Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Cancer Chronicles, Part 6

What is she thinking?

This photo was taken of MJ on the weekend of Memorial Day. Brother Z and his fiancee took Dad and MJ on a train trip. I selected it for this post because she looks so pensive staring out at the scenery.

MJ

I keep wondering what my stepmother is thinking. How do you make yourself accept the news that you're dying?

We text each other several times a day, and talk by phone when she feels like it. A few days ago she told me to have a great day and I joked with her that it probably wouldn't be so great since I had 500+ emails to get through at work.

Dumb. I sent it and immediately wanted a 'recall' button. I knew how she'd react. Sure enough, her reply said that she was sorry, that it was her fault that I had a lot of emails to get through. (Because I was unable to work most of last week while I was out there.)

I tried to explain to her that it wasn't her fault and she replied by telling me that she's feeling very sad. When I asked if she was having second thoughts about her decision to forgo surgery, she said that no, she didn't want the surgery. She was sad because she's dying and it doesn't matter that she doesn't want to.

It doesn't matter that she doesn't want to. She's right. And it sucks.

Yesterday her granddaughter graduated from preschool. MJ said she got lots of hugs and kisses and that they took a lot of pictures. That made my mind wander. I wonder what MJ thought about during that ceremony? There won't be many more of these milestones for her to see. She is so attached to her granddaughters. They are a living link to her daughter who died unexpectedly in January. It's a blessing that her son in law is a wonderful man who understands that MJ needs to be near the girls. He offered to let her live in his home until she passes, but she doesn't want the girls to watch her die.

This is such a selfless thought. She would love nothing more than to be surrounded by those girls all the time. They are her life. But she doesn't want them to be scared and she doesn't want their lives inconvenienced by her illness.

Brother Z is in NY visiting them this week. Yesterday he asked me if I knew that hot dogs used to be called coney dogs and that they were invented in NY. Of course I didn't know that. He also said this: "I also got 'little miss I'm not hungry" to eat two of them today!" It made me smile that he's so concerned for her. He's a good kid, that Brother Z of mine. Well, if you can call a 27 year old a kid. Which I can. Because I'm old.

I did some research and found a book called "As I Journey On: Meditations for Those Facing Death". There are many sections, including these:

  • Remember Me
  • Dark Nights
  • Fear
  • Unresolved Anger
  • Despair
  • Grief
  • Humor
  • Priorities
  • Unfinished Business
  • Letting Go
And many, many more. The book is formatted so that there is a personal story or experience about each of these subjects followed by a brief prayer, questions to ponder, and an action item, which I think is really neat. For example in the first section, "Remember Me" the action item is this: Today I will... pass along a story.

MJ might not like this book. It might not be her thing. And that's OK. Everyone's different. But I'm going to download it on my Kindle and read it. There's a lot of information there that I think is valuable for anyone to learn.

I find that I'm feeling guilty about being home. But grateful and happy to be here as well. I wish I could do more, but I know that my place is here with my family. I think an interesting side effect of all this is the gratitude I have for my own health and vitality. I was trying not to drop dead in my exercise class this morning (funny how those casual terms seem crude when a loved one is dying) and I motivated myself to finish the endless sets of lunges and squats by remembering, and being thankful that I am lucky to be strong and healthy.