Wednesday, October 12, 2016

# death # dying

The Pain of Dying

Today was hard. There isn’t another word for it. Okay, there probably is. Something like heart wrenching and soul crushing, but those are phrases so we’re going to stick with hard. It was hard and I’m not sure that I handled it in the best possible way, but at the end of the day, I handled it.

I can’t get into a lot of details because those details aren’t just my own. I share them with another, but really there are only parts that matter and it’s those that I want to talk about. So, here we go…another day in the life of me…

One of my dearest is in an incredibly hard place in life. Someone that he loves is dying and not just dying, but the kind of death where the person’s health deteriorates and they just start to fade away. It was brought to my attention today and though I don’t even know this person, it put me back into a place where I was remembering what it was like to go through that.

I don’t know if I’ve ever written publicly about it. I know that I’ve written about it in the autobiography that I will someday finish. It was one of the hardest periods of my life.  I grew up not feeling as if anyone loved me except for my grandmother. If anyone loved me, it was her. She was the only person in my family that I could go to with things. Then, she got sick. It started with what I suspect now was lymphedema that was allowed to run unchecked. By the time she was taken to the hospital, she was running a fever of something like 104 and they honestly didn’t think that they could save her.

I was called to the hospital. I didn’t know if it was going to be the last time I saw her. Luckily for me, it wasn’t. I wasn’t ready. She recovered slowly and after a week or two, she was moved to a convalescent center for rehabilitation. There was a lot going on within the “family” during all of this and it was taking its toll on me, but I did what had to be done and I tried to stay strong. No, I did stay strong. I didn’t let myself worry or collapse like I probably needed to. I didn’t take care of myself. I did what I had to do so that things could go as smoothly as possible and so that she could come home.

She did come home but it was never the same. The illness had taken its toll on her and it was obvious. Over the summer and fall, I watched her deteriorate. Every time I saw her, she was smaller and seemed less there. It turns out that somehow the doctors had missed that she had more than lymphedema. She also had colo-rectal cancer. My uncles begged me to do what I could. I was the only person that she responded to. That might be because they treated her like a child which frustrated her. I would make her anything that she wanted, trying to entice her to eat a little something. I brought numerous coke slushies from Meijer because they almost always sounded good to her. It was never enough to do her any good, but I tried. I had hope that anything helped and if nothing else, something would be in her stomach for when I tricked her into taking the heavy duty painkillers that they had placed her on. She didn’t want to take them so I would tell her that they were just a new form of Tylenol or something like that.

By Thanksgiving, she was plainly telling me that this would be her last one. She told me the same thing at Christmas. Not long after that, her rate of deterioration seemed to increase. She had given up. She was done fighting. People say that knowing someone’s death is coming somehow makes it easier. What they don’t talk about is how hard it is to watch someone you love start to disappear and then turn it someone that you barely recognize. By the time she ended up in hospice, she wasn’t my grandmother, but a shell of her. She was in constant pain and the cancer/medication had affected her mind. She was convinced of things that had never happened or that just weren’t real. Christmas was the last time I took the boys with me to see her. I didn’t want their last memories of her to be what she had turned into.

She made it until March. I’m not going to lie and I’m not going to apologize, but the day I got a call from my uncle…or maybe it was my mother…that hospice had called and that she had only hours left to live, I was relieved. She had no quality of life left. Less than a week before she went to hospice, she had been left alone overnight (my family was too self-focused to stay with her and she refused a nurse) and had somehow fallen, landed on her walker, and broken her collarbone. She was in unbelievable pain all the time at this point and stuck in a morphine haze. I just wanted it to be over. I wanted it to be over for her and I wanted it to be over for me. I’m not ashamed to admit that. I wanted it to be over for me. The months upon months of watching her disappear had taken a serious toll on myself. I never relaxed. I never shut down. I lost so called friends because they couldn’t understand that I was living in survival mode.

The day she died, I collected up some things from her house and I made arrangements to meet up with some of those so-called friends to get me away from all of it. That was a fiasco, but not a story for now. It took me a long time to recover from her illness and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. I hurt for my friend and for those who are going through this with him. I hurt for his wife and that she’s going through what my grandmother did. I don’t know all of the details but I don’t need to. I only need to know that it’s happening. It breaks my heart because I’ve been where he is and I know how hard it is to stay strong. I’m going to do my best to be there for him as much as he’ll let me. He’s not the type who leans on others, but I’ll be there if he needs to. If I hadn’t had a couple of people who stuck by me at the worst and when I wasn’t close to at my best, I don’t know if I would have survived it.

If you pray, I ask that you raise this family up. If you believe in good thoughts, those are always welcome. In the coming days, knowing there are those who care will make a difference. I know that it did for me. 

Edit: This was written a week ago, but for reasons..yes, reasons...I waited until today to post it.


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