When Your Darkest Wish Is Granted

Only the most courageous, foolish or demented of people will admit what I am about to tell you now.

I have wished an ex-lover dead.

This is the sort of thing that one does not proclaim in public or genteel company, but amongst true friends and the most trusted of confidants, the words are raged aloud with fierce conviction.

I just wish s/he would die…

A deeper dive into the sentiment would usually reveal that the ranting soul does not actually desire the death of a former spouse, paramour or partner…but rather an end to the suffering and harm that this person seems hellbent on causing. I have spoken to my fair share of women (and a pocketful of men) who have wished their exes dead. The reasons are always the same: a mixture of physical, emotional and/or financial abuse; repeating failures to keep or honor promises made to the kids; unhinged negging and gaslighting; a propensity for dishonesty and a complete lack of accountability as they deny guilt of any of the above, even when receipts are provided.

Dealing with this kind of mistreatment – especially when one shares children with the perpetrator – has a knock on, destructive effect. The months can stretch into years with no sign of relief in sight. The jagged part of this pill that is difficult to swallow is that the person now causing so much pain, often deliberately, is the same person you once felt deep affection for. You may have loved them deeply. You may have sworn to love them totally eternally. However, once the veneer of their civility has worn off and the veil of compassion has slipped, YOU are now made the liar. You hate them. You always will. You wish them dead. For some people who cannot handle the anguish, merely wishing for death is not enough. They snap and do the deed themselves… thinking, knowing, utterly convinced that if this person just f***ing died everything would be better for you and your kids.

That’s what I thought. That’s what many other women and a pocketful of men have said to me. That’s what I would cry-scream-pray into my pillow on the night’s when my daughter’s father seemed to go out of his way to thwart her happiness and mine. And then finally, it happened. After 19 years my darkest wish came true. He died yesterday.

It was cancer. It was awful.

A little over a year ago he informed me that he had one type of cancer and then a few months later that he had another. Of course, I did not believe him. He had been using excuses of poor health for years to finagle getting out of promises he’d made to our child for years. His diabetes didn’t allow him to do this. His blood pressure didn’t allow him to do that. However everything in published life online demonstrated the contrary. And while I know that our online lives are curated to portray the best and most fantastic parts of ourselves, I also know that people living with high blood pressure are able to make their support payments or at LEAST show up for a recital on the weekends. I would spend days consoling my heartbroken child, only to get her back on her feet to be let down by him again.

I wish he would just f***ing die, I muttered into the Universe. At least then, there would be an excuse for his failures and absences. As it was, it continually fell to me to provide a reason for this breach of trust and assure my daughter that it did not mean he didn’t love her. He just wasn’t able.

I don’t remember when I stopped praying for his death. It was some time after we moved to South Africa where I thought (erroneously) that he could no longer do damage. You would be astounded what a poisonous heart can achieve with WhatsApp and bus fare to the State Department. (That’s a tea and cake conversation with friends.) By this time, I had stepped out of regular communication with him and left that between him and our daughter. You are all aware of how that concluded. Nevertheless, she forgave him and made attempts at reconciliation once she received the news of his illness. In true fashion, he refused to acknowledge his wrongdoings, insisting instead that she atone for hers. (Which included the unpardonable crime of having a “smart mouth” at 16.) It had been years since I gave him a passing thought, but here he was again, causing my child grief. She would get off the phone in tears, lamenting about the void she felt in our group chats.

Just die already! I groused in my heart.

Of course, I never believed he would. When we were on better terms, he and I used to joke that he was indestructible…that he’d be here with the cockroaches in the wake of a nuclear crisis. That always made him chuckle. I think he believed it too. I can’t imagine he thought his end of life would come at a tender 55.

And now what happens when your darkest wish comes true? Do you feel relief? Is there satisfaction? Glee? Assurance for a brighter future? I feel none of those things. While I banished any caring or strong emotions for the man who sired my first child long ago, I am not HAPPY he’s dead. His passing has eased nothing. My daughter is more broken-hearted than ever and lives with regret. He never got a chance to live up to the potential father he could have been (and as awful as a man he was, I do believe that he could have been a great dad) and she never got a chance to experience the type of relationship he tried to convince her that they had. She is not mourning the loss of what was, but rather what might have been.

6000 miles away, I sit helpless – only able to offer meaningless platitudes gathered from Instagram memes and reels from positivity accounts as she wails on the speaker phone. I can’t hug my baby. I can only let her cuss and cry with an ache I have not heard since I howled when my grandmother died. There are no words I can offer to soothe her. I tell her this. It seems to comfort her, but even through the phone I can feel her shrinking…almost wishing that a part of herself could pass away with her father too.

Now that he has died, it means that a part of my baby will die with him too. This is what it means to have your darkest wish come true.