Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How do you say good-bye . . .

. . . to your parents, your sister, your brother and all the rest of your loved ones when you’re dying?

Susan’s parents were here for a brief visit in early August, followed by her sister Barb with her husband Jack later in the month. Her brother Scott and his wife Jan will come for a short visit in late September. In each case, we all know that it may very well be the last time they see Susan again.

But as sad as that sounds, there are blessings in all of this – just as we’ve said about the whole cancer journey. How often do we take the opportunity to really pay attention to our loved ones, to listen to them, and appreciate them rather than taking our relationships with them for granted? When you add the element of dying into the mix, everything changes – especially if it’s not following the usual order of the older folks dying first. Susan and her family are as close as they’ve ever been – and that’s a good thing.

So, how do you say good-bye to loved ones when you’re dying? Maybe it doesn’t matter as long as you somehow focus on what makes them your loved ones to begin with.

By the way – how is Susan doing?

We continue to experience ups and downs, often several times in the same day, with a gradual downward trend. Everything is slowly happening as expected. Susan’s pain is pretty well managed most of the time, but her cognitive abilities and emotional reactions to things are noticeably affected. She has trouble with short term memory and gets easily confused or upset or overwhelmed. Someone is always with her when she leaves the house and most of the time at home as well. Her balance and mobility issues require a cane or a walker. But she continues to maintain a great deal of control of her day-to-day tasks. She is continually knitting multiple projects, mostly for others.

Jon is at home most of the time on weekdays and I primarily do evenings and weekends. Jon has a part-time job and is taking a class – both of which help keep him alternatively occupied. Patrick worked at scout camp until early August, and then was part of the care-giving mix for a couple of weeks before returning to Bozeman last weekend for the beginning of his semester. It’s a unique challenge for him to be there and not here. My work is going well and my co-workers are wonderfully supportive. I try to take a little time for myself now and then but my plate is full and I will sit out of choir for the time being.

Jon, Patrick, and I can tell you that this is hard and getting harder. I watched my sister deal with the challenges of eldercare with our mother. There are lots of similarities. But as my sister pointed out, such difficulties are not unexpected when your parent is ninety-something. When as in our case, it’s your soul mate with whom you had retirement dreams, or your mother who would relish a chance to someday hold your own children – there is an extra overlay of emotional difficulty. We’re exercising our coping skills, practicing our faith, and feel deeply appreciative of a supportive community.

Thank God for all of you!

1 comment:

Margie Kneer said...

I have keep checking to see how Susan is doing. I am her cousin Margie Kneer and all of you are in my prayers. Thanks for the updates.