I realize I left out some information, assuming anyone reading would know my story. Christine had recently found out she was of Norwegian heritage and we decided to take a trip to explore and celebrate our shared culture. All of the proceeding happened on what was supposed to be the day we departed Norway. It all happened thousands of miles away from everyone I knew and loved.
The hotel I stayed at was a five minute walk via skybridge from the Oslo Airport. I dragged our luggage, two backpacking packs, my backpack and Christine’s purse, the short distance and entered the hotel in a daze checked in and made my way to my room. It was about 4pm Oslo time. I had only slept about 2 hours the night before so I laid down. That lasted about 3 minutes before restlessness overtook me and I picked up my phone. I called or texted my mom, not sure which. I asked her not to share because I wanted to tell the kids in person when I got home and didn’t want them to find out before we had a chance to talk. Then I made the same request of Christine’s mom.
They had already shared the news with a few people and I agreed to let them share with close family. It was an easily managed group and they would not share the news, but I was upset they had started contacting people. I was upset that my wife was dead and that people knew about it.
I started making a list of all the people I wanted to inform before I posted the news on social media.
I called my oldest daughter, Christine’s step daughter. She didn’t pick up so I left her a message asking me to call her back. Unlike the other kids B lives in Montana so I couldn’t tell her in person.
Then I composed a message to send to close friends, people who I wanted to tell before they heard through some other means.
B called me back. We have this thing in our family where if someone calls and leaves a message asking for a return call without any other context we know something bad has happened. I could hear in her voice she knew something was up. I took a deep breath.
Me: Hey honey… (breathe, breathe, breathe) Christine has been sick for a long time and last night she (finish saying it!) she took her own life.
The phone was silent. I was holding in a sob in that way where it makes your throat feel like it’s going to burst from pressure.
And then tears. I asked her not to share anything on social media as well. She thanked me for telling her. I wanted so badly to be there with her, not just for her but also for me, but I was in Norway, away from everyone, alone, and there was nothing else to talk about. She hung up.
Friends messaged me. I thanked them. I got on Facebook and read through garbage top ten articles. I saw pictures of all the things people were doing. All the cute babies. All the funny memes. I hated them all and felt terrible for it.
My mom sent me a picture of my son. She had taken them to the zoo. It said ‘E the scientist’. I sat there and looked at this picture. Here was a kid who had just lost his mother. He just didn’t know it yet. It was a picture of someone’s last moments of innocence before they found out how unfair and totally fucked the world could be. It was horrible to see.
I laid down and cried for awhile, drifted in and out of sleep. Christine was next to me in bed. Then she was in the chair. She was standing at the end of the bed. She was in the bathroom. She was standing at the door. She was in my dreams. She was everywhere for just a moment and then she wasn’t.
I finally decided to try and eat something. I walked back to the airport and bought the worst pizza I’ve ever had. I think I ate about three bites. Who knows. I went back to the hotel. People messaged me, I responded. One friend sent me a text saying he was on his way to my house to sit with me. I cried more. There was a voicemail from my brother. I talked to friends. I felt bad for ruining their day.
I put on a lot of chapstick. A lot. Christine had been complaining all trip about her dry lips. I just kept putting on chapstick and saying ‘I hate dry lips’.
I made her promises that I would be the best parent ever, I’d never drink again, I’d be present for our kids, I’d love them twice as much to make up for her loss, I’d never be with another woman. Promises that have all been broken.
I sat and watched the clock tick down until 4am. Time to return to the airport. It suddenly occurred to me I was leaving Christine in Norway. She would be there in that country undergoing autopsy, going to the funeral home to prepare her to come home. All alone. And I would never see her face again.