December 06, 2004

What do you say?

What do you say to a woman whose husband just died? I pondered that question as I drove about 100 miles on Sunday morning to attend the memorial service for my cousin's husband. I love my cousin, I never much liked her husband but I assume that was really my fault and not his. So I knew that I was going for her and not for him. What do you say? I never really know. Everything seems so inadequate. I settled, finally, on, "I'm sorry". That was all. Just that I was sorry. What else is there to say, really?

The service was interesting. It was conducted by a Minister from a hospice organization that helped him die at home. She was very nice but she said that she did not really know how to conduct the service since Sam told her that she could not mention God at all. She said that this was a first for her. But she spoke movingly of Sam and how she got to know him as he died. That sort of freaked me out, just a little, that Sam was discussing his own death and the memorial service he wanted, that he was, how do I put it, . . . He was more or less alone with the absolute realization that he was planning a party he would not be attending, that whatever else happened, he was alone, all alone at the end. This must come to us all, of course, in one way or another. But I was really struck by the manner in which he died, that he had time to contemplate as something other than a philosophical concept, his own demise. In any event, Sam's brother in law got up at the end and read from the Psalms ("The Lord is my Shepard, etc.) and recited the Mourner's Kaddish. The Minister closed the service by saying, "I was surprised to hear that Sam requested that. So, he tricked me. Good for him! I'm glad".

His last little joke. I'm glad, too.

Posted by Random Penseur at December 6, 2004 08:13 AM

My mom had home hospice too when she was dying of cancer. The person who helped take care of her also helped her see that her time was coming. Before that, my mom kept talking about getting well again, heartbreakingly so, while we all knew it was much too late. God bless that hospice woman for helping my mom see the truth so we didn't have to do it. FYI, she was to the point where cancer was all through her body; all her vital organs were being attacked and the hospital had collapsed both lungs. She had to have a feeding tube, had great trouble breathing, was unable to get up from the bed, even to go to the bathroom and had shrunken to 80 pounds or less.

Every waking moment was a struggle just to breathe. And every day she got a little worse. I asked her once what it felt like and she said it was like having the most horrible flu in the world, where you can't get up or enjoy life or even watch TV, but the flu never goes away and you never get any better.

Despite all this, we still had to listen to her talk hopefully about "beating this thing". It was painful, so painful for all of us.

When, with the help of the hospice person, she finally realized she couldn't beat it after all, we were all relieved. I think her most of all, because she kept feeling like a failure for not getting better, you know? Anyway, knowing ahead of time gave her time to give each of us grown kids a special goodbye message, face to face, hand to hand, hug to hug, and instructions on what she wanted done for her funeral, etc.

Maybe it sounds terrible to some, but I'm glad your cousin's husband had the same chance. Sorry for your cousin's loss.

Posted by: Amber at December 6, 2004 11:31 AM
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