Saturday, October 29, 2011

On death and dying

I've been thinking a lot about death lately. And a lot about what ifs. When someone you love is dying of cancer, there's a lot of second guessing.

A woman we used to work with left her job recently because doctors told her there was nothing more they could do for her cancer. She was out of options and she wanted to spend her remaining time with her family. I didn't know her all that well, but she and Mike used to talk, commiserate about chemo and the like.

But it got me thinking. If we (or was it me?) hadn't pushed for that last chemo, maybe Mike would have had a few more months to spend with his family, to enjoy his little girl, to write a letter for her, to say goodbyes.

It would have been nice. But in reality, I don't know what I would have done if we (he) had ever stopped fighting. I don't know what I would have done if it came to a point where he had stopped treatment and came home to die. The only way for we (or was it me?) to continue to breathe in and out was to keep pushing forward. I think he felt the same way. There was a little girl. He had to do everything in his power, take every last chance, cling to whatever hope, to try to be there for her.

There's a country song about a wife who is diagnosed with cancer. The husband tells her: When you're weak, I'll be strong/When you let go, I'll hold on/When you need to cry, I swear that I'll be there to dry your eyes.

I can't bear to listen to it, because it makes me feel like I was never the strong to Mike's weak. He was never weak. And I wonder now, was it because he knew I couldn't handle it? He couldn't cry because he knew I would break. He had to keep going, for my sake. Maybe he, like the woman at work, wanted to stop and wanted to come home. And maybe I pushed him.

So strong was my desire for our lives to be normal and to avoid the horror that we didn't even talk about the possibility of death. Mike had Stage 4 cancer and there was never once a conversation about where the important financial papers were located or what specifically he wanted in terms of a funeral. Denial? Maybe. But at the time, I just always felt like we were operating under the promise of hope and to talk about death would be like giving up.

Did we do the right thing? I don't know. I hate what ifs.

1 comment:

Guenther said...

Do not spend too much time thinking about death or dying. It will take you n ow where. You have a new life live for her.

I had cancer, heart failure and a broken ankle which will not heal. I know what it is like to think about dying. Too much pain I do not care for. Still we have to enjoy the sunset, th flowers and the rain.