As a young, shy woman, she falls in love with him, even though she doesn’t even know his name. A man filled with self-confidence and charisma; a man from a broken family. The first years are carefree, but as everyday life settles, they grow more distant. Isabel feels increasingly misunderstood and left alone. But when her husband falls seriously ill, she realizes that her love is stronger than she believed. And that her view only shows half the truth.
Now Isabel talks about what she would have liked to tell him.
“Do you remember the first time we met in 1978 and how embarrassed I was? It was a mild evening in spring, when I was sitting upstairs in my darkened attic room and, as usual, had already put on my pajamas. Muffled voices drifted in from downstairs, and through my tilted window I could hear the rustling of the treetops. I liked studying in the glow of the desk lamp, there was something peaceful about it.
I was immersed in the subject of blood groups, which systems could be used to determine them and how they were distributed in the population. It was not in my nature to read a textbook for a long time. I thought longingly of my clique: a colorful, playful group from the city. Jana, Manuela, Elfriede … we had met in our teens, hitting the discos on weekends. That evening, the girls had wanted to go out as well, but I absolutely had to prepare for the upcoming exam. Before I met you, ‘Chez Pierre’ had been one of my favorite clubs. The disco sound of the seventies – that had still been real music – got me onto the dance floor without any effort. On there I was another Isabel; an Isabel who could give herself to the music and showed little shyness.
From time to time, I got into conversations with men which sometimes led to loose contacts that I could hardly call relationships. The funny thing was that my sister, who is three years younger than me, and I had a similar voice. If one of us wanted to break up with a guy, but was reluctant to do so, the other would simply call the specific man on the landline and the matter was settled. Such stories brought my sister and me together, but this happened only towards the end of our adolescence. As children we had sometimes quarreled, and my sister had known exactly how to tame me: I loved my dolls, and when my sister threw them against the wall, I instantly stopped provoking her. Even today, I have the habit of sitting dolls upright when I see one lying somewhere.
Yes, I had been an active child, I had never liked studying for school. But by now this was a little different. In fact, the motivation to sit still and read attentively sprang from my strong desire to become a nurse.
For this reason, I was absorbed in the book on my desk that evening when I heard my father’s voice. His voice often had this gentle almost pleading tone. I heard him call my mother first, then my sister downstairs to the living room. Apparently, we had visitors, but I did not really care.
‘Isabel, are you coming quickly too?’
Reluctantly, I let go of my reading and went downstairs. The stairs always made this revealing creaking noise, I didn’t like it at all. When I finally opened the door to the living room, I saw two men sitting next to my brother on the leather couch, talking vividly. An uneasy feeling spread through me, quickly I pulled the door shut again, because I thought, oh god, in my pajamas in front of these men … My brother wanted to start a rock band with two friends, I would learn that afterwards. And one of those friends was you.
‘This just gets better and better,’ you said, when I did come in a few seconds later. Waiting outside the door would have been even more embarrassing. You wore your hair shoulder-length and had a hearty, infectious laugh that didn’t seem contrived but honest and uninhibited. You wore a shirt with a leather tie and cloth pants. I noticed you had green-brown eyes, which made you even more attractive. I glanced at you, said hello briefly, but otherwise remained silent. A moment later, I avoided your gaze. Self-confidence had never been my greatest strength, as you know. I would have liked to say something clever or ask what your name was and what you were up to. But I couldn’t get a word out.
Fortunately, I was able to go back up right away. You stayed in my thoughts for a few minutes, but by the next day I had almost forgotten you.
I don’t know if you were surprised that I let myself be paraded like that. But with my 22 years, I still did what I was told, because I had grown up well protected. My father was strictly religious, he said that if someone hits you on the right cheek, then turn the left one as well. You had to deal lovingly with your fellow human beings and never mean them any harm. That was his motto.
In his free time, he was intensively engaged in music, composed pieces and taught us to play instruments. Actually, I would have preferred the piano, but he said that the violin was the queen of instruments. My sister also played the violin, my brother the cello, and so it was natural that we serenaded each other on festive days.
As the oldest of three siblings, I had to set a good example: Always be well-behaved, always hold back, and in case of disputes, always listen to the others first. But I didn’t want that, I didn’t want to have to be a role model, I just wanted to be me. At that time, I rarely defended myself. If a classmate tripped me up at school, I must have deserved it.
At home, I had two guinea pigs that I wanted to take care of all the time. Feeding them carrots, petting them, even cleaning out the stall in my room was fun. I liked the intense smell of straw and hay, and would have loved to spend a night in the straw – until today this has not happened.
In addition, I had had a turtle that followed me around my room and played with my hair or nibbled my ear when I lay down on the carpet. Animals have grown close to my heart, we understand each other without words – honestly and unconditionally; it had been a mystery to me for a long time how such a relationship can work without words at all.
In my youth, when we had lived in the city apartment as a family, my grandmother had moved into her room upstairs. Sometimes, when I had a falling out with my parents, I would go up to her and she would push two armchairs together so I could stay with her overnight. We rarely talked about our family; in fact, I can’t even put my finger on what we talked about anymore. We understood each other without needing a lot of words; in some ways it was just like between you and me.
My grandmother had been a dominant personality and called the shots in our family. She always cooked for us, and what was on the plate had to be eaten. But for me she sometimes made an exception and cooked carrots or peas, when I pushed aside the Brussels sprouts, wrinkling my nose. I was a sweet tooth which I had probably inherited from my father. When I got a box of chocolates one day, I deliberately placed it on the top shelf of the kitchen, where I could only reach with a ladder. Because otherwise I would probably have eaten the box in one day.
When I was 20, my grandmother became seriously ill, and after she was taken to the hospital, I cried like I rarely had before. I visited her every day after work, sitting helplessly beside her bed because she was barely responsive. I wished she would at least register my presence with a shy smile. Her smile, which she had only showed people who really mattered to her. But now there was no movement in her face. There were only the barely noticeable movements of her breath. In these moments, her fate seemed terribly unfair to me, moreover, I felt that I could not be there for her to the same extent as she had been for me.
It was the first time I had witnessed firsthand how a person approaches the end of life. I had never really thought about this topic before, why should I? My life began to pick up speed, I was full of energy and drive.
One day a priest came by; why exactly, I didn’t know.
I asked him, ‘What can I do to make my grandmother feel better?’
He said, ‘Just be with her. Hold her hand if she wants you to.’
That advice would stay with me for decades. I learned that not everyone liked it when you held their hand. But almost everyone appreciated you being with them in their final hours. I think, my grandmother felt that I understood her and didn’t blame her if she found the courage to leave.
At the funeral, when we buried her ashes, I cried bitterly. I learned that letting go is part of growing up. From that moment on, it was clear to me that I wanted to accompany people in times of physical and emotional pain. For as long as I could remember, I had wanted to take care of children, but now nursing had become my new dream job.
After the evening I first met you, a week went by before the doorbell finally rang. I was sitting upstairs at the dining room table knitting a baby sweater for one of my friends. I heard my brother open the door and you asked him where his sister was.
I started to feel queasy. Yes, I had been sure I would see you a second time; coincidentally, perhaps, when you would be out with my brother. But I hadn’t gotten my hopes up. I didn’t even fantasize about what was to happen to us later, although I was certainly a daydreamer. That you asked for me now seemed unreal to me. I was just able to sit up straight when you stood in front of me – relaxed, with your hands in your pockets. I avoided your gaze this second time too, though not as much as the first time.
‘Shall we go for a little drive in the Mustang?’ you asked, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. I just nodded, of course I wanted to, but I tried not to show my joy too obviously. The reason for my behavior was that I had been in a relationship for several months, which had failed because I had been too clingy. The memory of being heartbroken for the first time and mourning human closeness echoed unpleasantly in me. I certainly didn’t want to repeat that, I didn’t want to seem needy.
Your car held no particular fascination for me, I must confess. But your look at the sleek white body spoke volumes, you were proud to own this car. You smiled at me, then we got in without a word.
We drove with no particular destination, enjoying the passing greenery, punctuated again and again by impressive rock formations. We talked little, and although we barely knew each other, the silence with you felt comfortable and reassuring. You seemed confident and never tried to induce artificial conversation. Our communication often took place between the lines. A penetrating glance, a nod, later perhaps a gentle touch. Silence could be a blessing, or the opposite if you couldn’t control it. There are different kinds of silence, not all of them desirable. At the time, I was attracted by this adventurous silence, because when we set off, I still didn’t know your name.
In one curve you really stepped on the gas, and I wasn’t sure if it was with clear intention. We didn’t have seat belts back then, as you know. I was thrown around and almost landed on top of you. I liked that.
We continued to drive through the streets for a while, and then we went to your house.
‘What is he doing here again?’ my mother asked, when a few days later you were standing in our living room again. At first, my mother thought you were a wild, untamed man who should not come too close to me. But I knew that deep inside you had a soft heart.
You calmly answered her, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll bring my own bread and sausage.’
I believe that my family filled a big gap for you. Our home must have been a safe place for you, a place where people stuck together. You moved out at the age of 16 because your mother only served you salami sandwiches. Since then, you lived in this one-room apartment, with a kitchen without windows, but with a spacious room, where there was no dining table, but a wide desk, where we always ate.
Your sister was a prostitute, you told me that one night you had to go looking for her. I think she was only 15 years old at the time. I think in retrospect that your sister being a prostitute may have influenced how you defined fidelity. The fact that your father left the family when you were very young must have meant that you lacked a male role model.
You know, I pretended to be innocent and outwardly good, even ignorant at times, but I knew exactly what I was doing. You had told me about Leonie. When you were at your mother’s, you sometimes stood on the balcony and chatted with her across the street. Her apartment was right across the street and also had a balcony. I didn’t like this idea at all, because Leonie was going to be the singer in your rock band. That’s why I wanted to help as often as possible with the renovation of your band room in this run-down neighborhood, plastering walls, although I had never done that before. One time a friend of yours drilled a hole in the wall, caught a power line, hung on to the current and couldn’t get loose.
‘Pull the damn plug!’ he yelled to you, to which you immediately responded.
It had been an uncertain time; however, I only saw Leonie, whom I was so intensely jealous of, once, when she stopped by briefly. In the end, nothing came of the band, but all the more of you and me. Which was fine by me.
My mother had finally accepted you; after about a dozen visits you no longer had to bring your own food. We spent many evenings in my room, talking, playing games … our everyday life was quiet, but beautiful. We went for rides in the Mustang, drove up passes, stayed in guesthouses, enjoyed the food on the terraces of the restaurants. You spent little time with friends, I soon noticed that. You were a loner; I think you had difficulty trusting other people. Nevertheless, you were very popular, at work your colleagues praised you as friendly, cordial and humorous. But I know very well that between good company and a deep friendship can be worlds apart.
A year later, we moved together into a cozy apartment near the center of town, not far from my parents. In the meantime, I had started working in the dementia ward of the cantonal hospital. When I was on late duty, taking care of the patients until eleven o’clock at night, finally leaving the building with tired eyes, your white Mustang was always parked in front of the hospital.
‘So, how was it?’ you would ask in a soft voice each time I got in and we kissed.
‘Exhausting,’ I would sometimes reply, resting my head on your shoulders.
‘Tell me tomorrow, okay?’ You’d turn the key, the engine would start, and wordlessly we’d drive home.
It was during this time that I learned that a friend had to take her dog back to the shelter because her workload had increased and therefore she had too little time for him. It would have been the second time for the mongrel to wait for a new owner. It hurt my heart to see the animals in the home with their gentle, big eyes; how they hoped that someone would take them in.
So I went home and begged you to take my friend’s dog.
‘It would do us good, then we’d have to get fresh air every day,’ I added, as you thought about it.
‘All right, let’s do it,’ you said and I embraced you . You liked animals as much as I did.
One day we said, ‘Let’s go to the jeweler and pick out rings.’
It was an unspoken fact that we belonged together. Six months later, in 1981, we got married, and the day after that we left for America for three weeks. Even on the plane you wore a suit, I found that amusing.
‘I don’t want people to see that I’m a tourist,’ you said.
We were visiting your uncle, who had emigrated to Los Angeles many years ago. If it had been up to him, you should have built your life across the pond, too. But your mother had been against it. It makes me think about what would have happened had she agreed. You would have emigrated to America as a teenager, so we would never have met. Would you and I have lived a better life? I dare not answer this because it only makes me seem ungrateful.
Some 35 years later, much had changed in our lives, but at the same time little had. You came home from work as you always did. We ate dinner and sat down in front of the television. I looked at you, hoping for a reaction, but you were focused on the news. My mind was replaying scenes that had happened at the nursing home. I was satisfied that after Andreas and Laura had grown up, I could go back to the work I loved. But through the contact with the demented people, who lived in their own, sometimes beautiful world, something had changed in me. And I had to speak about it now.
‘I’m going to sign up for an assisted suicide organization,’ I said to you.
I thought I detected a twitch in the corner of your mouth; I knew you well enough to guess what your answer would be.
‘You’re not going to do that.’
‘I don’t want to hear that, no discussion. You’re not going to sign up for it.’
Disappointed, I turned away and pretended that the matter was settled for me, too. Your opinion that euthanasia is something immoral and selfish is widespread I would come to feel later. I agree, it is a drastic decision. But it is one that I made for myself.
I considered it a stroke of luck that I had been assigned to the dementia unit in the nursing home. The residents were as different in character as could be imagined: Some complained all the time about the food, wanted to run away in the winter without a jacket, or pinched your arm while washing. Others laughed almost incessantly or waved at you as you walked by. Working with these people challenged me physically and mentally, and gave me memories I wouldn’t want to miss.
I visited one woman who had lived at the home for several years regularly after my shift. I would knock on her door each time, but as usual, she would not respond because she had poor hearing. So, I went in without hesitation and sat down in the armchair next to her. The room was comfortable and brightly furnished. On the nightstand was a photo of her and her late husband at their wedding reception. Her husband had lived with her in this room until his death, and I had cared for him as well.
‘Hello, Isabel, here you come again, how nice,’ the woman said during one of my visits.
‘Hello Ruth, how was dinner today?”, I asked her.
At that she winced slightly, as if startled. Her expression turned serious, then she smiled again and whispered, ‘Won’t you get in trouble if we call each other by our first names?’
I giggled. ‘No, it doesn’t matter, we’re alone, no one can hear us.’
That’s reassuring, thank God.’
After that, we talked for a while or just looked out the window at the apartment blocks across the street. She was like a good friend I could always go to when I felt down.
But you couldn’t talk to all people as lightheartedly as you could to Ruth. We accompanied these people on their last stage of life, I was always aware of that. And at some point, this stage would come to an end. I realized how closely life and death are connected. An eternal cycle, the present only gets its meaning through our finiteness. And this end of life looked different for everyone. Some fell asleep peacefully, some wrestled with themselves as if it were a battle not to be lost. This was the case with another woman, to whom I sat at her bedside every working day for weeks. The situation reminded me a lot of my grandmother. How helpless I had felt then and admittedly still did. I took the woman’s hand, squeezing her feeble fingers. She was staring at the ceiling; in her face you could see the tension. The eyes show without a doubt whether someone is relaxed or not. My colleague and I often cried at her bedside because her pain was also ours. The woman refused to eat or drink, and yet she could not let go. I became afraid that the same would happen to me. That I would no longer be able to think clearly and thus have an end of life that would leave me and my loved one’s suffering. This experience laid the foundation for me to sign up for an assisted suicide organization; against your will. But I was no longer the Isabel who let others do to her what they wanted. I began to stand up for myself.
You’ll probably remember another day when I was sitting in the bedroom crying when you came home.
‘What’s wrong?’ you asked in a calm voice, staying in the room.
I told you that I had been reprimanded while walking Filu because he had growled at the dachshund of an elderly passerby. Although I had immediately taken him on a short leash, she had said that our dog belonged in professional hands. I had nodded wordlessly, remembering that Filu had had a difficult life in the home and should never return there.
‘Don’t put up with everything,’ you said to me. For a moment we remained in silence, my teary gaze on the floor … then you left the room.
Perhaps because I no longer put up with everything, we began to distance ourselves even more. It was the everyday situations that also contributed to this. Once, when you came back from shopping and unpacked two packs of salad, several liters of milk and a dozen apples, I asked, ‘Why did you buy so much? There are only two of us.’
‘Why are you complaining again now?’
A statement I often got to hear when I expressed a thought that was important to me and concerned both of us. This was also the case when I told you that I would like to take care of AIDS patients in my professional career.
‘That’s out of the question,’ you said.
‘You’ll catch it.’
With that, the discussion was off the table. Almost every discussion about us was not really a discussion at all. But rather a silencing, which I mostly accepted and swallowed.
Because of this, I talked less and less about what was important to me, what moved me, and what I wanted from you. Our relationship had become a habit, the daily routine with the children, the grandchildren and work blurred our few moments together and they became trivial. We had shared countless beautiful moments: building huts in the forest, hiking at mountain lakes, children’s birthday parties, long walks with Filu, rides with the Mustang … but now I noticed how we were slowly changing. It was a gradual change, but it seemed hard to stop. It is a depressing state to see an interpersonal relationship that has lasted so long slipping away from supposed control.
That’s how I noticed that you increasingly texted on your cell phone in the evening hours.
‘Who are you texting,’ I asked once.
Somehow, I had never really wanted to admit it to myself. From your hairdresser, I learned that you kept meeting women in a more familiar way than I liked.
‘What do these women have that I don’t?’ I asked you one day.
‘They don’t complain,’ was your answer.
Many times I lay in bed, crying, the other side empty, because you were probably seeing someone. And when you finally did come home, we lay next to each other like brother and sister. In those moments, I sometimes firmly decided to file for divorce. I thought about the words I would say to you. I imagined how our children would react. The fear of what would come after was depressing. I didn’t know what would happen to the house, what would happen to me. Almost my entire life I had been surrounded by someone important to me, but now if everything fell apart, I would be alone. This thought of the future was perhaps what was still holding me back.
You know, some days you would come home after work, put the groceries in the kitchen, cook or clean and tidy the apartment. When the grandchildren visited, you built a marble run with them or turned on the sprinkler in the garden so they could run back and forth under the water jets. And I watched the scenery not feeling like myself at all and thought: Do I really want to destroy all this? Is there really something better waiting for me than this? I saw the good in you, sometimes too much. To hold this construct, we both hurt each other badly, that seemed to be the price to pay.
I can’t remember if this went on for weeks, months or even years. While many experiences had already faded after weeks, I clearly remember moments when I felt unexpected emotions. Such was the case that day when I was in bed about to fall asleep.
You stood in the bedroom, looked at me and said, ‘Well, now.’
‘What now?”, I asked, tired and confused.
Without answering, you walked out of the room. I followed you. In the bathroom you sat down on the toilet seat, but without having pulled down your pants. Immediately you got up again and shuffled past me back to the bedroom. I saw you try to press the light switch, but you missed it. Then you picked up the flashlight on the nightstand, but immediately dropped it. There was a dull thud in the nightly silence.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ I asked, remaining completely calm. Immediately, I thought that you might have had a stroke.
You let me lead you to the kitchen, where I had hung the leaflet.
‘Try to stretch your arms,’ I told you.
You looked at me helplessly. ‘I can’t.’
Your speech was slurred and washed out.
‘Okay, can you try to smile?’
The corner of your left mouth pulled up, but the right one drooped. With that, the case was clear to me.
‘I’ll call the ambulance, that’s better.’
You nodded, not resisting. The fact that I had to dress you and support you down the stairs confirmed to me that I was doing the right thing. Still, I was calm. Why I was able to be so, I do not really know myself.
After the following examinations, you stayed in the monitoring ward. It would not have been possible to see from the outside that you were seriously ill. One day, the nurse and I accompanied you to the toilet. When you were finished, a $100 bill was stuck to your butt; I think you had it in your pants pocket, which caused it to slip out. Of course, it reminded me of the mishap in Las Vegas.
‘Now you’re shitting money already,’ we joked and all doubled over with laughter.
Andreas said to the nurse, ‘If this happens again, please call me, I’ll come and get it.’
Like a live deer trying to escape, you sat up in bed. You wanted to go home as soon as possible. The diagnosis hadn’t shaken you or me.
We said to ourselves, ‘We’ll get through this together,’ and thoughts of the affairs receded into the background. Of course, sometimes I had trouble looking at you and knowing that things had happened in the past that I really couldn’t accept. But I trusted my inner instinct that things would fall into place. The way you looked at me, with a hint of helplessness and with an unspoken message that you needed me … you hadn’t looked at me that way in a long time.
However, I soon lost hope. After two weeks you were allowed to go home, and immediately the first infusion therapy was due.
‘You can go, I’ll manage on my own,’ you said, ‘I’ll be back in a few hours.’
When I finally returned home after visiting my friend, it was clear to me that your condition was much more serious than I had imagined. I put you to bed and several more times Laura and I would desperately beg you to go back to the hospital. Because you only got out of bed when we had to take you to the bathroom, you only ate cereal and fried eggs.
I’m not going there anymore, they’re just torturing me,’ you kept saying, it wasn’t up for discussion. Finally, we could convince you to go as soon as Andreas would be back from his vacation.
But you were right, the following two weeks in the hospital were an ordeal for you. Many infusions, tests and examinations brought you to the limit of what you could bear. You begged me to take you home. You did notice that I talked to the doctor about it that Wednesday and agreed with him that we should get a psychiatrist in first to make sure what medication you would need in the future.
‘I don’t have a family anymore, they don’t want me,’ you cried in despair.
‘That’s not true, we just want to help you,’ I said.
That moment left me thinking, questioning whether I was still doing the right thing. When we finally came to pick you up three days later, you had already packed your suitcase and were sitting in the chair. You couldn’t wait to finally return to us. You were still optimistic that you would get well again.
In the car, you turned around and looked victoriously at me in the back seat whereupon I nodded and said, ‘Yes, now we’re going home.’
Could it be that I intentionally left you in the ward three days longer than necessary? At least, I can’t rule out that possibility.
Even today, we sometimes joke and say, ‘Remember when he wanted to drink out of the bedside lamp?’ Actually, we shouldn’t make fun of you and your condition at that time, because that incident showed how far the degradation in your brain had already progressed. But I’m sure you too could laugh at this mishap; you of all people, with your constant jokes, can certainly forgive me for this. But above all, I felt sorry for you, you were still much too young.
You regularly had seizures, twitching for five or ten minutes. When I noticed it, I put your head on the pillow, put the water glass aside so that you wouldn’t knock it down. Then you would lie still again. In the morning, I brought your cereal to your bed, gave you something to drink and made sure that you took your medicine. I took you to the toilet, washed you as well as possible. Then I left you alone again. It also happened that you fell out of bed and I had to put you back in with the help of Andreas. What a lucky coincidence that I had been retired a month ago and that Andreas lived on the upper floor. So, we could take care of you.
When you and I finally lay next to each other in the evening, I took your hand without hesitation and squeezed it. When you looked at me through the fading darkness, I sometimes felt transported back in time for a few minutes. Back then, when we had newly met and had appreciated our togetherness. The illness had brought us back together a bit, as if it were the natural course of things. We held no grudges, which was proof enough for me that I still felt something for you. I rarely heard you say thank you, that was not your way. But you made it unmistakably clear with your looks that you were glad I stayed by your side.ˮ
A week later, Isabel’s husband suffered an epileptic seizure as severe as she had ever seen. For half an hour he shook all over his body, his face dominated by twitching; he was probably already unconscious and felt none of this. Isabel took him to the hospital, where he was given morphine for pain relief and put into an artificial sleep with a dormicum. It had been clear to Isabel for two weeks that her husband’s condition was terminal. When she had taken him home and he had victoriously turned to her in the car, it had been clear to Isabel that he was to receive only palliative care.
A week after his admission, he died. He had not regained consciousness.
The cause of death was a tumor that had metastasized throughout the body. This explained the recurrent epileptic seizures. In the monitoring ward two months ago, her husband had made it clear that he refused chemotherapy and wanted to undergo infusion therapy instead. But this decision meant that his condition rapidly deteriorated.
As Isabel would later discover, the first signs of the epileptic seizures had occurred a month before she knew about them. Her husband had filmed the seizures in the bathroom in front of the mirror with his cell phone. But no one had noticed, and her husband quietly let the cancer take its course.
Isabel had never dared to look through her husband’s cell phone while he was alive, even though she had suspected that he was having affairs. Now, as she browsed the various chats, her suspicions were confirmed.
Isabel accepted his death with composure, and continued to live her daily life almost as usual. Only days later, she disposed of and gave away his clothes, which some people found astonishing. Nevertheless, he left a gap. In the evenings, when she lay alone in bed, she felt a quiet longing for him. And so, something happened what some might comment with skepticism: One night, when she was about to fall asleep in the dark, the spot in front of her closet lit up brightly, and a human figure appeared. She could see only outlines, no face, only the suit with tie, the trousers – the clothes that Isabel and Laura had put on him after his death.
Isabel remained motionless and silent, perhaps for a minute, then the figure disappeared again. A few days later, a similar appearance was to happen again. For Isabel there was no doubt that her husband was trying to talk to her.
Isabel knew that she wanted and had to comply with his request. She had never used the service of a medium before, but now she seemed convinced that this step would be important for her and her husband.
She visited the woman in her office, took a seat in front of her, and was instructed to answer questions only with yes or no. For more than half an hour, Isabel answered a wide variety of questions about her life journey, the birth of her children and grandchildren, her daily professional life, and her relationship with her husband.
“Have you been to America?” the woman finally asked.
“Yes, for the honeymoon.”
“Did he have a relative there?”
“You had flown for the first time, is that right?”
“That’s right, I was a little scared.”
The woman remained silent for a moment.
“He really enjoyed that trip, including the detour to Las Vegas,” she continued.
“In Las Vegas, he lost the three hundred dollars his uncle gave him,” Isabel recalled. “I told him not to carry the money around loosely in his pocket.”
“And a white car still comes up.”
“He asks you not to sell that one.”
“In addition, he says he found it nice that he and you could sit next to each other and notice each other without words. He fell in love with your big heart and he is sorry that he cheated on you. He is very grateful that you stayed with him until his death – despite all he had done.”
After this encounter, Isabel was overcome with great sadness. It was only then that she truly realized that her husband would not be coming back. And she also realized what she had done. To her surprise, she had also discovered on his cell phone that six months ago he had written a message to their daughter Laura, with whom he had a very strong bond: ‘Isabel is cheating. Now everything is falling apart.’
Isabel was sorry in retrospect that she, too, had pursued two affairs that had ended since. She had been so hurt that she had done the same to her husband. She had believed that even if he found out about it, he would not care. Now she knew that she had hurt him just as much.
She cried often, ate much less over several weeks, and visibly lost weight. She blamed herself that she should have fought more for their relationship. But as time went on, she realized that a new chapter was now beginning for her. She was grateful that she had been able to work out the last disagreements with her husband.
“I wish that you have someone by your side again,” he had finally let her know through the medium. “I don’t want you to be alone, and I welcome you to meet someone new if that’s what you want.”
Isabel doesn’t know whether that will happen. She is happy with her life, she enjoys going for walks with her grandchildren, who from time to time want to learn about their grandfather.
“I miss him, too,” Isabel adds each time. “But he’s with us, watching us, just in a different way, you know?”
And when she comes home in the evening, she sometimes stops for a moment and looks at the white Mustang, which is still parked in the front yard.
By the way, Isabel has since changed sides of the bed; she now sleeps where her husband used to lie. “My side squeaks a little, I’ll have to see what’s going on there,” she tells me, giggling. “But I sleep just as well on his side.”