We woke up like any normal day. Feeding dogs at 5am and gathering together around the coffee pot to start our day. After 30 years of marriage, that coffee time is pretty casual. Him doing his thing, and me doing mine. We paused and talked about the corona virus, how we were going to hunker down for a bit, and hoping his heart procedure on the next Thursday wouldn’t be cancelled.

We had things figured out, stressing a little about the heart procedure, and reassuring each other that if stints weren’t going to be enough, then I’d have to kick it into gear around here while he recovered from a bypass. We joked about him having to actually recover after a bypass, unlike his first heart attack. He had had a heart cath the first time, so recovery for him was building a deck around our pool. A bypass wouldn’t be like that, but it’s hard to keep a driven man down.

At daybreak he went outside to feed horses, and said he was going to get started on his latest project, some skirting around my camper. I could see him piddling around outside the window, but wasn’t paying that much attention.

A while later, I stepped outside. I was going to go in the woods to look for plum trees. If there were any, I was going to mark them to come back later in the season for a bounty.

Devon was near the fence and I asked him where BJ was. He said he had gone to the container to get longer screws. I looked over that way and didn’t see him.

Knowing what I know now, and knowing his heart was giving him trouble, I should have gone to check. Instead, I asked Devon if he wanted to go walk to the woods with me, and he did. We didn’t find plums but several dogwoods, and I grabbed a flower to show BJ.

When we got back to the house, BJ still wasn’t there, so I decided to go see what he was looking for.

As I approached the shipping container where his tools were stored, he wasn’t around. I stepped into the container, and there he was, face down on his belly. My big giant of a man, wasn’t standing there piddling, he was down. I had no phone, no help, and I was quickly losing my mind. I screamed and screamed OH MY GOD OH MY GOD as I tried desperately to turn him on his back.

Today, with mental clarity and logic returning, I knew that he was dead. But there is nothing in your mind, heart and body that willingly gives up when you see your husband on the ground.

Having a heart problem, I knew he carried nitro. Not having a phone, but knowing him well, I grabbed his phone out of the front pocket of his bib overalls. I was able to get him on his side long enough to get his nitro, and shoved pill after pill in his mouth.

Nothing helped.

I called 911. I begged and begged for them to hurry. They wanted me to do CPR, but I couldn’t get him turned over. I ran outside the shipping container because I thought the ambulance had arrived. They weren’t there. I was screaming, begging, pleading for them to hurry.

Blessedly, my neighbor was outside and saw me. He launched over his fence to me. Called over his shoulder to his wife and son, and they all came. We got BJ turned over, and his son began CPR.

At this point, BJ’s ears were blue. He had fallen face first, and had a cut on his nose, his forehead, and the top of his head. There was no blood flow. He hadn’t been breathing for I don’t know how long. We had no heart beat. But we kept at it.

The ambulance came, finally. The driver, all business, put monitors on and showed me that there was no rhythm. There was nothing. She made sure to tell me that she was “required to do CPR for 20 minutes”. Although, she herself never did. The young assistant, and the neighbors son continued for the full 20 minutes.

The sheriff was called. The justice of the peace was called and each did their thing. Asking questions, taking pictures, making sure nothing untoward had happened.

My nephew was here. The neighbors were here. But my husband was gone.

I thank God everyday for those neighbors. We’re new to this area, and so are they. My husband knew the man, Gilbreth. I had never met them. But they are now like family. They helped me and saved me at my most vulnerable, most heart wrenching moment. God bless them, truly, because they were angels on earth for me that day.

I’ll never forgive myself for going to the woods. I’ll never forgive myself for not making him sit inside until we could get him in for his heart procedure. I didn’t and couldn’t save my husband, and I’ll live with that for the rest of my life.

Life on this farm, this raw piece of land we were building together, this homestead where my big strong hulk of a man once reined, is over. No more will I see his face. No more will those big strong hands hold me, love me, and protect me.

The day I lost BJ, is the day the Lord ripped my soul from my body and left an empty shell to walk the earth.

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