Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Waiting Game

I've always known just how crazy life can be. How utterly confusing and out of control it can get. How exhaustion and sadness can take over your body even though you're getting an acceptable amount of sleep. How even when you go to sleep, sleep sometimes doesn't come. I know all these things because I truly live life. But the ride I've been on for the last several months has completely reinforced that. Again. And I am truly exhausted on so many levels. And in many ways, I feel like the relief won't come when she dies. I think it'll just start the sadness and exhaustion down a different path.

Sometimes I peer into this life of mine and wonder "how the hell did I get here?" I've stepped up to the plate in ways I never anticipated. Ways I knew I was capable of. But I've had a front seat to the deterioration of my mother-in-law; an experience that will surely be seared into my brain for just the rest of my life.

One of the many things I accomplished today was to write her obituary. No, she hasn't passed away yet, but her husband is hell bent on getting ahead of the laundry list of things you need to do once someone dies. Last week we went to the mortuary together. This week I've been researching service options, funeral scriptures and readings and obituary prices.

Months ago I volunteered- begged- my in-laws to let me accompany them to doctor's appointments so we could all have a much better idea of what was actually happening with Kathy's health. Yesterday, I had to lie to my brother and sister-in-law so one of them would go up to the house to keep Kathy company while her Stephen went to the DMV. I couldn't take it. The thought of going up to the house and sitting by Kathy's bedside while she dozed in and out of consciousness, lighting up a cigarette, and feeding herself morphine was literally too much for me to handle. Anxiety was taking over as I thought about going back up to the house. I needed an out. Even though I said yes, I couldn't stomach going up there. Which is to say I'm totally overwhelmed by the intensity of the situation.

What started out as a spot on her lip about a year and a half ago, has turned into (jaw) bone cancer which has spread beyond the jaw and has completely disfigured my mother-in-law. The cancer is literally eating away at her face and there's a huge hole where part of her lip and chin should be. I could be more graphic, but I will refrain.

A month ago, as I sat in my 15th appointment or so, Kathy's long-time physician looked her in the eyes and said "We've done everything we can for you. To continue to do anymore treatment at this point would be unkind." So we have literally been waiting for her to die. And it's been terrible.

We didn't go through this with my dad. We had everyday to hope he was getting better. Until one day, we were told he was dying. And the next day, he died. This experience with Kathy and watching my husband and the rest of Kathy's family go through this has been insanely difficult.

I've played a very large part in the end of this woman's life, and although she's been rotten to me at times in the past, I've managed to put all of that aside to help her find meaning, joy, comfort and love in the last days of her life.

At this point, we literally just wait. Everytime the phone rings, the knot in my stomach (which is always there) tightens up and I'm reminded that maybe this is "the call." Whenever I see a call from a blocked number, my stomach drops and I feel my entire body start to tense. It's a terrible feeling waiting for death to come right around the corner, and to know that it literally could be the next phone call or that the next visit could be the last.

But waiting is all we can do for now.


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