Friday, July 24, 2009

Death didn't take a holiday

I finally managed to get some sleep last night and felt rested this morning -- until the phones started ringing and my email filled up. Yesterday, a lot of people emailed and called to tell me they bought Past Imperfect and today they called and emailed to tell me it was shipped. My phones are seldom this busy. Usually, when the phone rings I jump because it's so quiet here and more people email than call. I'm grateful everyone called to let me know. It feels great to be appreciated. Now all I have to do is worry about how fast I need to get out of town when they read the book. (just kidding)

Mom has torn a ligament in her knee and is now using a cane. It's either the cane, which she says makes her look old (she will be 79 in a few weeks) or surgery. Her orthopedist, who has known her for decades, many decades, told her if she doesn't stay off the leg, she has to have the surgery. She said she'd be good, but that won't last long. Right about now, she should be mowing the lawn and complaining that her leg hurts and the bruising is worse. Duh! She'll end up having surgery.

She managed to slip in some news about someone else for a change. My half-brother Timmy's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. She had the surgery and the chemo and the cancer showed up in her lungs. Now she has cancer in her spine and cannot move her legs. Aunt Anne, Timmy's mother (and my biological mother), called to ask about a comfort box that hospice brought when they brought the hospital bed, wheelchair, bedside toilet, etc. Hospice told Timmy not to open the comfort box and to keep it in the refrigerator. They gave him instructions about not using it until things got really bad, to call them first, follow their directions and then call 911. Timmy doesn't know what it is and Aunt Anne had a feeling that I would know. She called to ask Mom to ask me.

I do know. The news isn't good. The word hospice alone was enough to tell me what's in the box, and I tried to explain it to Mom, but ended up calling Aunt Anne to tell her. Mom's not good at relaying information -- accurate or otherwise.

The comfort box contains medications, including a very large dose of morphine and a medication to ease the death rattles. Timmy's wife is terminal and the box is only dispensed to those families and caregivers of patients who are nearing end of life (no, not the battery kind of end of life or a pacemaker, the human end of life). Timmy doesn't know and if his wife knows she hasn't told me. Aunt Anne wanted to know how to break it to Timmy and I suggested she call his wife and find out if she knows and why she hasn't told Timmy. Timmy thinks that she's going to be all right because she's still getting radiation treatments for the one (now four) lesion(s) on her spine and that one leg will never function again, but that she will be all right. She's applied for disability and is lining up work to do at home. At least it will give her something to do for the next few weeks of her life. I doubt she'll live six months and now that hospice has been dispatched the likelihood is that she won't last the summer, if that.

Aunt Anne was very upset about having to tell Timmy. He's been married four times now and his comment when he found out about the cancer was that three of his wives divorced him; they didn't die. He was still joking, but when I hung up the phone, he had just arrived. I don't think he's laughing any more.

As I read the contents of a comfort pack to Aunt Anne, I heard her choke back the tears. It was only by strength of will I didn't cry. We have lost so many members of our family over the past two years and I think we should be done for a while. Evidently, there are more deaths to come. I'm sadder for those in my family who are dealing with this first-hand. I'm more sanguine about death. Yes, it hurts to lose someone I love and it's shocking to lose people I respect and care about, but I know my grief is for my loss and not theirs. They get to move on to the next life or rest or become one with the stars and the earth. They know what lies beyond this existence, so my sadness is short-lived. I miss them and it's hard to get out of the habit of writing or picking up the phone to call, but I don't feel the need to let it weigh me down.

That may sound cold and emotionless, but it's not. They don't have to clean any more toilets or kitchens, do dishes, juggle money and bills, or deal with the 1001 things that squeeze out the important things, like friendship, love, adventure, excitement, travel and learning. They know all the answers -- at least until they move into a new existence -- and they see how unimportant all the things the rest of us obsess about are. From the stars we came and to the stars we return. It's not such a bad deal.

Now, I'm going back to reading a review book and getting in the right frame of mind to critique my first manuscript. The dishes can wait and I already cleaned the toilet. I think a cold shower is in order, but then it's going to be an all reading and writing evening.

I want to thank all of you who called and emailed. With friends like you, the book can't fail and I never will because of you.

That is all. Disperse.

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