Existing but not Really Living

I have been waiting over four months to receive a death certificate from the State Medical Examiner.  I’d like to know specifically why my husband’s heart stopped at mile 11 during a half-marathon.  He was a runner and had completed  several half-marathons and a full marathon.   The email below was written a couple week ago and sent directly to the Medical Examiner in the hopes that she would write back.  She still hasn’t responded.  They don’t return phone calls either.

If it hadn’t been Jason’s heart that failed then I would have suggested we transplant his heart into Dr. Radisch.  She must have one but it has grown cold towards the suffering of others.  I guess I can understand.  It would be difficult to work with lifeless bodies every single day.  I just want answers so badly that it physically hurts and the truth is that I may never understand the unfairness of this situation. I know none of this is her fault and I know she is very busy and working as fast as she can.  I’m just sad and angry and am not sure where to direct those emotions.   I spend nights sitting up in my bed hoping for my own heart to just quit too.    I just want to be where Jason is and I just want to hear his voice and see his smile.  But then I look over at Klaus and wonder who would take care of him, or my parents?  Everyone tells me that my life will be colorful again someday, but it will never be the same.  Living without Jason is living without the Sun.

Dear Dr.Radisch,

It has been 3 and a half months since my husband’s death.  I’m told that time will make it easier but each day that passes puts more distance between us.  There was a certain amount of adrenaline (or maybe disbelief?) that kept me going the first month but it faded.  The past two months have been the lowest.  The shirt he was wearing the day before his death no longer holds his smell  and traces of him in our house are slowly fading.   I finally had to throw out his orange juice after looking at its bloated contents for two months every time I opened the refrigerator.  There was his bath towel I eventually had to wash because it started to smell more of mildew and no longer the Irish Spring soap he used.  I have a hard time looking to my right when I walk in our closet because there sit his running shoes which still have his timing chip attached to the laces.  Those I will never let go of nor the sunglasses he was wearing that day, still streaked with his sweat and determination to finish with 8 minute miles.  All that remains of my husband now are the memories and his ashes which sit next to our bed.  
  I frequently wake up in the middle of the night or in the early morning trying to relive the day before the race and the morning of, wondering if there was something I could have done to prevent him from leaving without saying goodbye.  You told me you believe his heart stopped due to a fatal cardiac arrhythmia so I started doing my own research on the causes…and what I found is an overwhelming amount of information but no real answers.  Jason never once complained of a racing heartbeat or feeling dizzy, and this wasn’t his first race.   I understand in over half the cases there are no warning signs.  But what if he hadn’t downed a Starbucks Refresher that morning which contained caffeine? Or maybe he didn’t drink enough water the day before and was dehydrated.  His mom and sisters drove up from Florida to be at the race and we had a celebratory beer on Saturday…I knew I should have told him “no beer before race day” but I didn’t want to be the nagging wife.  Perhaps it was his late night snacking on cheese and Triscuits which was a habit of his for years.  Or maybe it was all the stress from his job and the constant flights to Asia building up in his body like a toxin.  Or perhaps it was the combination of prescribed medications in his system backfiring and suddenly turning against him?  We were running late the morning of the marathon and I didn’t even have a chance to hug him, or tell him I loved him.  Was it the breaking of that ritual that jinxed us that day?  
I’ve become obsessed with wanting to know why this happened even though no amount of knowledge will give me another opportunity to kiss him goodbye and wish him a great day as he heads to work, or wash dishes together and roll my eyes at how much water he managed to splash around the sink, or take the trip we were planning to New Zealand…we had been waiting until I got 4 weeks of vacation at work which ironically enough was granted to me this year.   I’ve stopped thinking about the future because there isn’t one right now, at least that I can see.  I want to have hope so badly but it just won’t come, and when it does it only stays for a few minutes before disappearing again.   
Thank you for quickly responding to my first email back in May.  I was hoping to have more answers by now but I just keep coming up with more questions.  I emailed you again but have never received a response.  When I call your office to speak with someone I am coldly told that it will take 6 months before I have a death certificate and that I’ll just have to wait until then for the life insurance benefits.  That’s fine…I’ve become very skilled at determining which bills must be paid such as electricity and our mortgage, and which bills can go straight to the shredder, like the monthly invoice from Wake Med.  Last month I received a bill from Wake Med threatening to turn Jason’s bill to a collections agency, and notifying him that his credit could be compromised.  I’m fairly certain Jason doesn’t care if his credit is compromised now.   I really don’t care anymore if the bank takes the house, or if my student loans go to a collection agency and my credit is ruined.   All that matters now is knowing why this happened to Jason, and if it could have been prevented.  If it could have been prevented, then how?  What can I do to prevent it from happening to another wife?  I can’t save Jason but what if I can save someone else?   
Would you be willing to speak with me once you complete your report and tell me all that you know?  I’m trying desperately to find a purpose for existing now that Jason is gone. If what caused my husband to collapse on April 13th is preventable, then we are wasting valuable time and another life is likely to be lost.  I want to do all that I can to prevent it but I need answers that only you can provide.  
I am pleading for a response from you so please find it in your heart to understand that Jason was a husband, a son, and a brother…he was not a case file to us.  
Thank you,
Renee Schlosser

4 thoughts on “Existing but not Really Living

  1. I too am dealing with “pending” on the death certificate. They quoted me 3-5 months. It’s incredibly frustrating! Not only does it put everything on hold but it also leaves me in this weird limbo of not knowing what happened. I can only imagine when I have lived with it as long as you have that I will be bursting part at the seams in frustration.

    Part of me is afraid of finding out because what if it was something I missed and I failed him? It’s scary. Ultimately is is better to know and have the mystery solved. I am sending positive thoughts that you get your answers soon.


    1. I received the pending death certificate but I was told 6 months for the amended death certificate which would list the cause. Of course it leaves us wondering what happened and also adds the financial stress of not having access to life insurance benefits. The financial stress I can deal with, it’s the lack of answers that brings frustration.

      As you know I’ve gone through the same routine of wondering if there was something I could have done. People tell me there is nothing I could have done and the circular thinking isn’t helping me heal….and I know that. I don’t think people can truly understand the self-doubt and the “what-ifs” until they are in this situation. I don’t believe we failed our husbands and I’m sure Jason would tell me to stop blaming myself if he were here.

      Only other young widows can understand the pain of not only losing the person you were closest to but also the fear that comes with losing the future you had planned together. And it is terrifying and scary and confusing and chaotic. But we’ll make it. My thoughts are with you and just know you aren’t alone.


    1. I’m terribly sorry. As you are well aware there are no words that can express my sadness for you. I’ve encountered so many young widows in the past few days and I suppose knowing I’m not alone brings some peace, but also leaves a bitter taste because the universe plays by rules we don’t understand. And rules that seem so unfair. My thoughts are with you and I hope you and your children find happiness again.


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