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  • Writer's pictureKatie Beucus

The last months, weeks, days, hours

Aaron could not hide or protect me from anything he endured from his awful disease. I was one of two people he felt he could be vulnerable with. The other was Dr. Evan (that’s only part of his name but it was what Aaron always called him).

While Aaron and I spent hundreds of hours together in the hospital acting like fools just to disassociate and to make each other laugh, there was plenty of time from April through September during chemo where we’d sit side by side in silence. Aaron wouldn’t even make eye contact with me for entire afternoons sometimes. Days two and three of chemo were always the hardest. I’d have to guess what to get him for lunch and dinner because asking would bring on a whole slew of emotions knowing he needed to eat but felt awful.

Then I’d have to negotiate his showers. With his port accessed and being in the hospital he had to shower or CHG bath everyday and it took a lot of energy that he just didn’t have. We hated day 3. At this point Aaron would be carrying anywhere from 10-12 extra pounds in fluid that had accumulated over the two days prior. His poor belly would get so distended we started to joke he had an awesome Grinch bod. I’d tape his port and IV’s, and then try to wash, dry and dress him as fast as we could because he was always so cold from chemo. But his nerve damage made things even more difficult. One wrong swipe of a towel could send fire like pain through his legs. We’d shed silent tears and then I’d tuck him in, make sure his phone was accessible, kiss his forehead and head home to sleep and wake up with the kids.

Our November hospital stay was much different from all the rest. Aaron would talk to me for hours. Sometimes about your everyday stuff, other times about the deeper things: his life experiences, how he felt fulfilled, what his hopes and dreams were for me and the kids.

One of my love languages is physical touch. I like to be hugged and have my hand held and I sleep annoyingly close to anyone in my bed. I suppose that’s where the kids get it from. Physical touch was not one of Aaron’s love languages, something I knew from very early on. He did give excellent hugs when I needed them but he enjoyed his sleeping space and I don’t really recall us ever holding hands. Then November came and he’d hold my hand through the bed rail for most of the day, often drifting off to sleep with his grip firm around my fingers, for himself but I think mostly for me.

The Thursday before Aaron died I had kissed him goodnight for the first time in almost a year. Every other night I’d always kiss his forehead. His immune system was so incredibly fragile his own body gave him sepsis so we couldn’t risk any outside germs, mine included. But that night I said f it, he’s dying and we’re going to get our last kiss. I remember how shocked he was, and then that big goofy smile of his spread so wide as he started to laugh and he said, “that’s not allowed!”

Roughly 12 hours later he was actively dying. I laid in bed next to him, finally able to be close after over a year of his pain keeping us apart, a closeness that I physically ached for in our darkest times, a comfort I could not have until then. I remember whispering in his ear how sorry I was for smothering him as tears ran down my face. I just wanted to remember that feeling of lying close, our arms touching, to memorize his features and run my fingers through his new baby soft hair one more time.

Aaron was very in tune with his body and he was very good at protecting everyone who loved him from knowing his physical/mental/emotional pain. He never spoke a single word publicly that would suggest he thought maybe he would not win his battle here on earth. And then his cancer came back in November and he looked right at me and said, “I always thought this would kill me. I just didn’t think so soon.” Until that moment, even I didn’t know there was doubt in his mind for full healing.

Aaron knew he could not protect me like everyone else, so he set out to protect future me instead.

In January, after a radiation appointment, we took lunch to Aaron’s station and cleared out his locker and desk. He said he didn’t want whoever might detail behind him to have to deal with it. I remember leaving the station feeling hollow inside and yet Aaron was calm and cool. I looked over and asked him how he was feeling. And in true Aaron fashion he said he felt good, that this was the right next step.

He died almost exactly three weeks later.

I know now, that he knew then, he would never be coming back.

It was me who he didn’t want to have to come and clear out his locker. He wanted to protect me and others from that pain. It was one of the few things he had control of.

And this is just one small example of why I’ve set out to live a life of joy. It was a true gift to be Aaron’s person and I cannot waste what he taught me. I cannot refuse to live the life he tried so hard to prepare me for, that he prayed over me for in his final weeks. What a disgrace to his legacy that would be 💛

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