Thursday, December 05, 2013

Ready or Not in the Land of the Dying

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.
The visiting hospice nurse was shocked--pleased shocked. "Now I know why you all say he was such a great guy."

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.
This went on for about a week. Then he rapidly slid further than he'd been before--barely opening his eyes for more than a few minutes--mostly staying distant and unfocused.

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.

It didn't.

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.

I wasn't fine. It wasn't okay. I desperately wanted him to hang on for me.

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: 

"Please, don't leave me. Not yet. I can't live without you."

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