Courtesy of TheInsider.com | By Julia Naftulin | Published 10.27.2022 | Posted 11.24.2022
- Author Deirdre Fagan’s husband Bob was diagnosed with ALS a decade into their marriage.
- Bob told Fagan he wanted her to be in love again.
- Fagan told Insider how she did just that with her co-worker Dave, who she became close with in Bob’s last months.
Deirdre Fagan was sure Bob would be her last husband.
Her first marriage was all about passion, her second was too friendship-focused. As soon as she met Bob, while they studied together as graduate students at the University at Albany, something clicked. This is what it feels like to have the right combination of both qualities, she thought.
In 2011, 11 years after they married, Bob was diagnosed with the terminal illness amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and given two to five years to live. He died 1o months later when he was just 43 years old.
“It was as though somebody pulled up in the driveway and said he’d been killed in an accident. I mean, the news hits you in the same way,” Fagan told Insider.
She couldn’t eat, and remembers drinking a lot of wine, picking up a cigarette-smoking habit, and crying. They had necessary, heart-wrenching conversations about finances, funeral plans, the day-to-day lives of their two young children.
But it was Bob who nudged her to consider the elephant in the room: the life she would have without him. He suggested that she find a new partner in his final year. That was important to Fagan; she wanted her new lover to know Bob, too.
“I loved him so much and he was so central to my life and always will be, so it made me sad that he would just be stories for somebody else, and they could never know him themselves,” Fagan, who writes about the family she created with Bob in her upcoming book “Find a Place for Me,” told Insider.
Though the process was messy and emotionally overwhelming, it resulted in Fagan falling in love with her co-worker Dave. They’ve been married for more than seven years and together for 10.
Grieving her husband while he was still alive
According to Fagan, she and Bob didn’t subscribe to the idea of soulmates. Instead, they felt grateful to have met each other after growing from past relationships. That shared perspective on love gave her hope.
When Bob was first diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, on December 29, 2011, Fagan wrote that she went through the “deepest denial” she’s ever experienced.
She didn’t want Bob to be reduced to a story she tells. Fagan already experienced that with her siblings and parents, who all died by the time she was 36.
It took her four months, the halfway point between Bob’s diagnosis and death, to accept the reality, she said. By this point, Bob’s fine motor skills and energy began to weaken, and his speech started to become strained and slurred. He couldn’t pick up his children, open water bottles, or hold a sponge to clean dishes, Fagan wrote.