It may not seem like it, but this is the short version of “Til Death Do Us Part” written in 2011 and re-posted in support of gay marriage.

My husband had a brain tumor.

He had a seizure on September 16, 2008. On that day, my life changed completely. I knew that something had been wrong, but I didn’t know what. He had 3 anaplastic astrocytomas, they were inoperable and he had a life expectancy of 3-6 months.

There is never a time when I recall that conversation that I don’t break down in tears. That was the day my life changed. People in my mother’s generation divided their time into before WWII and before JFK’s assassination. For the past 10 years, people divide their lives into before Sept 11 and after Sept 11. I divide my life between before Michael got sick and after. Even on the anniversary of 9/11, when people were talking about where they were and what was said, I thought of Michael waking me up (we lived in California) to tell me about the first plane.

When Michael took ill, I could not fathom being without him. When I met him and throughout our marriage I was strong, independent, and secure. But knowing he was there, letting me be me and him being him, was just one of the greatest gifts of my life. All my life, I had been alone and never felt truly loved or cared for until met Michael DiCarlo. He was the only person in my entire life, including my parents, who ever took care of me in that way. He gave me gentle, tender, loving devotion. He simply adored me and had a calming effect on me like no one I ever knew. It wasn’t just that he was a calming presence, I had done enough work in my life that I had learned calmness and wasn’t completely off the wall anymore, but he could, with few words, just say, “It will be okay.” and I would believe him.

In all of years of marriage he never made me cry…but now the news of his survival chances rendered me hysterical. I couldn’t stop crying. I sobbed openly and without control. How could you take this person from me?? HOW? He was the only one who ever truly cared about me. EVER. He was the only person in my entire life who was consistently there for me. He was my rock, my support, my wonderful wonderful partner through thick and thin, through good times and bad…

I didn’t meet him until I was in my 30s. How could he leave so soon? HOW?

As most who have read here know the story after his dreadful diagnosis was given to me: I took care of Michael for the 11 months and 1 day he lived. After he started treatment, the old Michael came back. There was a time or two that he uncharacteristically yelled at me, but for the most part he came back. There were days he was completely adrift in another world but so many days he was there and present. Smiling, happy. He was the sweetest person I’ve ever known. And he had loved me and I could not do enough for him. For richer and poorer…yes we had been there on both ends…now it was sickness and in health…I would be there in sickness…I would be. I would learn to be. I had to. This was a man who loved me. If I had gotten sick, he would do it for me. When I had my car accident, he helped me do everything when I got home. He was a rough and tumble guy but when he helped me do things, he was incredibly gentle and thoughtful. He would have done anything for me, and now I would do it for him.

I always had some hope of a miracle cure. I always had some hope that somehow some way they would find a cure or a treatment for these menacing tumors before Michael got too sick. When he passed the 3 month mark, I wondered…when he passed the 6 month mark, I wondered. He was bedridden and taking care of him was not easy, but I had live-in help during the week and the kids helped a lot. I wondered if he would go on like this for years or if he would just drift out one day, mentally, and never come back but his body would still be here. His hospital bed was in the family room and the family came over a lot to see him. The kids would run by and wave at him, “Hello Grandpa!” and he would smile and wave back. If he could have 1000 more moments like that, I would love it.

True love is rare. It’s a rare and beautiful thing. As I’ve said, there was no one before Michael who loved me as he did. There were men who loved me and treated me well but no one like that.

Whenever I read anything where someone is opposed to gay marriage, I always have to wonder how you could have so much prejudice in your own heart that you would deny another the love in theirs? I think about my union with Michael. Neither of us thought we would marry again. Neither of us thought we would be in a serious relationship again. We both had had it. But within weeks we knew. You are the one for me. Forever and ever.
That kind of devotion is never wrong.

We could not wait to get married and if someone said I couldn’t marry him, I wouldn’t know what to do. I couldn’t imagine that someone else would have ever denied us the commitment we had emotionally, mentally, physically and legally. Who has the RIGHT to deny that? WHO?

No one.

I had a hard enough time in New York, a medical proxy state, advocating for him and chasing down doctors. The card I held was I was his wife. We were legally married. It’s not just a piece of paper. When you are facing down the medical establishment you need that paper and that status so that you can demand answers and hold people accountable. Had we not been married or married in a “civil union,” I don’t think I would have had any status at all.

And as the person who loved him more than anyone else and looked out for his welfare more than anyone else, that would not have been right. We needed the piece of paper to advocate, to be able to be involved in the discussions, to be the person to receive the news. It had to be me. I had to have had standing. I can’t imagine this whole thing without it.

People who are committed to each other need that piece of paper, they need to vow “in sickness and in health” and to be recognized at the one everything gets filtered through. And I do not understand anyone who could be against that simply because two people have that love but are the same sex.

I cannot understand how love can be so rare, life can be so short, and some people spend it putting energy into trying to deny others their commitment to each other. Nothing (other than parent/child bond) is stronger than the bond of true love between two people. And no one who has found true love should be forced to deal with the idiots in this world who don’t like the form it’s in. True love is true love. Between a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman. It is what it is. And it’s none of your business. Get your nose out of other people’s bedrooms. And then get your head out of your ass.

After having lost the love of my life, and living with that pain every single day, I can’t imagine ever wishing anything but happiness and long-life to anyone who has found true love. I can’t imagine, having known true love and having lost it to cancer, being so petty and so horrible that I would try to deny someone else love and happiness….it’s downright immoral if you ask me.

And then we have the same people saying marriage is between a man and a woman. Unless the woman has Alzheimers. Then, screw her, dump her ass. That’s what Pat Robertson, Mr. Christian preacher, says is okay.

Let me tell you something: If my husband didn’t know me from a rutabaga, I would have stayed and cared for him for the next 30 years. The man was devoted to me when he had his full faculties and even on the days when he was lost in the hazy world of brain tumor patients, he knew my touch. He knew my presence. And he knew I cared for him. And for all we were and for all we gave, that is how it should have been.

Even on the days he was not with it and didn’t really recognize me or make sense, my presence calmed him. He knew, on some level, all was okay. He knew it…and unless you’ve been with a family member who has experienced this, you can’t speak to it. Michael knew I was there and it calmed him even when he couldn’t verbalize who the hell I was. There is something like muscle memory…love memory…when you know that you are surrounded with love. And he was. And he knew it even on the days he didn’t know much of anything. He knew he was loved.

He could have been completely out of it and when I came and sat down by his bed and held his hand, I could see his breathing calm…I could see his face relax. Even completely out of it…he knew I was there. And all was okay.

Michael’s decline started about 3 days before he died. He was non-responsive and was given morphine to help with his labored breathing. He was at home and I was with him. I spent hours by his bedside just holding his hand. I slept on the couch next to his bed. I leaned over and grabbed his hand in the middle of the night. A time or two he squeezed my hand, but for the most part he just lay there.

On the last morning he opened his eyes and stared at me, I held his hand, I told him it was okay. I rubbed his arm. I never let go his gaze until just after noon when he closed his eyes and he was gone. I put my head on his shoulder and sobbed. I know that even through the tumor haze, the morphine, the tugging by death, he knew I was there. Knew I was there and that I loved him. I know he knew that. I know.

And if I had divorced him because he wouldn’t know the difference, then shame on me. It’s not easy to care for someone who fades in and out, but you don’t condone throwing them aside like so much rubbish. Dear people like Newt Gingrich, don’t preach to me about how sacred marriage is.

I do not understand how anyone can be against gay marriage AND for divorce if a spouse has Alzheimers. It means, to me, that there is much hate in their heart. That they don’t know what true love is or what it’s worth. That they put their own stupid parameters on someone else’s life. How dare you. How f’ing dare you. You have no right to opine on these things. You have no right to decide these things.

Love is as love does. Love is an action.

If someone loves someone deeply and completely, they should be able to live their lives with no opinions or interjections from anyone else. Love is rare, life is short. Don’t screw up the time someone else has because you don’t like the gender of the person they choose to love. You have no right, no matter who you are, to interfere with the happiness and love of another human being. You simply have no right. Go live your life and let others live theirs.

You have no right to preach that certain types of union are detrimental to marriage while encouraging spouses to just ditch their spouse suffering from Alzheimers. Soon you’ll be excusing divorce if someone gets a cold. It’s a slippery slope, remember? That’s what you told us when you went all anti-gay marriage on us. Slippery slope.

Let me tell you what is NOT a slippery slope whether it’s dealing with a sick spouse or committing to someone under the law. True love.

That is not a slippery slope. So please take your slippery slopes and stop trying to impart them on others when you feel like it. It’s none of your business. You have no right to say who can get married and who can get divorced.

You have no right to insert hate into a story about love. You have no right.

I miss him every single day. Every single day. And if I had the ability to still be caring for him, I would be honored. Not in a martyr kind of way but in a “I truly loved him and even when he was out of it, he needed to know I was there.” And he deserved it.

That man put “love is an action” into action every day he was with me and I would do so every day of his life whether that life lasted 11 months, 11 years or 41 years. I would do it. It’s what you do.

Life is terribly and horribly short. Life is hard. The road is rough. Love softens it.

Whether it’s same-sex partnerships that you object to or the partnerships where one person has a debilitating disease, it’s not yours to object to. Mind your business.

Live. Laugh. Love.

Everything else is besides the point.