My mother in law is dying of cancer. For eight long, tough years she fought its relentless scourge. Treatments were harsh and took their toll. And yet she fought on, and was awarded the much-deserved Remission status. But Remission didn't last very long. It came back. Life seemed normal (to us anyway) for a year or two. But every time things appeared great, another obstacle struck.
Last week, when faced with disappointing news, she made the decision to stop fighting. She's at home, confined to a bed, just hanging on until she is claimed by a force much larger than she. She probably doesn't have many days left. She appears just a shell of her typically strong and commanding self.
She amazes me and I love her story. She met my father-in-law in the Philippines while he was in the Navy. After a very quick courtship, they had a shotgun wedding so she could come to America. From what I understand of her story, my father-in-law was deployed when she came to America for the first time, speaking little English, not knowing a soul. She met my father-in-law's parents, people she had never met before, at the airport that first time she set foot on American soil. She lived with them, among strange people, in strange country, far from family and home. My husband was born while she lived with her in-laws and while my father-in-law was in and out of the country on deployments. She was brave, strong, courageous.
I don't see that person now, as she sinks into the many folds of a hospital gown, eyes closed and primarily sleeping. Too weak to clear her throat. She's leaving and she won't be with us much longer.
I want to comfort her but I have no idea what to say. My mind is completely blank as I sit by her bed. I want to tell her thank you. She gave me the thing I love and treasure most. The thing from which all my greatest treasures of my life have come. She gave me my husband. He's responsible and loving, smart and caring, funny and fun. He's a lot like her in many ways. He's my best companion. My best friend. She has given me everything. And yet, I sit by her side and can tell her nothing.
The words are too profound to speak. I only have such a short time left to communicate with her. I may only have days left to express all the gratitude I feel. If there is anything I will ever want to say to her, I have to say it now. But I just don't have the words. I don't know what profound thing I want to say to her, if anything. And I worry that I won't find the words to do so in time.
I don't know her as well as I would have liked. I had hoped that time would have given me the same close relationship with her that she had with her own mother-in-law. But that never happened. And now, it looks like it will never happen.
As her end comes near, there is sadness everywhere. It's mostly unspoken. In my husband's silent eyes. In my father-in-law's dutiful actions. We've never done this before. Faced imminent death. It's hard and uncertain. It's hard to wait for someone to die. The grief is protracted and gripping. And yet, life goes on. I am expected to go to meetings. To prepare for hearings. To cook meals. To go grocery shopping. To celebrate Father's Day. To live as if everything is normal. But it's not. Nothing is normal.
It all just hurts.