Over the years of his dementia, we’d endured many deaths: the death of hopes; the death of rich discourse; the death of sexual intimacy; the death of shared memories.
From the outset, Dick and I held a dialogue with death. We would have been foolish not to. Dick was seventeen years my senior. His mother died when she was forty-eight; his father died even younger, at thirty-two. “I never thought I’d live past thirty-two,” he told me soon after we’d met.
The dialogue recurred throughout our marriage, like a leitmotif. We discussed death. Mine. His. Neither of us wanted to die first, leaving the other to face death alone.
When he was in the late stages of dementia, Dick alluded to death several times. He spoke of going home, of a journey, of cemeteries, of long-dead loved ones. Five months before his death, he asked me, “Have you seen the dying man?”
Death was the skeleton at the feast, waiting. Although we did not welcome this guest, we conversed with it.