Five years ago today my husband and best friend died.
He went into the hospital for heart surgery and had a massive stroke while in surgery.
He was only 56 years old.
He was also my BEST friend for 28 years.
I’m writing this BLOG post as a tribute to him, and to also help myself move forward from the shocking and devastating experience this has been for me.
But I’m also writing this post to let others know what I now know first hand.
Yes, we have heard it all before; make sure you tell those you love what you want to say before they leave this earth. Make peace, don’t hold grudges, and don’t be embarrassed or afraid to tell the truth about how you feel about another person. The truth is...it is all true!!
But first let me tell you a bit about Michael Romelli.
I met him on a ‘Friday the 13th’.
I was madly in love with him three days later on Tuesday, January 17th when I looked at him and he smiled and I felt a strong electrical current shoot thru my body.
Seriously, it isn't a cliche..I actually got hit with a lightening bolt and physically moved in my chair.
I felt I had known him forever and was instantly comfortable and felt safe in his presence.
I could tell him anything.
We were best friends immediately and inseparable.
He was charming, optimistic, funny, and full of energy…and had the most beautiful Italian brown eyes.
He was also flawed, imperfect, and a human being that struggled with life as we all do.
I spent 22 years living with Michael trying to help him grow-up, be stronger, be a better person, and find his way.
I had to eventually leave him, not because I didn’t love him anymore, but because I couldn’t stand the ‘crazy’ any more.
I left the ‘home’; however, I never left Michael.
We always stayed best friends to each other.
I went on to start my own business and move forward with my life, but Michael, still in my life, went on to have many health problems.
He had high blood pressure, was a diabetic, and the beginnings of glaucoma.
I saw him through a cocaine problem, a prior heart attack, three strokes, and losing his mother and younger sister who both died of cancer exactly one week apart from each other.
The strokes had taken their toll leaving him visually impaired and unable to work anymore.
The last year and a half of his life he moved in with me and I was taking care of him...once again.
I had a lot of resentment that I was always the responsible one and I was always the problem solver.
In the last couple of months before his death, at times, I took things out on him.
Not all the time, there were many moments of laughter, and love, and watching favorite TV shows together, and I enjoyed caring and being there for him.
But I was stressed with keeping his Dr. appointments, getting him on disability, filling in paperwork for different government programs, making phone calls, filling prescriptions, making his meals, etc, and still going to work and running my business.
I was resentful at times, impatient, and feeling sorry for myself.
I know he felt he was a burden to me.
For this I am ashamed and eternally and sincerely sorry.
It is a side of me that I am not proud of.
And I will live with this for the rest of my life.
On Feb 7, 2012, I took him to the emergency room for pressure in his upper chest.
After a few days of tests we were told he needed triple bypass surgery scheduled for Monday, Feb 13th.
He wasn’t waking up after surgery.
Eight long, agonizing days and two cat scans later I was told this 4th stroke was a big one he had while in surgery and he would not wake up from it.
I finally told them to take him off life support, crawled into bed next to him, held his hand, rubbed his forehead, and for the next 14 hours lay next to him listening to his breathing until he took his last breath at 4:16 a.m. February 22nd.
I am so grateful that I was able to be by his side when he passed.
I am so grateful that he went before me, and not the other way around, for he would have been lost, alone and unable to deal with it.
I’m grateful that he didn’t suffer to long before passing.
I am grateful that my brother, who is a sculptor, made Michael’s final resting place with his two hands…I know Michael appreciates it as well.
But what leaves me sad is that I never got to have that last ‘conversation’ with him.
You know the one.
The one where you tell each other how much you love them. How you are sorry for any mean things said, how he was NOT a burden to me and I would have taken care of him FOREVER!!
I had planned to tell him these things, but when I called him the evening before surgery he told me to call him back, that the nurse was there to ‘prep’ him for surgery.
They were the last words he spoke to me.
I got preoccupied with TV and Facebook and when I called at 11:00 pm I was told the phones were turned off at 10:00 pm.
I had missed my chance.
I spoke to him several times each day he was in the hospital but I waited till the night before surgery to tell him how much I cared, how sorry I was for my impatience, and how I really felt.
I don’t get a second chance.
I have visions of him lying in bed wondering why I never called back.
Feeling that I didn’t care, that I must be on the computer, or doing something ‘more important’.
It bothers me so.
I know Michael knew I loved him...but he also always complained I was on Facebook to much.
I know he felt neglected. He lost his lively hood..his freedom of driving..he couldn't read small print or get on the computer anymore because of losing his eye sight.
He was restless, bored and envious of my independence.
He often would say he wished he could just go to sleep and not wake up.
I should have been more understanding.
Now I am left only with the hope that he heard me pouring my heart out at his bedside while he was in a coma.
Now I am left only with the hope that the words I poured into a letter left in his cremated ashes will somehow reach him.
Now I am left only with the hope that my apologies and tears that are nearly an everyday occurrence for me will find their way to him.
I was desperate to find a current photo of him. One of how he looked now. I have many, many of him taken over the years of him looking young, handsome, fit, and healthy. But only had one of him recently taken 11 months ago after his second stroke.
Taken in one of those funny photo booths.
Older, scruffier, heavier, greyer, puffy eyes, but it is all I have now to remember him.
How I wish I had made a point to have a current professional photo done of us together.
I don’t get a second chance.
So here is what I know for sure.
We are all going to die.
Our loved ones can be here today…and gone tomorrow.
We don’t get second chances.
Say what you want to say TODAY and don’t take for granted that you can say it tomorrow.
Make sure you take current photos/videos of your loved ones. Believe me you will want a
Make time for your loved ones. Facebook, work, TV can never take the place of your loved ones.
Be kinder, gentler, more patient, more compassionate and more understanding of your loved ones.
And here is what I want you to know about Michael John Romelli.
He was a big kid at heart.
He was a blue collar, simple guy.
He loved sweets.
He had nice, strong hands.
He would have given you his last dollar if you needed it.
He was very personable, liked meeting new people and getting to know them.
He enjoyed watching informative and intelligent TV like Discovery/History channel and HATED ‘reality’ TV.
He enjoyed classic rock and country music.
He was good at math.
He loved Halloween.
He loved camping and hiking and street fairs.
He loved to garden and grow his own fruits and vegetables…and was good at it.
He was great at remembering faces, locations and could navigate around anywhere, didn’t need a GPS. He never had to stop and ask for directions.
He loved going for long drives out to the country.
He seriously collected LEGOS… I mean many thousands and thousands of dollars of LEGOS.
He loved animals, was great with children, and helped the elderly.
He adored Deeva and Lily, and they adored him.
He NEVER held a grudge, and would immediately move forward from an argument.
He was my biggest supporter of my starting my business and was always happy for all my achievements.
He was a nice guy.
He was a big pain in the ass many times…but he was ‘my’ big pain in the ass.
I know he loved me… always, though he many times wasn’t clear as to how to show it.
And I hope he watches over me and guides me through the rest of my days till I can be with him again.
Two months after losing him I had a dream.
My dream was of a thunderstorm coming, the sky was very dark…almost black. It passed and the sun came out.
I awoke the next morning with the very clear message.
‘The sun always comes out after a storm’.
I believed it was my Michael telling me things will get better.
His corneas, some skin and some bones were donated to organ donation, and I have since found out that his corneas have helped a woman in Kearny, NJ and a gentleman in New Hampshire.
Michael’s eyes, his beautiful brown eyes, have helped others to see.
I scattered some of his ashes around the base of a beautiful tree in a local park near me when he passed where I will hoped he became one with this tree and Deeva, Lily, and I go often to sit under the tree and be with him.
I called him ‘Bear’…or ‘Bear Bear’.
I will miss him.
“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.
It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.”
The two of us in happier times
Thank you for listening…now go tell someone you love how much you love them…and take a current photo of them too while you are at it.~
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