Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Goodbye Mr. Chips

July 18, 2014
 He's gone. A gaunt, bony, generally genial facsimile of him roams the rooms and hallways of a long term care facility, picking up treasures and debris, both real and imaginary. Those warm brown eyes unfocused, darting about until the stimulation exhausts them and they close. It is so painful now to be with him. I can't just sit with him as he keeps popping up and wandering off.  Discussion and conversation grind to a halt as his eyes close against the effort of thinking. I rub his back and hold him when he lets me. Last night he said quite clearly that I wasn't quite ever doing what he wanted. I know not what he actually was trying to say, but the implication that he wasn't happy and that I had something to do with it, remains painful. I know better in my mind, but my heart is still sensitive to the insult. I struggle to visit, to remain present, as every cell in my body screams to leave those rooms and run to the sunshine, to avoid the excruciating decline and to choose life...vibrant, moist, messy, delicious life. The letting go. The moving on. The long goodbye requires you do most of the hard work, the heavy lifting of mourning before the actual end of life. It is the strangest mixture of regret and sorrow and longing and remorse and relief to feel the weight of caregiving begin to lift, ever so slightly, from your heart before your loved one dies. I leave him now for long stretches of rest, where I feel all those feelings but also adventure and the tingle of living life of my own. I can't wait to go and yet I feel so full of those feelings, especially sorrow and guilt. I leave him slowly, gently, even as we are together. I feel the small, seismic shift of my attention, my yearning, my interest as my heart begins to withdraw. I feel him slipping down that hole I once vowed so valiantly, so naively to disallow. I feel me looking elsewhere, looking outward, looking away from him. It is most certainly a healthy and appropriate change in me as I would slip away with him down that hole if I did not separate. But the separation, though freeing, is painful. This letting go is like pulling the bandaid off slowly, recognizing that it needs to come off but without the clean, surgical precision of jerking it off fast. This death is gradual, slow, and demands its own rules. Where is the raging against the night, in him and in me?!!!

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