I’ve never had a reason to examine mortality, not mine or others, it was just there. Our parents have long since passed, grieving surfaced briefly, however, memories last a lifetime.
The love of my life came to the forefront late in life. A love unconditional, someone who always said the right thing, someone who could do no wrong in my eyes. Curious friends wondered to themselves about the longevity of our relationship beyond the basic concept of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. I maintain, We shared nothing in common, however, we shared the magnetism of each other’s company. For sure she is an acquired taste, this is a woman who never won a science award or literary prize but she won my heart. What couple could claim zero competition in their relationships or seldom engage in the rare argument over competing points of view? But, let the subject of what color to paint the kitchen and I will abstain from the good fight in favor of keeping the peace, the sensibility to live to fight another day.
So, six years almost to the month, the love of my life came to me one day out of the blue to find me in my sanctuary garage announcing; “I just coughed up blood!” Those five words changed the course of our lives forever. How can you not react by scooping her up and rushing off to the hospital just to hear the bad news from a staff doctor, “… I found a mass.” Future plans vanish, our living space forever bound by the proximity of medical offices and ill-fitting gowns. Even that young doctor, a disinterested party, gets misty eyed with her own news. She shared our emotional state of mortality, a rare condition for a doctor who from a distance should be numb to life and death situations. Maybe a lesson can be learned here? To learn and prosper from our successes and yet learn from experiences that are less than successful and be human in the process. Keeping the hope through the endless medical appointments punctuated by the never-ending lines at the pharmacy day and night even though we both know what the doctor will tell us. I guess it’s all part of unconditional love, a journey to be clear, bound by the glue of a partnership that was supposed to last until the end of time.
Our particular medical institution prides itself of its compassionate culture, an unwavering affinity for everyone. Her Oncologist’s compassions abound, book ended by loving hugs all around on our very last visit with his news about her recent biopsy: “I’m sorry, there is nothing more I can do.” We closed our chapter of notes and records in a binder with its collection of hospital ER security badges as its cover, a cover to serve as the prologue from saving her life to the fight for the challenge of creating enduring comfort beginning with resurrecting her bucket list.
My sister, more spiritual than I, quoted scripture in a letter: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2Tim. 4:7. Wow, so perfect. In these past six years, life goes on, we still vote, pay bills and look forward to shoveling snow, how wrong is that? Steering clear of the future by prolonging the present? In memorializing the best of her favorite chosen pastime, drinking iced coffee even if it’s thirty-two degrees outside, I will keep the tradition alive.
My spouse and I should be preparing for a Friday night date night discussing menus, reminiscing about fixing brunch for the in laws and the cat jumping from the floor into the frying pan of bacon, not sitting at the kitchen table discussing the wording on her end-of-life documents. Six years… half of the time we’ve been married.
Hospice. A cringe-worthy word bound by urban legend. Though only ink on paper, the eye-never-the less involuntarily jumps over the word because of its harsh sentence. The unspoken reality known in the medical field but never verbalized is a curse of fitful sleep with breakthrough pain. Her Hospice nurse, the enemy of her cruel disease, visits regularly armed with a pen, dismissing meds that are now irreverent. However, her nurse is a warrior in disguise, a hero of heroes with bulletproof resolve and an arsenal of chemical weapons to combat the enemy. We both know that it will be a good fight, a brave battle to keep pain and suffering at bay, but who will win?
Suddenly, the race of mental verses physical longevity is at stake. Tasks we never think about suddenly become Olympic events, to-do notes illegible or without purpose.
In the meantime, my mission… comfort her spirit and ignore her changing persona.
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