Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bonus Time

Bonus time.,
originally uploaded by hfabulous.

All I could think about today was that it was day 88. Now I realize that I should never have counted the days, as it will be something I obsess about.

I was sharing at my bereavement group tonight about Michael having his "bonus Christmas" last year. The year he was diagnosed with his brain tumor we talked about all the components that would make up his ideal Christmas. Since childhood I can remember all the Christmas specials where everyone, and everything, just seemed magical. Michael wanted all that, so I did my best to make it happen. And even though he was weak from daily chemotherapy and radiation, our holiday was wonderful.

Last year Michael kept referring to Christmas as his "bonus Christmas," because he wasn't supposed to live that long. Well, at least that is how he thought of it. It was about this time last year when we knew that his tumor was becoming resistant to the treatment. We didn't immediately share it with everybody, as he needed a bit of time to accept this. I knew from my research that once the tumor returned it would be very difficult to fight off. From last Christmas forward, I too began to think in terms of bonus time with Michael. By the end of January 2009 I decided to take a leave of absence from my job. I wanted to be with Michael. I didn't want to wait until he was so sick that I had to leave work. I was able to stay at home with him for three months. We didn't do anything during that time that would be considered significantly different. We just lived our life together, at home, happy. It was bonus time.

I later went back to work for a couple of months, as I needed the money, and I had run out of sick leave. I also realized that after a while Michael began to worry that I was home because he was dying soon. My time back at work was short lived, as Michael's tumor progression lead to increasing memory issues and returned seizures. And although our bonus time became compromised by his declining health, I loved every minute of it.

Michael was a wonderfully smart and compassionate man. He intuitively knew how to frame this final period of his life. He was great about using his dry sense of humor to get through this difficult journey. Thinking in terms of bonus time was as much for his own survival as it was for mine. It's funny to describe this end time as survival, yet that is exactly what it was. He was successful in the way he lived out his final days. He was able to see his time as a gift. Michael confided in me that he didn't always appreciate what he had in life. When you are told that your time is limited, you are forced to take notice of life's value. Michael was blessed with a full year of being relatively symptom free. We were able to enjoy many wonderful times together, especially our wedding day. Everything beyond that first year was a bonus.

Thinking about all of this makes me love and appreciate Michael all the more. He gave me so much happiness during our time together. He gave me bonus time.

I know that this first year without Michael will continue to be difficult, but I don't want it to cast a dark cloud over the bonus that I was given. He continues to remind me that what we had was wonderful. My time with Michael was a gift. And even though I had him for such a short period of time, the love he gave me will last a lifetime, my lifetime. The tears will continue to fall, yet with each drop I will be forever grateful. He was my bonus.


  1. Very lovely words and an inspiring perspective. Sometimes I get so caught up in my own grief in the here and now, I forget how looking at the situation in a different way can result in a new, more positive mindset (at least for awhile anyway!).

    This post made me reflect on all that I learned from my husband as he battled his illness. Kind of how Michael inspired you to look back on your extra time together as "bonus time." I know that I have often been blown away by recognizing all the gifts my husband gave me long after his death.

  2. They had so much to give us, even in their darkest hours. I'm always telling friends how much Michael continued to give me, right up until his last days.

    I want to remember these things, especially when I am so grief stricken. It allows me to feel cared for by him.