Field Notes

The pain of losing your wife: 'She left a bit of her strength inside me'

The pain of losing your wife: 'She left a bit of her strength inside me'
Kendall Rowe gives a thumbs-up before going in for surgery (Photo from Mike Rowe)

Mike Rowe makes me cry.

I’m sure he doesn’t mean to but the Beaverton police officer has a story that just breaks my heart to the point where if I look at his Facebook page or see a message from him, I tear up.

Mike’s wife, Kendall died a week ago.

She was 37-years-old and had been battling colon cancer for almost four years.

A few weeks ago she reached the point where she was done. Chemo had run its course and she was beyond tired. They went to the coast and came home to hospice care.

On Thursday, they arrived and Mike – with the help of friends – made sure she had Disney princess sheets waiting for her on her new bed.

The next morning she died.

Her last word was “Mike.”

I never met Kendall, knowing her only through the lens of Mike. This past week I have not been able to get her out of my mind, this woman so clearly filled with love and intelligence and compassion.

“I imagined that I would be a complete mess and would not be able to function,” Mike wrote a couple of days ago. “All I can think is that when Kendall left her body she passed through me as I held her and she left a bit of her strength inside me.”

Just listen to Mike.

“I know that Kendall wants me to grieve and I am and will until we are together again. Kendall spent almost four years being poisoned, cut on and being in pain. Kendall never got to feel things get better or less painful. Even with all of this she never complained, never wanted to just give up and smiled every day. The pain I feel will never go away. At times it will be horrible but will get better as time goes on. I owe it to Kendall to deal with her loss and the pain in my heart as brave as she dealt with her pain.”

There is so much awfulness in the world.

As a police officer, Mike sees it every day. In this business, there is no escaping the horrors that we inflict upon each other and that gets thrown in our paths.

What is amazing is when you see someone coping with stuff that is almost too horrible to get your mind around – a young woman with so much ahead is one of those things.

“It was a peaceful death in my arms. She knew I had her back and I know that she has my back. I am more than heart broken and am still trying to figure out what to do. She was my best friend and I will miss her so much.

“Just know she is in a better place and is looking down with that amazing smile.”

What is staying with me is how Kendall faced her battles.

This is Mike talking about that last October:

“A good week equals not feeling like she needs to be in bed all day with no appetite and just feeling like crap. A good week is being able and wanting to get out of the house and visit with friends and family or just to enjoy what the day has provided.

“Sure Kendall has her bad days and we talk about how much this sucks and how un-fair it is, but that is not often. Kendall spends more time enjoying life and what it has to provide and what she has to give to all of us. Kendall spends more time worrying about those of us who love and care for her than she does for the fact that she has cancer.”

In four years, she went through a half-dozen surgeries and nearly as many radiation treatments along with scores of chemo treatments.

“My wife is the strongest person I have ever met and I am so blessed to be able to be a part of her life and go through this journey with her,” Mike wrote. “If I could take the cancer from her I would do it in a heartbeat.”

We all have to face things in life.

What Kendall’s story makes clear is that what defines us is not the obstacles we face but how we face them.

She faced them with strength and left those around her and those who have heard her story a little stronger.

As Mike wrote of the picture above “If Kendall can give me a thumbs up and that beautiful smile before she has colon surgery, I can muster a smile today and every day.”

Kendall – I never got to say goodbye let alone hello but thank you for having been here.