Monday, January 5, 2015

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Sunday morning I received a phone call from my brother in law, Greg. Greg doesn't call unless there's a problem but don't begrudge him that; nobody ever calls me unless there's a problem. 

In this case, the problem was a serious one and one that knew was coming.  Hospice had been called in for his mother, Becky. 

I'm taking this call because my wife really does not cope well with these types of things. She is definitely one who wears her heart on her sleeve.  So it's up to me to get this information from Greg and deliver it to my wife. 

She does not take it well. 

My mother-in-law was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over 2 decades ago. As the disease ravaged her nervous system, medical science had reached the limits of what could be done to forestall the inevitable. In December 2012, her condition took a significant turn for the worse. She was placed under the palliative care division of Hospice. Palliative care is what's employed when someone is facing an ultimately life ending condition but its not going to end that life anytime soon. At this point, it was a waiting game. 

John, my father in law, bless him, had been waiting for well over twenty years as he tended to her every need. As the years went by and the disease continued its scorched earth march through her body, she became more and more helpless and John did the only thing he could do: he tended to her every need. Even as MS ravaged her mind and she would say hateful things about him. Then came the days when she barely knew him. But by her side he remained, waiting for the end and all he could do was to make her as comfortable as possible during those long years of waiting.  

But the wait suddenly became more urgent a year ago when she experienced a drastic decline in her health. She spoke in nonsense of times and people long gone. Then there were the clear pleadings of "Help me."  Anyone. Someone. It was more than I could bear to hear. I can only imagine the pain it caused for her husband and her children. 

And so we waited, waited for a year for the uncertain yet inevitable end. Today her blood pressure dropped to non-existent. Her eyes were unresponsive. Her breaths came in tortured gasps. And she was moved from palliative care to hospice. 

And we wait still. The hospice worker told Greg that given the state of her breathing and blood pressure, the end was coming, possibly even as of today. But as I write this, she is still with us. Well, her body is. I think her spirit left us long ago.

So we wait, wait for the last breath, wait for the moment to say goodbye. 

And the waiting is the hardest part.  

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