January 7, 2017
The English language is so imprecise it’s a wonder we can communicate. I’m thinking of the word hard, how it means so many different things. It can mean really firm like the opposite of soft. It can mean with force, as in to push hard. It can mean difficult. But even then there are nuances.
People comment that what we are going through with Paul must be so hard. I think they mean it’s yucky and you wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But it’s not hard in the way that some things are hard. It’s not like, say, climbing a sheer rock cliff or trying to find a cure for some scorge-y new virus, something that you could actually fail at. This is what it is and you just live through it. Is it heartbreaking? Yes. Is it wearying? Yes. Are there moments when you don’t know what to do in the face of your beloved's real physical pain? Yes. But ultimately we are not called to solve this, just to be together with it.
Someone commented that this must challenge my faith, but I can honestly say it does not. If anything I have felt accompanied. Just when what we have needed the most was love and prayers, we have received notes, good wishes, prayers and healing energy from hundreds of people. Every day someone reaches out to let us know they are thinking of us. We are fed by many, both literally and spiritually. If God is about love and grace and full tummys then God is abundant.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t had moments of “why us?” For years I worked in outreach ministry where I met many people who lived rough, who had abused their bodies with drugs and alcohol and bad eating. Heck addiction runs rampant in my family and I have relatives who are homeless addicts. Have I wondered why one of them didn’t get sick? Yes. But only in curiosity. I know that the answer to why me is “why not you?”
Paul and I have had a fairy tale marriage. And by fairy tale I mean the real kind, not the Disney versions. I mean the kind that have hardship and obstacles, moments of clarity and truth, wonder and disappointment. And an ogre. This is the kind that doesn’t necessarily come with a happy ending.
But there is a glimmer of beauty in the beast of this. It is the community that has rallied around to support Paul. It is the dozens of written accolades that we have received and many, many, many more thoughts, prayers, good wishes and lovely memories we have been sent.
Anne Lamott wrote about a her friend Carol who threw her own memorial party before she died. It was a community gathering where people ate and danced and passed around her friend’s brand new grandbaby. That’s not going to happen for us. Instead Paul’s music friends are staging a tribute show. Local bands will be playing his songs and covers of music that he loved. It will be a big party which he will, unfortunately, miss. Paul is past the stage of being at a rock show and it’s unclear at this point whether he will even be with us in earthly form by the time it rolls around.
Of course it’s Friday the 13th. Of course it is.
I am exhausted and breaking apart. Part of me can hardly believe that this thing is even happening, that it will happen. And part of me thinks let’s just get it over with. Both awful. Both real.
I got a note from someone, absolutely lovely and well meaning, in which he says that he kind of understands what I’m going through because a favorite uncle with whom he was close had been in hospice before dying. And I think how is that the same as losing a spouse? Even as I understand.
And I want to scream and rail because my auntie, the one with whom I was most close died in the middle of this shit-hole Twilight Zone of a situation and I missed it. I missed the chance to be with her as she shifted. And I missed gathering with the family to mourn. And while up until now I have been totally fine with knowing that, suddenly I am angry.
This evening Paul wrote me a note. Since he hasn’t been able to talk much, which has been almost since he first went to palliative care in October, writing has been a big piece of communicating. The note said, “did my loss of glassesss ruin ruin my ring and therefore my my glasses?”
It took him a long time to write this and I could see the shape of the question as it emerged. As soon as he got to the part about lost glassesss I knew that I had to decide how I would respond. I didn’t want to say “That makes no sense.” or “What are you talking about?” which would only serve to point out to him that something was amiss in his question. So I answered with straightforward honesty. “I don’t know, Honey” I said. “I don’t know the answer to your question.”
Previous Paul posts
Care taking and care giving
Sow's ear purse
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