On arrival at work this morning I found out that a colleague, Linda, lost her husband, Marc Getter, very suddenly last night. He was 60. They think he had a heart attack, but aren't sure. He had been under the weather with a low fever and flu-like symptoms for a couple of weeks and was on antibiotics. A lot of people in our office, including Linda, had been out sick with this same bug. There was no warning that he was anything but normally sick. There are no words to describe the pall this cast over the entire office, a permeating level of gloom that clouds all thoughts.
I have known Linda for only the 6 months that I've had this job, but she was the one person in the office that I had any long conversations with. We bonded because of the similarity of our husbands. They have the same first name, are painters and writers, and came into our marriages with rent stabilized apartments that are slightly smaller than we wished. They don't hold regular jobs and make us dinner every night. Her Marc's paintings were glorious watercolors of old barns and the outdoors. They sound, without seeing them, very pedestrian but in fact evoked so much about the glory of worn and old things that seem regular on the outside but have character and personality when you take a look up close. I wish I had made a copy of the cd of his paintings before I returned it to her. Her love for her husband was tremendous and she expressed it freely. She forgave him his shortcomings without even thinking, and reveled in his talent and in their partnership. He was her second spouse but she was his first, and she felt that she appreciated him all the more in comparison with the first failed attempt. They never had children, purposefully. They had cats.
I haven't had much experience with spouses of contemporaries dying. While Linda and Marc are older than I am, they are not much older than my husband, which puts them into my generational sphere. While this is the first I know, it will of course not be the last, everybody dies. But somehow that does not make it easier or feel fair. Death is indeed the one fair thing about life, and the irony is that it feels the least fair.
So I have made a new rule in my household and Marc has agreed (well he had no choice). I have to die first. Is that very selfish of me? Well yes it is, but I called it.