My in-laws were soul mates, each had their strengths and weaknesses that complimented each other. My f-i-l was the outgoing, strong, funny one and my m-i-l was the shy one who stood in his shadow. She was also the one who tempered his outrageous behaviour when it was required just as he boosted her confidence through his undying love for her. I'll never forget seeing them dance the waltz together at my eldest daughter's wedding, it was like watching perfect unison, eyes only for each other and never a foot wrong. They glided across the floor so in tune with each other it was awesome.
When he died my m-i-l took 2 years to remove his towel and toiletries from the bathroom and to sort through and dispose of his clothes. She tried really hard to be strong, but in reality her heart was broken. She had believed that he would get well and their life would go on.
Not long after my f-i-l had been diagnosed, she had suffered a minor stroke, and not wanting to take up his time while he was fighting the good fight, she didn't seek any therapy. The result was that she was left with a speech impediment and was often hard to understand. This made her retreat further into her shell.
She had never learned to use an atm, or to do the banking or anything to do with finance and really didn't like to drive. To be honest having driven with her once that wasn't a bad thing.
Because he had been so sure that he would survive the odds, he hadn't taken the time to teach her the things she needed to do to survive his death. My husband and his siblings did their best and took over as much as they could, my s-i-l took her to the bank every week and stood with her while she used the atm, but even then she struggled. It is not that she was not an intelligent women, after all she has raised 4 children and run a household and had even returned to work when the children were older. It was just she was struggling with her loss.
In 2005 she was diagnosed with Parkinson Syndrome and had to move to a 'hostel'. And so for the last 3 years we have watched her fade - quite literally - she seemed to shrink in height and weight, she no longer got her hair coloured and so the grey showed, she never went outside and so she became pale. Her already soft voice got quieter until in the last few weeks she no longer could talk.
We got angry, we got frustrated, we couldn't understand, how could she just give up and want to die. We wanted to yell at her, shake her, make her understand she was a women who had given birth and raised 4 children, she had 13 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren, she had much to live for.
But her soul mate was gone - and we all had our own lives and no matter how much you want to make time, there are only so many hours in the day and so much of your own stuff you need to do to get through your life, that we could only give her hours at the most.
It seems she did not tell us how unwell she was, she was never diagnosed with anything other than her stroke and Parkinson Syndrome, but eventually she stopped walking, eating, reading, even interacting with visitors was too much. The week or so before she died it became obvious there was more than giving up wrong with her, but she had never said a word, and the diagnosis of cancer came too late, and to be honest even at the end we didn't know where the cancer was as she wouldn't or couldn't let us find out. She died peacefully in her sleep, and it is my hope that she is now reunited with the love of her life.
It also raises questions in my mind, my husband is my soul mate and I am his. Even though we both work full time and have interests that are not linked to each other, we are two parts of a whole. Can a half continue to live after the death of the other half? I know how to use an atm, understand excel etc, but let my husband do the banking - after all he is an accountant. I drive an amazing car and can't see that ever being a problem. But what if like my m-i-l my heart is so broken by my loss that I can't find the strength to go on?
My husband is the one who holds me when I hurt, brings me tissues when I cry, cooks my dinner when I am tired. He laughs at my silliness, and indulges my retail therapy. He overlooks my shortcomings. And he loves me just the way I am, when sometimes I have trouble loving myself. How do you cope if and when you lose that person, the one made for you?
I believe that I do have the strength to continue if my husband is no longer here, but what it I don't? Can a broken heart ever really be mended?