What’s the most surreal experience you’ve ever had?
I would have to say it began with the lack of interaction with hospital staff after my first husband died. Here's how it went:He had a massive heart attack early one morning. I call 911. They come and take him out after talking with me briefly; as they pull away with lights on, there are no sirens--I know at that point that he is dead. I take my then-three-year-old son to his preschool and make my way to the emergency room. I am told to wait a moment; during my waiting, I overhear two guys talking about having to take a man out of a very narrow upstairs. My upstairs. I am taken to a small room down a back hall. The room. I am told to wait. It's quiet. I'm alone. I go out into the hallway and make calls: my boss, my mom; a mobile phone in an emergency room causes action. People come. Some guy tells me he didn't make it, like I hadn't figured that out. I am taken to go see him; the nurse asks if I want her to come in with me. I don't remember what I said, but I thought, no, you don't need to watch if I slap him, or if I break down and cry, or lose my mind and start laughing hysterically. I go in and there he is, with a sheet pulled neatly to his chin, the apparatus they use to pump air into him still in his mouth. I go outside the curtain to find that I am alone again. I wander to a desk to find a bored young man (I think; the memory is hazy now). I ask what to do next; I am 30 years old. He tells me to call a mortuary, that the hospital will keep the body (he says, "him") there until arrangements are made. I ask if there is anything else, he says no; he does not offer me a social worker's card, a priest or pastor. It is about 8 in the morning. I look outside and ponder if I should run out screaming and step in front of a city bus. I don't. I go to my car and drive home to clean up the mess left by the paramedics. I straighten furniture, pick up IV covers, alcohol scrub packets, and other detritus from the invasion of health professionals. I don't look at the bed much, creeped out by the thought of sleeping in it ever again. I throw away the sheets and put the mattress and box spring out for trash collection sometime later and sleep from then on downstairs on a couch until my son and I move out. I make phone calls, telling his three daughters from three different previous relationships (no marriages except ours, and that probably the biggest tragedy of them all). I search the phone book for a mortuary and settle on one with my grandmother's name in its title. I leave a message and get back in the car to drive to my mother's. I can't stay a moment longer. As I drive across the bridge, out of state, out of my mind, lost on my way to mom's, my mobile rings. I answer and keep driving; it is a time way before cell phone law. I tell the woman on the other end what has happened; she assures me that they will take care of everything, that I must drive safely to my mother's, that they will go retrieve him from the hospital, and that they will call me in a couple of days to work out arrangements.I don't know how long I stayed at my mother's. She came back with me and somehow the world had continued going without me; my son was well-cared for and had been going to school (I had dropped him at his preschool but he was in another day program as well. Somehow it worked out). I went to the mortuary and ask to see him; I ask if I can take my video camera back there because I am chonicling what has happened for my son, who is 3, who won't know his father otherwise. I had done a bit of filming back at the house after cleaning up as an introduction and now I wanted to film in the workroom. The mortician was concerned; would I be all right going back there since there were...others...back there? I asked if they were also dead. He said yes. I said I would be fine then. He allowed me to go back and there I was, face to face with him again. The apparatus was out of his mouth and he looked peaceful. I made a comment about him looking okay when I came out; the mortician told me that's how he'd come from the hospital. I made payment arrangements because we had no insurance. I sold my sports car.One night after the funeral, I was asleep on my couch. I felt someone holding my hand and when I opened my eyes, it was him; he was dressed in a white denim suit and had a smile on his face--a smile that said, I get it, really, finally. And then he was gone. I could smell his cologne on my hand, even though I'd disposed of every trace of him that had been left in the house weeks prior.It's been almost 15 years and I still had nightmares about that marriage until just a few months ago.