The loss of a husband, and the power of kindness

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[Carole Martin is a good friend of my wife, Shirley. They took nurses’ training together at Vancouver General Hospital many years ago. Carole’s husband Brian died recently. I was moved by these comments she shared on Facebook]

I lost my husband to Covid-19 in November 2020.  I’m doing well, but I’m sad and I would say I’m very vulnerable right now.

One day, in the midst of a rain and windstorm, I drove into a gas station to fill my tank. I somehow, unknowingly, ran over a traffic cone which jammed itself solidly under my car.

I heard a horrible noise when I drove off, so I pulled into a parking lot and got down on my hands and knees in the pouring rain to see what the problem was.

That sucker was firmly attached to the underside of my car. I tried to reach it from the side. Nope. Couldn’t do it. I poked it from the front with an umbrella. It wouldn’t budge. 

I got back in the car, soaking wet and close to tears, wondering what I was going to do. I remembered that I had a BCAA membership, so I called. 

A nice gentleman answered the call and when I told him what the problem was and told him I was embarrassed about it all, he said, “Never mind, it happens to the best of us.” He told me to sit tight and he would have someone come to help me. 

When the car arrived, a lovely young man took five minutes to hoist up my car, remove the cone and I was on my way. He laughed and joked with me and told me, “Don’t worry. It can happen to anyone.” 

The point I am making is that neither of these very kind men knew my story. They didn’t know I was on my last nerve, that I had just lost my husband and I was grieving the fact that he would have been the first person I called in normal times. 

They didn’t know that a sharp or unkind word at that moment would have destroyed me. They were just kind. They helped to turn that situation around and I went home feeling good that I had figured out what to do and I handled the situation.

They didn’t know that a sharp or unkind word at that moment would have destroyed me.

So, I’m grateful for kind people right now. We have no idea what people are going through, and it makes me so happy when I see people with kindness as their default position.

A reporter from Maclean’s magazine contacted me about including Brian in their “They were loved” story about Canadians who died of Covid-19. I’m so, so grateful that they are recognizing this tragedy and honoring victims and their survivors. 

It is heart-breaking for me to see the statistics every night and to listen to the deniers and to people ignoring the rules. I’m so tired of the question “Did he have underlying conditions?” 

I have heard the expression “culling the herd” a few times through this too, and it is like a knife in my heart every time. 

Yes, my guy was a senior. He had his 81st birthday the week before he died. But he was a big strong healthy guy. 

Sitting by his side saying good-bye to him, I was struck by the thought, “How could this be happening to this big strong guy?” 

He played 18 holes of golf twice a week. He spent the summer cleaning out the crawl space under our house, ironically because he said if anything happened to him, he didn’t want to leave me with a mess. 

Anyway, it is so gratifying to have someone call me and tell me “your husband mattered.” 

Every year for my birthday Brian would ask me what I wanted, and I would tell him, and he would never understand it. BUT he would always get it for me. 

So, this year I decided to buy something for myself and it was important that I bought something he would not understand—just to carry on the tradition. 

So, I bought myself this clothing steamer. (It scares me every night when I get up to go to the bathroom and see it standing there in the dark!)

I know he would not understand this (you have an iron—you have an ironing board…) but I know he would have bought it for me. 

I’m grateful today that although he never understood me in forty years together, I also know he thought I was worth the effort. 

Brian took such good care of me and never asked for anything in return. He retired before I did. He got up earlier than I did, and when he heard me moving around upstairs, he put a fresh pot of coffee on. 

On a cold snowy morning he went out and scraped all the snow off my car and warmed it up for me.

Brian took such good care of me and never asked for anything in return.

He supported everything I wanted to do or try. I came up with a hair-brained plan to take our oldest granddaughter to Texas to go to a Taylor Swift concert. He went online and bought the plane tickets and found a good safe hotel for us to stay. 

He never once bought me flowers in the 40 years we were together, but if I wanted an alteration to my craft room he was there with a hammer and a saw. 

When we went into lockdown, I was the one who went out for food. But he watched for me and opened the door when I drove in and brought in all the groceries. 

I will never come home again and find him watching out the window because I am a little bit late and he is worried about me being in a ditch somewhere.  I am doing fine, and I know he would be proud of how I’m carrying on without him. But my heart is broken.