconditionally supported by so many wonderful people. But even five years later, I still can’t make sense of the dichotomy of these circumstances. I may never make sense of it.

This week, I find myself thinking a lot about Dan’s last days, at the University of Washington Medical Center. When it became apparent that he would need to go to the ER, on that terrible Sunday morning, I called his oncologist (bless her for providing me with her mobile number, although I’m not sure that bodes well for your husband’s future as it turns out) and she told me to try to get him to UWMC. No problem, because when it came to Dan, I could—and did—move mountains.

It was the right choice for so many reasons. But that’s for another time. The first thing they did was pump him full of antibiotics to beat back the infection in his body. And because he’s Dan Potts, his body was more than happy to respond. That man’s bodily strength, even in the face of many years of cancer treatment, was astounding.

He was admitted to UWMC on Sunday morning, first the ER, then ICU, then he chose to enter Palliative Care. And I left UWMC without him the following Thursday evening.

His ongoing cancer treatment never allowed us forget that it was a real possibility that something could happen to him someday. In that sense we made the most of every moment together during our time together. But our last four days together at UWMC, although stressful and uncertain and knowing what would inevitably occur, produced moments of time with Dan so precious I will always hold them in a special place in my heart.

It was Tuesday afternoon on January 14, exactly five years ago as I write this. I was wedged in the hospital bed next to Dan and we were enjoying some downtime. Family had come and gone. He was on medication and feeling no pain. We were hanging out, and then he started talking to me, nothing he hadn’t said many times before in so many ways, but . . . this time . . . I grabbed his phone and started texting his words to myself.

Don’t fall down.

You’re the best.

Tonight, my little shot glass, I’m going to make you the best martini ever.

I’m not the best but I will love and care for you forever.

God bless you baby you’ve loved and cared for us.

Love yourself. Love yourself. Love yourself.

I love you baby. I. Love. You.

Your love for yourself is the most important thing on earth. Fuck everything else!

You truly can’t imagine how so immensely grateful I am to myself for saving these, his exact words. I look at these, his last texts to me, and I can hear his voice. I can feel his love, and his confidence in me and his appreciation for me in his life and of our time together. He was ready to go. But he knew exactly what to leave me with.

That screenshot was my phone’s lock screen for many months, and wow, did I need those reminders.

If you’re wondering . . . he did make me the best martini ever, that night, in the hospital.

So, yes, five years later I still wonder how I survived losing Dan Potts. But then I remember that he knew I could.

And so I did.

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