“How do I live (not survive) the final days?”
After her husband’s cancer spread to multiple organs, Reddit user Anukriti Mehta (whenlifegivesyoushit) was given the devastating news that there was nothing more doctors could do. He was her childhood sweetheart, the only man she had ever loved. He was 28 years old.
Theodore* had less than a month to live. But while she grieved, Mehta decided she wouldn’t simply sit around in sorrow. The 26-year-old from Bangalore turned to Reddit's Relationship community and asked, “How do I live (not survive) the final days?”
Redditors who’ve experienced loss responded with the things they’re glad they did, and the things they wish they had done, while their loved ones were still alive. Suggestions ranged from the practical (Mistyranch: “Learn where he keeps things. Files, notes, hard drives, etc.”) to the nostalgic ( 89kbye: “Play games, build forts by the couch, sneak around like kids again. Go back to your first date. Walk around your old high school”) to the comforting (emigsh: “You being there will be enough, and more important and fulfilling than any particular act”).
Mehta read through the hundreds of comments, and then made a list of her own.
While she reports to Upvoted that Theodore did pass away recently, and says that while nothing could have ever made her feel ready for this, she is fortunate to have had a warning. Mehta shares that she is grateful for all the advice received from the Relationships community.
“In the end, we may not have been completely without regrets, but we managed to make our list of ‘I wish I hads’ a lot shorter,” she says.
In the weeks leading up to Theodore’s passing, Mehta put together a list of final to-dos based on the feedback she received from the community ways to cherish their last living moments together. Below, Mehta shares how they spent their finals days.
Took photos, Lots of them
I used to be anti-pictures. I’d say that if something is important enough, you’ll remember it. But now I believe you need to find that balance. I took pictures of Theodore in the middle of ordinary acts tying his shoelaces, making himself eggs (the only thing he could cook), cleaning his laptop, and just snoring away next to me. Since I couldn’t freeze time, this was the closest I could manage. I have loads of data and I still don’t think it’s enough.
Theodore privately made video recordings for my milestone birthdays. I recently celebrated one, and watching the video was the only thing that made me feel alive.
Got our logistics in order
As much as people want to avoid thinking about a life beyond the one they love most, that only makes things more difficult when it inevitably comes. We got all our financial information together: account numbers, passwords, insurance details, wills, and any debts.
Theodore taught me how to log onto his bank’s site and wrote me a step-by-step guide on how to access the insurance money after he’s gone. I’m a dreamer at heart with almost no sense of practicality. Luckily, he was quite the opposite.
Discussed his expectations for me when it comes to finding love again
This was one of the hardest things we did. But I needed to be realistic rather than make emotional claims and deal with guilt later in life.
I let him know how important he is, and told him that if I were to become romantically involved with someone down the line, he would have his own place in my life and never be forgotten. I told him I would be open to the idea of being with someone once I was ready, and promised not to hold myself back.
He wrote a letter to my “next spouse” describing all the things about me that he felt were wonderful and important to know. I finally managed to read the letter and I’m more confident than ever that nobody will come close to understanding and loving me the way he did.
Made a scrapbook together
I collected screenshots of the best, cheesiest, most random and meanest things we’ve ever said to each other [via email and online chat]. I printed them and interspersed them with our pictures over the years. Both our birthdays fall on the 9th, so I wrote a few Top 9 lists: Top 9 Dates, Top 9 Naughty Times, the Top 9 Reasons I Love Him. The last one extended to 109 things.
Cook his favorite meals
One of our oldest memories was when we went to this party and he got drunk and refused to eat. I had to make airplanes noises and gestures to feed him. He was quite embarrassed the next day! We relived that.
Had a balcony pinic
We lit some scented candles, laid down a soft mattress and some pillows, popped open a bottle of whiskey, put on some music, and gazed at the stars together. We enjoyed good food and some good, old-fashioned open-air sex (not in that order we’re impatient people!).
Celebrated all the holidays he will miss
Christmas, Diwali (an Indian festival), Halloween, and Valentine’s Day all came early this year.
Captured his essence
I made him wear his favorite shirts for several days so that they’ll smell like him for some time. They say smell is the most powerful of all senses.
Since he’s been gone, I have closed my eyes, inhaled his essence and felt as though he was with me.
Threw him a party
All of his friends and family came over to say a few things about him and to him. Nobody was allowed to cry. I told them I was spending a lot on the funeral and he was stealing my thunder by being a tear-hogger.
The party was actually pretty nice with gag jokes from his goofy friends. Theodore and I considered ourselves to be supremely blessed for getting this warning and time. Sharing that time with those who cared about him just made sense. It was emotional, no doubt, and almost felt unbearable at times, but it let us be free of regrets everyone got a chance to tell him how loved he was and always will be. It was a good chance for him to say the things he wanted to as well.
When everyone left, it was just the two of us. In that moment, it struck me that the next event with all these people would be his funeral.
And when everyone leaves, I would be alone. I could see the fear in his eyes as the reality sunk in that the end of his life was near. We held each other and cried.
Got angry together
Nothing makes it easier. The only solace is that nothing makes it harder, either. I can’t tell you if there’s a right way to deal with grief, but I know for sure that pretending you’re too strong to be affected will eventually lead to a breakdown.
Spent every waking moment together
I took an indefinite amount of time off work. I’m very grateful to everyone at my company for being understanding and supportive throughout this time.
Told him I love him, constantly
I’m one of the luckiest girls because he said it back every time.
Named a star after him
I felt silly doing this. But the comfort I get when I feel exceptionally lonely and I look up at the brightly lit night sky is something I can’t explain. I am watched over. I am safe.