I was sure he'd have died by now.
He was sliding fast last spring. I hoped he'd see his birthday in late June, but was positive he'd be gone by August.
Come his birthday, and he rallied. I mean, really rallied. Not just ceasing to slide, but returning to a place he hadn't been in many, many months.
- He was awake for hours at a time.
- He looked people in the eye.
- He cracked his distinctive self-depreciating jokes.
- He laughed and sang.
- He thanked the caregivers for their help.
I couldn't help it. I began to fantasize.
- He isn't dying, at least not soon. We'll have years together, yet. Good years. Awake, aware, and happy years.
But the damage was done.
When we first approached hospice, I was not remotely ready. I only tried it because they evaluate you after three months. If you aren't clearly dying, hospice kicks you out again. I figured that would happen to us.
One evaluation. Two. He was certified dying--even if at slower than the proscribed, gone-in-six-month rate.
Since the beginning, I'd assumed that when the time came I'd say, "I'm fine. Don't hold on just for me. It's okay."
That would be a proper monk-like attitude.
Now the time was imminent, I found I couldn't do it.
My whole mind and body screamed, "Don't go. We were supposed to be together for many more years. Don't leave me."
Nine months passed. A third evaluation. Still, hospice kept us. And I changed. I began to feel that I could let go.
Listening to his cries of confused pain in response to the most benign bodily care--a wipe on the chin, for example--that helped. The stress of life with caregivers also helped --selfish as that may be.
Mostly, time helped. I just got used to the idea again.
Then came the day he said he was dying. Right then. I found myself saying, "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."
It was true. With my whole heart and body, I knew I would be fine. I was finally ready. What a relief.
Until his birthday rally.
Now, that is a lie.
Five months and several hospice evaluations later, my only thought is: