My grief shoes
Flat feet and hospital floors don’t mesh.
When I moved into the hospital after Ramón’s cardiac arrest in spring of 2020, my flat feet lived in slippers. With COVID-19 confining me to Ramón’s room, you’d think I just sat around all day. But I was surprisingly mobile.
I often stood as I massaged Ramón and worked him through range-of-motion exercises. I routinely paced around for mental health and step-tracking reasons. Because of this, my feet ached throughout the days.
I wanted some simple shoes I could slip on and off with little effort, so I made an online purchase.
When they arrived, they didn’t look as sleek as they had on my phone (says the person ordering kids’ shoes with Velcro instead of laces). But I would be pairing them with hoodies, sweats, and pajama pants anyway, so I didn’t much care.
“Ramón doesn’t know these shoes,” I thought as I tried them on.
I could just imagine him waking up from his coma, for lack of a better word, and making fun of my shoes.
“Is a toddler here?” I pictured him chiding.
These shoes supported my feet as I endured the hardest days of my life.
I was wearing them when a neurologist whom I adored asked if I could step into the hallway to talk — and as she broke the news that she feared Ramón wouldn’t wake up any further.
I wore them as I walked down the barren hospital halls to use the family showers, where I cried and wished the water would take me away.
I wore them as I wearily made my way back to Ramón’s hospital room — and as I hugged him and held him all while my heart was breaking.
A few weeks later, I wore them as Ramón died — and as I exited the hospital on that hot summer day, absorbing the frigidity of widowhood.
Today my grief shoes are nearing retirement.
My pinky toes play peekaboo through the dilapidated mesh. The insides have shed almost all their layers. And the Velcro (perfect for children!) is barely holding together.
I struggle to believe Ramón has been gone for the lifetime of a shoe. If I’m honest, the shoes reached the afterlife almost a year ago.
Though I wore them through so much hospital heartache, they’ve also supported me as I rediscovered life.
I wore them as I logged countless miles of dog walking and as I pulled weeds in the yard, celebrating when I got the entire root system. “It’s so satisfying!” Ramón used to say when he got the whole shebang.
It’s bittersweet as I prepare to bid them farewell.
In another way, I’m oddly proud. These shoes remind me that I didn’t hibernate when the grief got too heavy. They remind me that I kept moving forward no matter how much I longed to have Ramón by my side.
I wore my grief shoes as I toddled into an unexpected yet wondrous life.