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I appreciate that, Jay.
Lord, what a heartbreaking story. Having lost a loved one in the past few months due to chronic illness I think I can somewhat understand what you are going through. I try to focus on the good memories and the good times but it is very hard. God bless you and your friend that passed,Gentlemen (and ladies),
This is a difficult post for me to write and may be a difficult post to read. I do have a shaving focus, I promise. But to reach the focal point requires some heartache on my part, and perhaps, too, for those who may venture to continue reading. Like many of my posts this is lengthy but I hope it serves more of a purpose than simply a catharsis and a way to begin healing for me.
If the mods consider this improper I will understand. For those who will continue, I beg your gentle forbearance.
A Beautiful Love
I have made mention before on these forums of a woman I referred to as my ‘Abigail Adams’ and ‘Bella’—her true name is Denise. I have known her upward of probably 17 years. In all that time not once did we share a cross word or have an argument of any sort. Ours had been a relationship baptized in trust and mutual respect. She was my best and dearest friend, my great love.
If You Have Your Health, You Have Everything
Denise said this a few times to me, especially in the last 6 months. Nothing new, to be sure. She had been fairly healthy for most of her life until about August of 2019 when her long-standing battle with anxiety attacks, leg pain, and shortness of breath culminated in one afternoon when she could not catch her breath at all—she told her roommate “grab the keys, we’re leaving now!” and she went to the ER.
After being admitted and lots of tests and scans they discovered her heart was only at 10% functionality, and told her she had “severe clogging in her arteries.” She was by no means overweight, actually being under-weight due to what had been an absolute loss of appetite; sounds impossible, but true—she could go two or three days easy without eating, and actually set alarms on her phone to remind her to eat something.
Once they got her set up and IV’d with heaven only knows what and how many bags, ‘lo and behold her appetite returned with a vengeance. She ate in the hospital like food was going out of fashion. In early September a mitroclip was installed over a valve in her heart to improve blood flow—this greatly improved her quality of life, all but vanquishing the panic attacks and gone was the shortness of breath. But then some new kind of pain arrived, a kind of neuropathy it seemed, in her legs.
Almost three months go by and the pain only intensifies, and no one seems to be able to treat it. It was genuinely debilitating, leaving her all but bed-bound—if she took the medication to alleviate the pain it knocked her out, if she didn’t take it, she suffered. So much for improved quality of life.
Eventually she wrestled a referral to a pain management clinic from her cardiac specialist and they gave her a medication that all but instantly dissipated the leg pain. She felt increasingly better and her life began to look up. Then we discovered this medication was likely causing low blood pressure. One episode caused her to pass out and she fell so hard she broke her right foot.
Received a text from her on the evening of Sat, Feb 1—once again she was having troubles catching her breath. Back to the ER and admitted again. I had somehow contracted a stomach bug and early Sunday morning got my (dehydrated) butt to the ER. I speak to her twice while letting some saline and Pepcin do their magic. She was going to be transferred to the hospital where they did her last procedure and would let me know when that would happen.
That Sunday night she texts:
View attachment 1059871
At 8:18pm she finally calls and we talk for just over a half hour. She's been transferred and been given Ativan to help with her renewed panic attacks. But the surgeon who did her mitroclip implant meets her at the door when the ambulance brings her in. He speaks to her for over a half hour, answering all her questions, telling her he "has to be aggressive" in her treatment and they are going to install three stents to get her back on track. She loves this surgeon and his consultation raises her confidence and hope. Things are finally starting to look up. I feel relief too. I ask her when visiting hours are and she says she's not certain but she'll let me know in the morning.
Monday morning, Feb 3
As promised she sends me a text that morning at 7:01am:
View attachment 1059873
I arrive and get to her room just at about 8:45am only to find out she's not there. "Her blood pressure was low so they transferred her up to ICU so they can closely monitor her." Up to the ICU ward I went.
When I arrived there were probably 6-8 people around her bed. Seemed unusually heavy for just getting someone settled in. I stood out of the way. On the wall next to me were two large monitors displaying the vitals for all patients in that part of the ward--hers had no data in it . . . no flat line, which told me maybe they simply hadn't hooked her up yet. No more than 60 seconds later I her an announcement overhead: "Code Blue, Room 403. All available personnel . . ." I'm not a medical professional but instinct tells me a Code Blue is not a sales special. Staff begin pouring in from everywhere.
Someone asks me, very calmly, to go wait in the waiting area and they would come get me once she was settled.
I try calling her daughter to see if she's on the way and to let her know her mother has been transferred to ICU. No answer.
The hospital chaplain comes out to talk to me. "No need for concern," she says--a veiled diversion, surely. "They're working on her right now and once things are good I will come back out here and get you and take you back to see her." I nod and say thank you.
Tried calling her daughter again, still no answer. Sent a text to call me.
The chaplain arrives again and tells me they're still working on her but she's going to take me back so I can see her while things continue. This is not how this morning was supposed to unravel . . . but unravel it has.
I am allowed to stand along the wall directly opposite her room; there must have been close to 20 people in there. One of the attending doctors comes out and talks to me. I hear him speaking but between all the activity in the room and my spinning brain I don't recall the majority of what he said. At that point they'd been working on her about 20 minutes. I feel the chaplains hand gently stroking my right arm.
I was strangely calm. One of the staff were asking me about her medical history, would she approve of resuscitation. "If she knew there was hope for improved quality of life, yes" I tell her. I watch, straining to catch any view of my Bella between the blue and grey scrubs. The chaplain's hand never leaves my arm.
Then, the organized bedlam of activity trickled to a mere whisper of movement. I knew in that moment I had to begin accepting the inevitable. Moments later the surgeon she had so loved was standing before me explaining what had happened. Sepsis, not heart failure, which had been the overarching concern up til now. Sepsis had probably caused her blood pressure to drop about 10 points throwing her heart into arrhythmia. While they had begun setting her up in ICU the heart stopped. By then the sepsis had done enough damage to internal organs that even if she had been brought back it wouldn't have mattered much.
Minutes later I am bedside, holding her still warm hand and fighting like hell to keep it together in front of the chaplain. At 9:37am I finally get her daughter to pick up the phone and have to break the news. As I set the phone down, I gently grasp Denise's hand and crumple against her chest. Even as I write this my hands shake, it's actual work to stroke the proper keys. My breath keeps catching.
Angels & Demons
The prior Sunday I hadn't shaved because I went into the ER myself. Although I am a daily shaver I just didn't feel up to it that morning before going, so I had a nice bit of stubble for Monday morning. I was excited to see Denise, hopeful to buoy her spirits (and mine). I wanted a really close shave with a nice scent she'd like, so I pulled out my Conk Major razor (an aggressive one for sure) with an Astra SP and used Lakewood Coquette, a really fresh scent with red raspberry, grapefruit, and a touch of rose. Got the sweet BBS I was hoping for and finished it off with the matching Coquette balm. A nice, clean, angelic scent for visiting my mortal angel.
As you now know that angel was recalled. In the aftermath of her passing I have found the last couple of days shaving to be bland, non-eventful. Yesterday was almost pointless, a true going-through-the-motions and a weak 2-pass shave. I don't even remember which brush or soap I used, and that's unusual for me.
This morning's shave was better, if only because I forced myself to focus and dial in on every part of the process. Put a new Personna Red in the Merkur 38C and used my Yaqi badger with WSP Matterhorn. Difficult to maintain focus and embrace the ritual. Midway through the second pass I remembered moments of kissing her forehead and stroking her cheek, and summarily lost it again. Razor carefully set aside, hands bracing against the vanity, I rode it out. Took a quick look in the mirror and told myself to focus on the shave . . . I can grieve all I want later, but just let the process work.
I am most certain my daily shaving ritual will, in its own way, help ease me along. I used to look forward each afternoon to making the selection for the following morning's shave, but that small joy eludes me at the moment. Focus, just shave. Demons come and go, but love stays resident.
A Request, If I May . . .
I know, this post has been a stark departure from the norm. But I believe there is value is separating the hardware from the software, the tools of our trade from the soft machines they work upon. We have Badger & Blade to support our habit. We have our wives and SO’s to help support our hearts. If not for this post, then perhaps for Valentine's Day, I'd like to see stories of love gone right, of the ladies (or gents) who fill the hours between our shaves and enrich us outside this grooming ritual.
And now I hope that each time I use Coquette I am softly reminded of the shave I had the morning I lost my heart, because that shave, and her--both were beautiful.
My heart breaks for you. You had asked for stories of love, and here's mine with the full realization I'm not sure how I'd go on if it was taken away from me.
Thank you for reading through it, MNshaver. I am still stunned by how many people have taken the time to grind through it. I know it wasn't easy, but everyone's efforts are appreciate more than you can imagine.I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this story with us.
Indeed, BigJ. I appreciated every moment I had with her, didn't matter if it was in a text, on the phone, or face-to-face. The hurdle to overcome is trying to get the selfish part of me that wanted more and more to understand there is no more.The greatest thing in life is to have a great love (and to appreciate it at the time)