I’ve been watching my mother-in-law die.
She’s been sick since Easter, and has been fighting with all her strength to hang on, to pray, to believe.
The problem is, her strength is fading.
Remember the cartoons when we were young, where the character would stick his finger in the dam and plug the leak? Then five more leaks would spring up, and he’d stick in the rest of his fingers. More leaks, and he’d plug them with his toes. His nose. Then suddenly, he’d grow an extra hand to plug the new leaks.
It’s been like that.
One problem gets fixed, and six more spring up. Liver failure. Kidney failure. Kidneys spontaneously recover. Celebrate! But wait…now the liver is worse. Paracentesis, every two weeks. Weekly. Bi-weekly.
Neutropenia. She’s back in the hospital now, but I cannot visit this week, because I’ve been sick with a sinus/ear thing.
C. Diff. Having spent so many years now raising children with immunodeficiency, I know how bad that is.
It’s strange. When the news first comes, it’s a sharp pain, white and hot. I want to deny it, even as I hear the words the doctor is saying.
After that first pain, though, I start to feel as though I’ve got two hearts: one made of steel, and one of emotion.
I shove the one made of emotion behind the steel heart, and do the things that need doing.
Doctor visits. Appointments for tests. Days spent in the ER. Days spent admitted. Medication pick-ups.
I’ve heard that people say I’m coldhearted. I’m not.
It’s simply that I have been down this road before, and I know what is coming.
Crying won’t change it.
But in this space in between a terminal diagnosis and death, there are things that need to be done.
I can’t accomplish those things if I’m a weeping mess, so I do the only thing I know how to do.
Put the pain somewhere else. Anywhere else.
Deal with it later.
I could do what others do: talk, talk, cry, and talk, and ignore that the person who is dying needs help. Needs groceries. Needs medication. Needs to go to the doctor.
But my conscience doesn’t work that way. I can’t not step in to help a helpless human being.
And the part of me that ought to be able to embrace both the emotional side and the harsh reality of this terrible situation seems broken.
The pain will come out later, in a rush.
I’ve found that I tend to move through grief by spilling words, and if the current situation is any indication, I’ll be writing another book this year.
I’ve got the idea in my head, but it’s harder to get the words out when I feel as though my emotions are frozen. But the story is there, in my head. In my bones.
It will be dark. But people who’ve read my stories before should be getting used to that, I guess.
In the meantime, I will keep tapping along at it and stopping back in here to release some of the words I don’t feel like I can say out loud.
Words are harder, that way. Out loud.
But they’ve got to spill somewhere.