It’s funny how when you start to wonder off track, and start finding the petty things in life irritating, and start complaining about things that in the grand scheme of life mean nothing, something steps up and slaps you square in the face and pulls you back into place.
Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. And children are not supposed to lose their parents so young. But it happens. And it’s happening in my family. My grandmother is losing her only son, at 62 years of age. She lost him years ago, to dementia and now he’s in the “final stages” according to the staff in palliative care. The final stages of life. The nurses that see people die all the time are really in tune with when people will take their last breath. I’ve heard on several occasions of hospice nurses who can spot the signs so well, call the family in to say their goodbyes and minutes later, the loved one passes.
A lot of doctors and nurses are criticised for lack of care or poor bedside manner, but could you imagine if your job was to watch people die? Or to tell people their loved one is dying or dead? It has to be the worst job ever.
My sisters and I lost our dad 7 months ago, to a heart attack. It was quick, it was sudden, he was gone. My cousins lost their dad years ago to an awful brain disease, for which there is no cure, and as yet, no real hope. But his body has still been here. They won’t get to share wedding days and babies with their dad. While we were left to remember the good times, they are left to remember the last several years in which they’ve seen him deteriorate so quickly.
Dementia is a cruel and unforgiving disease. My uncle was a brilliant businessman who did so well he was able to retire early, hoping to spend more time with his family. And when he stopped working, so did his mind. Recently he hasn’t been able to speak words, put sentences together, recognise people, keep control over his bowel and bladder…and there is not a damn thing anyone could do about it. Except put him in a nursing home with 103 year old ladies who lay in bed staring at the ceiling all day and wait. Wait for this moment, when he would enter the Final Stages.
My husband lost his dad to lung cancer. It was a long, painful year for everyone involved, from diagnosis to passing. But people got to say their goodbyes. He got to get his affairs in order. After losing my dad so suddenly and unexpectedly, I thought my husband had the better end of the deal. Now I’m not so convinced. To see someone you love so much – and I don’t think it matters what relationship you have with them – suffer and know there’s nothing you can do but wait for the end, has to be a million times worse than someone suddenly being gone.
We say that no one would want to live the way my uncle has been living. That if it was us, we would rather be dead. That my uncle would be mortified to know he was living this way. In fact, you can’t even call it “living”, it’s merely existing. But it doesn’t make it any easier, or any better, when he does actually die. It’s a lose lose situation. He can’t go on living like this, but the only alternative is to die. Getting better is not an option.
It’s true, life is so unfair.