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Janus, god of doors, represents looking forward and backward, beginnings and endings, and transitions.
When Alan hit his head falling against the bathroom door, neither he nor I nor EMS could open it. It took the fire department breaking down the door to rescue Alan and rush him on his way to the hospital.
I wanted to be in the ambulance with Alan, but EMS would not wait for me to dress because it was a head injury and Alan needed treatment immediately. It was seven a.m., and I was in a robe.
Alan wanted his wallet, which I gave him after filling it with “tip” money. EMS asked Alan what else he needed. “I have my wallet and my wife; don’t need anything else.”
Alan loved our apartment, which at five o’clock became a golden pond. He’d long said the only way he’d ever leave it would be “feet first,” and as EMS wheeled him out feet first, a chill ran through me.
I tried to dress quickly but was impeded by the wood and nails that had turned bathroom and hall into what looked like a war zone.
Alan went into the hospital with a head injury and was transferred to rehab for the weak leg that had buckled, causing the fall. He was tested for COVID-19; the result was negative. He declared it the third-happiest day of his life, the first being when he married me.
Three weeks later he tested positive and 10 days later the virus claimed him.
During the period from March 7, 2020, to April 15, 2020, I cared little that our apartment looked like a construction site or that walking barefoot was not an option as the floor was littered with splinters and hidden nails.
At some point, management had the place cleaned up and a temporary brown door was installed. It was the peak of the pandemic in Manhattan, and I was told that all nonessential work would be delayed until the threat had lessened.
There was no funeral, no memorial service, no gathering of friends and family, no hugs. I’d been prevented from seeing Alan for the last month of his life. I wasn’t even allowed to view his body.
I mourned in isolation.
I was advised to focus on the happy memories, but I couldn’t. Seeing the door and damaged door frame forced me to relive the morning of March 7 and the weeks that followed.
COVID-19 had destroyed the rituals of grieving and the comfort to be had by human contact.
Alan had said that at any ceremony for him, he wanted the Mozart Requiem Mass in D Minor. So, this past April 14 – anniversary of the last day he was happy, expressing joy at our upcoming anniversary on April 17 – I immersed myself in the Mozart Requiem. On April 17, I switched to one of Alan’s favorite operas, Le Nozze di Figaro.
I still couldn’t indulge in looking at our myriad photo albums, proof of our happy times – in Budapest, Venice, Vienna, Paris, Prague, Florence, etc.
Alan and I usually started our evenings at home watching Jeopardy!, competing to be faster than the contestants and each other. Now, as I watch without him, in one of the commercials the background music starts with Chopin’s Minute Waltz followed by a rousing segment of Mozart’s Requiem. Yes, the Requiem. Alan’s Requiem.
Several weeks ago, on a routine inspection of smoke alarms, the supervisor noted the bathroom door and frame. The pandemic, sadly, is still with us, but he ordered that the door and door frame be painted.
It was done – beautifully.
That night, scarcely aware of what I was doing, I started to look at our photo albums and felt Alan, in his Hudson blue urn atop the music cabinet, smiling at me, guiding me through this transition and reminding me that Janus looked forward as well as backward.
Beatrice Williams-Rude is a former actress and singer who appeared on and off Broadway, in summer stock, and on TV. She shifted to journalism and was a copy editor at Fairchild Publications and Broadcasting & Cable magazine. She was the NY assistant of playwright Dale Wasserman for the last seven years of his life.