The long, slow, sweet good-bye
About this time last year began the long, slow, sweet good-bye. We had reached the place of no more curative care options, no more clinical trials. Any treatment from this point on was for pain management and quality of life. Uber-optimist that I am — even I knew that Hubby was dying.
This quote from one of my favorite philosophers, Winnie the Pooh:
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.
Summertime visitors came miles out of their way—some of them thousands of miles out of their way—to pay honor to us and say their last good-byes. One of our Japanese daughters, Yuki, a flight attendant based in Dubai with Emirates Airlines, flew in for a weekend visit.
Daughter Summer and oldest granddaughter from New Jersey arrived in June; SIL Josh and the other two munchkins joined them in time for Bend’s annual Fourth of July Pet Parade and a trek up to Todd Lake where we shared our picnic lunch with the locals.
Several of my previous high school cheerleaders came to town a year ago this month for a surprise birthday lunch in my honor. From California, Oregon, Arizona, Washington and British Columbia. Back in the day, Hubby affectionately referred to them as rah-rahs. And when they visited campus as alumni, he called them ex-rah-rahs. Or has-beens. And still they loved him and put up with him.
On another weekend in July, another beautiful ex-rah-rah flew in from California. Hubby’s standard greeting – when rah-rahs stopped by our house on campus – was to close the door in their faces. “He hasn’t changed a bit,” observed Qiwen wryly, who was welcomed by Hubby with a door shut in her face.
A year ago this month we shared a vacation home in SunRiver with Josh & Summer and the grands. I was journaling from a second story redwood deck, Hubby beside me, a mother doe hovering near her speckled fawns just below us.
I had journaled about cancer spreading to hard places; about children and grandchildren living a continent away; about Hubby’s two-year unemployment stretch before cancer that greatly affected our finances. On paper, things didn’t look so good.
“But here’s the truth,” I had journaled from that sunny tree-top deck:
All is well in our world. For we are held in the strong hands of a loving Father God who sees the bigger picture. It doesn’t matter that I don’t understand why these hard things. It matters that I count all the ways God loves me. This day of sun and wildlife and lazy rivers. These children, here and now. One more day with Hubby beside me. All is well in our world.
So, how do you let go of someone you love deeply? There is no easy answer, but for those of us who have been given a timeline — no matter how off that timeline might be — what a gift to have the reminder to:
1. Live intentionally. To create as many adventures, make as many memories, spend as much time together and have as much fun as possible.
2. Count gifts. Call it counting blessings, counting all the ways God loves us … or call it keeping a gratitude list. Whatever you want to call it, grateful living truly makes a difference in the days that remain.
3. Love deeply. As Hubby’s life began slowly slipping away last summer, I took more and more time to sit with him, to smile deeply into his eyes that would eventually lose their light, to affirm what he meant to me, how much I loved him.
And really, we started living this way ten years earlier when Hubby was first diagnosed with metastatic disease. (Well, maybe not until we worked through the self-pity and frustration.)
But here’s what I would suggest: that we not wait until a loved one is dying to live intentionally and pay attention to all the good that’s going on in our lives (yes, the good even in the middle of the hard); that we not wait to fully love and appreciate the people in our lives until there are only a few months or weeks left with them.
Live and love full out, holding nothing back.