Saturday, February 23, 2008

As I sit here alone in my mother's hospital room. I look out the window as a plane flies by and I think to myself, 'Oh I wish I were on that plane going anywhere away from here.' But then I remember...the first time I found myself in this place 7 years ago.

In the fall of 2000 sitting in a doctor's office surrounded by my family and my father's doctor said, "It's lung cancer. We can try chemo therapy, but its very advanced." The look on my father's face was shock and disbelief. A few short months later lying on a couch in his den across from his hospital bed. Scared out of my mind, afraid I would be with him when he died. And praying with my hands clasped so tightly for so long that my hands fell asleep. Praying to God not to let him die on my watch. In between the fear there was fatigue and there were long moments of suspended time. Time filled with doses of morphine and doses of muscle relaxers and anti-depressants meant to calm and relax the body. Without those medicines the body fights, clawing and scratching for more air, more life and so you medicate to lull and calm the fight as the mind slips away. One night I went home to rest and left my dad with my mom and my sister-in-law, by morning he was gone...not on my watch. As I went into the house my mom asked me to check his pulse to make sure. We all waited as Hospice called the coroner and when he came...the 'grim reaper' in suit and tie with placating smile asked if anyone wanted to see him one last time. I looked around at each face and stopped at my mother's. I saw fear there. Fear of death and I thought I'm not afraid. I went. Martin and I together. My dad was laying on his side his covers wrapped in and tangled around his blue sweats. I lifted his feet with the socks I had put on him the night before because he was always cold. And I was glad that I was there. There to help him.

Then a nephew...sadly choose to go.

The next death to painful to talk about and so I won't talk about it...because it isn't my story to tell.

My father-in-law went next. He was also in the hospice program. While we waited all I remember wishing I could be strong and go in and ask him to tell my dad when he saw him in heaven, how much I miss him and that I wish I could see his face and hear his voice. But I never did. We were in the room when he passed on and my sister-in-law said, "Oh how wonderful. We were here when he passed on." And it was truly a beautiful thing.

Not too long after my brother-in-law was in the hospital dying and we went to visit him. I felt so close to him and my sister-in-law and their kids. Because I realized I wasn't afraid of death anymore. I had been to the place they were in. The place that had frightened me so badly that I would lie awake with my eyes open for so long they would be dry when I finally thought to blink. And they were beautiful in their remembrance of him.

My brother had a stroke and everyday for many months I went to the nursing home. I would feed him breakfast, brush his teeth, wash him and dress him. Most days he was brave and valiant. Other days, dark days, he would cry to me and tell me he didn't want to live this way....and I'm ashamed to say I chickened out and stopped going because I thought I couldn't take it. Two years ago, after fighting to recover from the stroke my brother decided he was tired and wanted to stop trying. Everyone in the room was crying and hugging and I laid my head on his chest and cried and said, "I don't want you to go." And like the big brother he was always trying to protect me he said, "Is it raining outside? I love the rain." He was trying to distract me from thinking about his going on. He went home to die and after he passed we waited at the house for my mom to get there I sat at the head of his bed and ran my fingers through his jet black hair and wished for one more day to feed him breakfast and comb his hair and hear him drive down my street and yell out his truck window, "PATTY KREUTZER"!

And in that familar place I find myself again. Here making decisions to go through hospice for my mom who is confused and so sick and ready to go to a place where there is no sorrow or sickness. I look up into the sky and think about wishing I was on that plane far was a moment of weakness...because truthfully...nothing is more important than family and helping them each and everyway we can when the need us. Even when for us it seems too painful, but to help them onto the next chapter in our eternal life.

And that to me ladies and gentlemen is LOVE...PattyAna

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