Sunday, March 13, 2011

Saying goodbye

This weekend I went for a fabulous run in the pouring rain (but without Vivian in the jogging stroller and my legs cooperated, so all was well! Hurray!) on Saturday morning, then loaded up the car and headed north to Canada. And traffic was great, despite the pouring rain for 2/3 of the drive and the border crossing was super fast and we made it to Vancouver in great time.  I am SO grateful for kids who are so good in the car.

Once we got to Vancouver though, things were tough. Daniel's aunt is on the hospice floor of the hospital downtown, so the kids couldn't go along. So Daniel, his dad and I went on the 25 minute car trip to the hospital while the kids stayed with their grandmother. I'm good in hospitals, but I still panicked a little when Daniel's dad put 1.2 hours worth of money in the parking meter outside the hospital.

And it was heartbreaking. His aunt has lost so much weight and is SO obviously exhausted. And even though she barely speaks English, so we've never actually had a real conversation, when I walked in her hospital room and saw her, I started tearing up.  As did Daniel, but he pulled himself together when his uncle walked back in the room. We stood around and chatted for an hour- most of the time they were chatting in Cantonese, so I was trying (by the way, I'm ADD, so staying on task is not my strong point) to look interested but not bored, because I knew that would stress them out more, while understanding almost nothing. I just kept staring at Daniel's uncle and thinking about what an amazing husband he is (they've been married almost 54 years) and how hard this must be on him. And looking at Daniel's dad, and having no idea what it feels like to watch a much beloved sibling dying.

I have no frame of reference for this situation. Up until now, I've lost a few close relatives, but never when I was around, and never from a prolonged illness. Since Daniel and I got together, we lost his 90+ year old grandmother from sudden death (from old age), my great-aunt (in a float-plane accident) and his uncle (from being hit by a car while walking to the store). I've never lost someone from cancer, and neither has Daniel. This saying goodbye to a person who is still living, although clearly very ill, is so unexpected and challenging.

Today his aunt had a day pass from the hospital to come home, and we were able to go to her  apartment for a few minutes with the kids in tow. Ethan freaked out, even in a familiar environment, which is super unusual for him. He clung to Daniel and refused to even look at anyone else. Vivian sat on my lap and didn't interact until it was time to blow kisses goodbye. We're thinking that the kids could feel that things weren't really normal at Aunt and Uncle's house. 

Daniel's thinking about trying to make another visit up to see his aunt in the next month or so, but without us in tow.  Understandable.  My heart breaks for him and the rest of the family. As I said, I've never been through this long goodbye before. Watching them I'm so sad, and I can't imagine how difficult it is, living it first hand.

Seriously, it's 2011, how do we not have cancer beat yet?


Andrea said...

I'm so sorry for Daniel, his Dad, and his uncle.

Like you, I hate hospitals. One of my biggest regrets in life was refusing to go see my grandfather sooner when he was dying of heart disease and lung cancer from smoking. I was 15. I was very close to him, in fact, he was the one who introduced me to opera. I didn't want to remember him that way. I did finally go see him on the last day he was alive because my Dad made me. And my grandfather didn't even recognize me from all of the pain medications they had him on...He was hallucinating all of the fiction books he had read in the past, which actually made me laugh, and made my grandmother mad. The last thing he said to us was "I want to see the Scotland Yard but the nurses won't let me." Ha. classic.

It's not the bad memory of him I expected, but still, I wish I could have talked to him. He also never got to see me perform. :-(

Daniel's family with be in my thoughts.

Lizzie said...

Cancer sucks. Knowing someone is dying and having a chance to say goodbye is both a blessing and a curse - you have a chance to say what you feel and that shock of loss won't be there, but you get to ANTICIPATE the end. Ugh. I'm glad the visit was ok regardless.

(and GO YOU! Getting out running in the rain! You're a rock star!)