Tuesday, November 16, 2010

death in the middle

Back in May I got a horrible telephone call.  The kind that makes you feel like you've just been socked in the gut.  My Uncle was diagnosed with a mass, a mass so large it had collapsed his lung.  He couldn't breathe.  He was on oxygen.

I am a pragmatist and a pessimist.   Not only am I practical, but I also have this awesome mother ability to imagine every worst-case-possible scenario.  Ask my kids or, better yet, my husband (it is a frequent source of conflict).  I can't help it.  My mind immediately goes to those dark places.  To counterbalance that darkness, I have a bit of superstition:  I tell myself, if I imagine it, then it won't actually happen.   The unfortunate flip side to this is that I can never imagine myself succeeding, be a "winner" if you will, because remember, if I imagine it, it won't happen. 

The pragmatist in me makes it difficult in this situation to imagine the best possible outcome.  I am not hopeful and I have no faith.  Sure, there are miracles....maybe?   However, all my experience around anything medical has taught me that whatever crazy can go wrong usually will. 

Unc was down at my house this weekend.  He jokes about how he still doesn't know if he's on the six month or two-year plan, but he looks like he's failing and failing fast.  No one really knows how much time they have, but for him it doesn't look good.  My husband tries to console me telling me that he'll bounce back after the chemo.  I'm doubtful.  And to see someone who used to be all things "alive" looking so frail and sick, kills me.

My sister and I were talking about it last night.  I've been thinking how surreal this experience is for me and her comment was that watching my uncle's decline is a weird thing.  I agree.  Where is his mind?  Where are you when the circumstances dictate that the likelihood of living is slim to none, but yet you are not dead?  

Death is not new to me; I've experienced it before.  But the death of my mom was different.  She was sick for most of my life.  It was a roller coaster of ups and downs.   Just when you thought it was over, she'd recover.  A big difference is that she didn't have a time line.  Her diagnosis didn't lead to Google pages indicating single digit survival rates.  Even with the roller coaster, my mom's death, at the time, was unexpected and a shock.  

I got a text from my sister today.  Unc is in the hospital.  It might be some good news, or it might be more of the same.  Either way, it doesn't change much.  There is a finite period of time left, and the amount is unknown.  As my sister said to me, "at least I have the fortune of being close by and I am able to spend as much time with him as possible".  Indeed I am lucky and I will choose to keep this thought front and center.  I will choose to look past the bleakness and think of what still remains.  I will be optimistic and hopeful that Unc and hubby can make eggplant parmesan (and destroy my kitchen) a few more times. 
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