This is a work of creative nonfiction. The events are portrayed to the best of Justine’s memory. While all the stories in this book are true, some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.
This story is not an attack. It was written with the intention that it will hopefully be used as a tool in preventing others from having to encounter what I did. I am not trained in any specific areas of psychology or bereavement counseling. The stories in this book are the experiences I had in dealing with individuals and their reactive behavior following my husband’s death.
I want to thank JK Publications for taking on my memoir series. Nonfiction is an entirely different market and not always accessible to every author. I thank you for this opportunity. It’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly.
Mike Has Left The Building
“Whose phone was that?” my mother asked.
“I think it was Justine’s iPad,” my sister, Cecily, said as she rose from the table and began to clear.
Mike had been gone for fifteen hours. I was counting them already. Every hour that passed slammed me in the gut with the brutal reminder that he was not coming back, not ever. His shoes were still in the corner of the kitchen, right where he’d left them. I couldn’t touch them, wanting to preserve anything he’d come into contact with, leaving things just as he had.
My friend Fran, whom I’d met working through the homemaker agency, had just served an outrageously delicious eggplant parmesan. I ate very little. My stomach was nailed down tight, only able to accommodate small amounts of food.
I reached for my iPad to check the incoming email. I had sent out a universal email as well as a text providing the many members of Mike’s family with all the service details. As I scrolled through, I saw that the email had come from Lyn, Mike’s oldest sister.
I had called Jan first after I’d found Mike that morning at 5:18 a.m. She’d been the one to tell the rest of the family. My family, who lives hours away, had gotten to my house as soon as they could, arriving by noon.
It was a muggy August evening. That morning I’d stood in the driveway, the rain drizzling on my head as I watched the gray hearse pull out of the driveway, my husband housed in the back.
Kevin, Mike’s best friend, arrived by 6 a.m., staying with me until the entire coroner’s investigation had been completed, a procedure that took six hours.
My mind was a discombobulated mess, filled with visual snippets, flashbacks of a day I’d never be able to forget. I tried to concentrate on the email, but had to begin reading it again. When my eyes came across the four words “shut the family out,” my dinner lurched into my throat. As I continued to read Lyn’s email I felt my face go slack with shock.
We understand that you lost a husband, but we’ve lost a brother and a mother has lost a son. You have shut the family out. Why haven’t you been to see my mother?
I pushed the tablet away and got up.
“What’s wrong?” my mother asked, setting the dirty serving dish in the sink.
“Read the email.” I walked outside. I needed air. I could hear the hushed voices of my mother and sister drifting through the kitchen. My friend Fran had taken over the task of clearing the table. The patio door opened behind me. I pinched my eyes closed,exhausted from crying throughout the entire day.
“I feel that email is inappropriate,” my mother said softly. “I think you need to call.”
“I plan on going to see Emma tomorrow. Haven’t I had enough to deal with today? Why hasn’t anyone been to see me?” I yelled. “Lyn should be coming down here to see me!” I jammed my finger into my chest with every syllable of my words. The tears I’d tried to hold back spilled. I couldn’t believe Lyn. I’d just found my husband dead in my living room a mere fifteen hours ago, and I’m supposed to run and see her mother!
My sister and I spent the morning at the funeral home signing papers and then had gone to the firehouse, making all the plans for the luncheon afterwards. Once home I'd had to call Social Security and the pension office. Did my sister-in-law not know all the business that had to be taken care of when one dies? Today was only the beginning. It would go on for months. I felt my mother’s touch on my shoulder.
“Give her a call. Tell her what’s been going on, and that we’re going to see her mother tomorrow morning. Maybe if you verbally share the details, it’ll smooth things over.”
I went back inside to get my cell phone. After punching in her number, Neil, Lyn’s husband, answered. He proceeded to tell me that Lyn had left the house and didn’t have her phone. I told him I’d just received the email and that Lyn should call. I set the phone on the counter and glanced back at my sister standing in the threshold, her face creased with confusion.
“Is she there?” Cecily asked.
“She went out. It just so happens that she left her phone behind,” I said.
“That’s complete bullshit!” Fran shouted, shaking her head. “Here it comes. Here’s where it’s gonna get all fucked up. I’m sorry, Justine,” she raised a hand, “but I’ve got a real shitty feeling right now, one that needs to be nursed with a glass of wine.
If I had had any type of insight into the sequence of events that would unfold during the next few weeks, I would’ve ended it all, gladly joining my husband in whatever peaceful location he was in.
From this point on, until the trees began to shed their leaves, I would be chained and shackled, dragged through hell by a group of people who were emotionally handicapped and corroded with selfishness.
They say when things like this happen, you learn the truth about people. What I’m about to unveil forced me to face a truth that I never could’ve imagined, and I have a very good imagination, one that has served me well. My usual craft of writing is fiction romance. I’ve published fifteen novellas through three eBook companies. This is my second memoir.