It is difficult when you lose someone you love, a person you spent so many days with. There is a strange emptiness, a void, this person used to fill. The house is quieter; you find yourself becoming quieter too.
These were the sentiments of Althea McClean who lost her husband of ten years, Mack McClean to lupus. When asked to describe her late husband, she stops to collect herself. It is difficult for her to summarize the totality of what he was to her.
After a moment, she explains that to most he was a man shrouded in mystery, a trait which sprung from his quiet nature. She goes on to describe his introspective manner- “…as a man always deep in thought, a man who knew when to listen and when to speak…his demeanor was soft, he was always calm and untroubled.” She lets out a hearty laugh, telling of her and her late husband’s contrasting personalities.
“I was from Guyana; he was from Barbados…
and that was the least of our differences…”
A woman more than a decade his junior, more outgoing and lively, she recalls her initial hesitation on entering a relationship with the reserved-natured man. “I liked to go out, and he was more of a stay at home type of person” she laughs.
She soon however came to love and cherish these qualities about him, adding truth to the saying that ‘Opposite attracts.’ She states that in the end, it didn’t what matter who they were, because they were basically what each other was not- they completed the missing parts of each other.
Althea recalls happily the many nights she and her husband sat on their patio talking for hours in their home in Six Men’s Village, until the only sound from the neighborhood was the chirps of crickets and the beginning cries of the rooster. Their conversation spanned the length of topics: from how their days were, to deep- rooted conversations about life. They could talk just about anything.
It is these conversations she misses the most. It is what she remembers as she doses off to sleep, or when she sits, now alone, on the patio they once share. His memory lingers in every other corner of their home too “Everywhere I look, I see him. Our house is pieces of reminders… you know, that he was here.”
Her husband’s death a very heart wrenching lost. She recounts with visible sadness, the hold the disease which eventually took his life, had on him in his last days. Lupus- a complicated autoimmune disease, he suffered with chronic panic and fatigue to the point where he was unable to care for himself. It was Althea who took on this responsibility. She explains proudly that as his wife, she made a commitment to be there for him, for better or for worse, through sickness and through health. At that time, being unemployed, and having no children, allowed her the opportunity to give her husband the full attention he needed. Despite her love for caring for him though, she stated that she hated what the illness was doing to him. There were days when she wanted to take his pain away, maybe if possible to bear it for him.
“That is what happens when you care for someone so much. You love them so much, that you wish that you could take it all for them.” She states.
The only glimmer of hope through it all, and what keeps her at peace to this day is the strong sense of determination her husband had. She explains that he, in addition to being a quiet man, was very strong willed. Even before his sickness took over, she remembers him as a person who never left anything unfinished. Even in his job as a carpenter, a vocation he held for over 20 years, he excelled. “He was just like that…there was always more learning to have, more growing to be done…” she states. “He was just a do-er.”
His last days are spent at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and on December 20th, 2010, Mack, to the dismay of his love ones passed away. Althea recalls the day as one filled with tremendous sadness. Knowing that he was gone, and that they would never speak, or have another late-night talk on the patio, fueled her pain.
His family immediately takes up the charge of planning the funeral from the grieving widow, picking out a casket they knew Mack would love, and ensuring that all expenses were paid. Althea’s only concern was giving her husband the perfect send-off he deserved. She sits as the front of the church, though heartbroken, happy for the time she and her husband spent together. She listens as many at his funeral testify of his tenacity, lauding him as a man “full of courage and resolve” She is filled with pride as she remembers him.
When asked how she has been since his passing, she nods in uncertainty.
“I don’t know.”
She smiles for a moment.
“There were so many things I learnt from him. There were so many things he said to me, and I didn’t understand until he passed. It was as if he was somehow guiding me…passing on this strong-headedness to me…”
Since his passing, Althea says she would still find herself coming out sitting on the patio late at night. And even though her husband is no longer there to fill in the other side of the conversation, it somehow makes her happier.
For her, her husband’s lives on in these things.
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