Read an excerpt of Hannah’s List by Debbie Macomber, available now from Mira.
I am not a sentimental guy. I’ve been known to forget Mother’s Day and, once, when Hannah and I were dating, I even let Valentine’s go unnoticed. Fortunately she didn’t take my lapse too seriously or see it as any reflection of my feelings. As for anniversaries and birthdays, I’m a lost cause. In fact, I’d probably overlook Christmas if it wasn’t for all the hoopla. It’s not that I’m self-absorbed… Well, maybe I am, but aren’t we all to a certain extent?
To me, paying a lot of attention to people because it’s their birthday or some made-up holiday is ridiculous. When you love someone, you need to show that love each and every day. Why wait for a certain time of year to bring your wife flowers? Action really does speak louder than words, especially if it’s a loving deed, something you do for no particular reason. Except that you want to. Because you care.
Hannah taught me that. Hannah. A year ago today, May eighth, I lost her, my beautiful thirty-six-year-old wife. Even now, a whole year after her death, I can’t think of her without my gut twisting into knots.
A year. Three hundred and sixty-five lonely days and empty nights.
A few days after her death, I stood over Hannah’s casket and watched as it was lowered into the ground. I threw the first shovelful of dirt into her grave. I’ll never forget that sound. The hollow sound of earth hitting the coffin’s gleaming surface.
Not an hour passes that I don’t remember Hannah. Actually, that’s an improvement. In those first few months, I couldn’t keep her out of my head for more than a minute. Everything I saw or heard reminded me of Hannah.
To simply say I loved her would diminish the depth of my feelings. In every way she completed me. Without her, my world is bleak and colorless and a thousand other adjectives that don’t begin to describe the emptiness I’ve felt since she’s been gone.
I talk to her constantly. I suppose I shouldn’t tell people that. We’ve had this ongoing one-sided conversation from the moment she smiled up at me one last time and surrendered her spirit to God.
So, here I am a year later, pretending to enjoy the Seattle Mariners’ baseball game when all I can think about is my wife. My one-year-dead wife.
Ritchie, Hannah’s brother and my best friend, invited me to share box seats for this game. I’m not fooled. I’m well aware that my brother-in-law didn’t include me out of some mistaken belief that I’m an inveterate baseball fan. He knows exactly what anniversary this is.
I might not be sentimental, but this is one day I can’t forget.
As a physician, a pediatrician, I’m familiar with death. I’ve witnessed it far too often and it’s never easy, especially with children. Even when the end is peaceful and serene as it was with Hannah, I feel I’ve been cheated, that I’ve lost.
As a teenager I was involved in sports. I played football in the fall, basketball in winter and baseball in the spring, and worked as a lifeguard during the summers. The competitive spirit is a natural part of who I am. I don’t like to lose, and death, my adversary, doesn’t play fair. Death took Hannah from me, from all of us, too early. She was the most vibrant, joyful, loving woman I have ever known. I’ve been floundering ever since.
Although I’ve fought death, my enemy, from the day I became a doctor—it’s why I became a doctor—I learned to understand it in a different, more complex way. I learned death can be a friend even while it’s the enemy. As she lay dying, Hannah, who loved me so completely and knew me so well, showed me that ultimate truth.
A year’s time has given me the perspective to realize I did my wife a disservice. My biggest regret is that I refused to accept the fact that she was dying. As a result I held on to her far longer than I should have. I refused to relinquish her when she was ready to leave me. Selfishly, I couldn’t bear to let her go.
Even when she’d drifted into unconsciousness I sat by her bedside night and day unable to believe that there wouldn’t be a miracle. It’s stupid; as a medical professional I certainly know better. Yet I clung to her. Now I realize that my stubbornness, my unwillingness to release her to God, held back her spirit. Tied her to earth. To me.
This book is available from Mira. You can buy it here or here in e-format.
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