I love to come here to my space and share my thoughts with all of you and athough I am always sincere and sometimes opinionated, I don’t often share my deepest feelings of inner conflict here. As time progresses though, I have noticed that many bloggers sometimes do share their woes and bear their souls out loud with no regard for judgement or embarrassment when exposing their raw feelings. Bloggers are like having an extended circle of family-like friends. We speak freely and receive feedback with encouragement and support for one another. So it is with this realization I have decided to share a bit of what is going on in my life.
I suppose that only now I feel comfortable talking about a tender topic of terminal illness. Perhaps after having read many articles and books on grieving and loss, particularly the writings of two writer friends works that I respect: The blog of Elaine Mansfield who writes on bereavement and author Carol Balawyder – Mourning has Broken, it has helped to open up and share.
If any of you have read my book – Conflicted Hearts, you will have read how I encountered great losses in my life when I lost my aunt who was like a mother to me and also the loss my dear father. I don’t pretend to know anyone’s pain in loss because only those who walk in the shoes of grief can truly know how it feels. Nonetheless, I am a very empathetic person and I get very sad when I hear of or am around others who are suffering.
Although I don’t have any biological children of my own, my husband of fifteen years has four daughters and although they still have their mother and we are all within four years apart in age, I am friends with them all and refer to them all as my step-daughters.
I couldn’t even pretend to know the pain of the possibility of losing a child; certainly I would consider that the worst death to grieve of all. No matter how old a child grows to be, it is still always somebody’s child.
We found out that my step-daughter Sue had the dreaded cancer, last July, just after her birthday. My husband is the type of man who doesn’t like to talk about bad things and if you didn’t know him, you would wonder how he couldn’t talk about his sad feelings and worries and still appear as though nothing is wrong. But I know him well. HIs mind is always going, always worrying about something, he is very driven. If there is any way to make something work, he will find it. If he can’t, he will carry his frustration within.
I have managed through the years to learn how to break into his thoughts and I know how to handle him with kid gloves in delicate situations. But I have had to make some tough decisions these past few weeks about how much I knew about his daughter’s situation and how much I wanted him to know. His faith in Sue’s healing has never unfaltered. He never believed anything other than she could beat the disease. I speak often with another daughter and we both saw the signs of unhappy things to come with her sister’s prognosis. I worry about my husband’s health and didn’t want to break his faith. I agonized over wanting to tell him the reality and burst his balloon of hope to ease the fall or to let him feel optimistic in his belief and then have to watch him crash.
His daughters and I agreed that he didn’t need the details so he wouldn’t have to worry more than he already was. As Sue remained stoic and didn’t care to talk about the inevitable, things have been drastically sliding. There are no treatments left for her and she has gotten to ill to take on a grueling round of experimental medicine. Her fragile body could not take the pummeling that she would have had to endure when the doctors hoped she may have been up to when the procedure was first introduced. Although Sue has an amazing hopeful attitude and never gives up hope, her body retaliates. She has been in and out of the hospital for several weeks now and relies on morphine to combat her pain. Even though her lymphoma had spread through her body she still had many days when she is still just simply – Sue. She never complains or laments “Why me?” and continued to push herself to go out with her friends and live.
My husband would beam with light when he’d see her and he’d say with such certainty how strong she is and his belief wouldn’t let him feel anything but that she would beat it. I questioned myself many times whether or not this was his hope or if it was denial; but I dared not ask. He never hid the fact that his daughter had cancer from anyone and he’d always add that she looks good and is fighting back.
A few days ago when he returned from visiting Sue in the hospital, my husband came home wearing a defeated new look on his face. I already knew Sue was getting much worse but I asked him how she was doing and he looked at me with a calmness and replied, “My daughter is dying.”
While I fought my tears back, I asked him to update me on what I had already known. My heart ached for him hearing him admit those words of surrender. Knowing he was trying desperately not to cry, and feeling my own grief for Sue, in that moment I couldn’t even begin to feel his pain.
In these past few days, the situation has become grave. My step-daughter is living on borrowed days. Now I just pray for strength for Sue and my husband to get through and for me to have strength to help keep him together through this very sad journey. I pray for God to give me the right words to say when the moment comes, to keep my husband here with the living as a part of his soul dies with his daughter.
As I go through this journey and go through all the cascading emotions it really makes me wonder how fine that line between life and death is and how life becomes an oxymoron. At first we pray and hope for wellness and cures and suddenly the switch flips and we find that everything we have prayed so hard for is no longer valid because when we watch that person suffer so badly and realize there is no hope, our prayers for life suddenly become prayers for God to take them safely out of their suffering.
There was a scene from the movie ‘Steel Magnolias’ that always tugged at my heart no matter how many countless times I had seen the movie. When M’Lynn’s daughter Shelby passed on and M’Lynn lost her composure at the gravesite she said:
“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.
I’m fine! I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can’t! She never could! Oh God! I am so mad I don’t know what to do! I wanna know why! I wanna know *why* Shelby’s life is over! I wanna know how that baby will *ever* know how wonderful his mother was! Will he *ever* know what she went through for him! Oh *God* I wanna know *why*? *Why*? Lord, I wish I could understand!
No! No! No! It’s not supposed to happen this way! I’m supposed to go first. I’ve always been ready to go first! I-I don’t think I can take this! I-I don’t think I can take this! I-I just wanna *hit* somebody ’til they feel as bad as I do! I just wanna hit something! I wanna hit it hard!”
D.G. Kaye 2014