Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Scared of Death

I had another visit with the in-laws today. Daddy-o wanted help typing up parts of letters that Kathy has received since more and more people have found out about her terminal cancer. He's thinking of having them read by someone at the service. Which I think is a nice touch. She has received some very heartfelt letters from her many friends over the years who are quite upset upon hearing the news. Because although we have been dealing with this for about a year and a half, many people in their life are just finding out about it now, and certainly just finding out about the severity and advancement of it all.

I spent a little bit of time with Kathy. Maybe only 30 minutes at most today because I was determined to get home and finish my work day at a decent hour- especially given how long I was up there for my "lunch hour" on Friday. But it was, of course, long enough to be moved by what I saw and conversations Kathy and I shared.

Today's heart-wrenching conversation came when I told Kathy, as she requested, about my weekend. She can't talk a lot herself, so she's very big on having me talk. When she pauses and holds her hand up to the side of her face in pain, I always ask "Do you want me to keep talking, or would you prefer that I leave and give you some time to rest?" And she always wants me to keep talking. She gets very lonely. Anyway, I told her how I went to see The Hangover (which was one of the funniest movies I've seen in a really long time. Don't walk- run- and go see it immediately) and how Steve laughed through the entire thing. I said, "Steve has such a great laugh." Kathy's face started to scrunch up and I saw the tears start to slide out of the corner of her eye. She then said, "I don't want to leave you. Or Steve." I told her I had to believe that whatever was waiting for her next had to be better than what she was going through now. And that she had good food, good friends, good family, good drinks that she could taste, hiking and a pain-free world ready to greet her. She seemed to calm down a little bit and then she said, "You are so good." I'm not gonna lie, it's always nice to hear her recognize and appreciate me. Especially in light of how not nice she's played in the past.

The conversation was difficult today because I didn't really know how best to talk with her about not being scared to die. Especially because I can't really think about dying without the beginning of an anxiety attack coming on myself. I did the best I could in the situation, letting her know that there's something better waiting for her. We didn't deal with this with my own father when he was dying. Was he so medicated on morphine that he just couldn't really go there? Or was he just ready to die that the thought of being scared didn't cross his mind? Because Kathy had already expressed multiple times that she was "ready to go" and "we didn't want her like this", I genuinely thought she was ready and wouldn't be scared. But that's just not the case, and I struggle with how best to talk with her about being okay with dying. Any suggestions?

Today's holy shit moment was watching Kathy light up a cigarette with half her mouth missing. I was just saying goodbye when she held up her hand and signaled for me to wait. She then pulled a cigarette out of one of the two cigarette boxes on her bed and motioned for me to light it up for her. I told her I don't know how to inhale (seriously) and so she took matters into her own hands. After breaking off the filter and getting some of the tobacco to hang out, Kathy made several attempts before being successful at getting the cigarette to stay securely between her lips (or what's left of them). She then lit it up and gave me the okay to leave as she happily awkwardly puffed away.

My time with Daddy-o was the same- spent going over things he talked with me about during the last visit and making a little bit of progress on the service.

It's hard to say just how long this will go on for. Kathy's grip when I left today was just as strong as ever. I mentioned as much to her and she gave me a little bit of a smile when I asked if she had been lifting weights. Really though, it would surprise you to feel her strong grip because just by looking at her, you wouldn't think she could squeeze a feather.

So it's more wait and see.


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