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Dealing with Dying. Nobody said it was easy. 29, May 2007

Posted by babychaos in Life and living.
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You’ll remember some time back, I spoke of a lady, redoubtable and feisty, very strong charactered and sometimes a little tricky to deal with, who has been suffering from cancer.

She died yesterday morning. I have been in quite close contact with her family, one of her children sends regular e-mails about her progress to a bunch of us and we remember her in our prayers – not that I’m sure my prayers do much good. It is amazing how these things work themselves out though.

I have been meaning to write to her for some time but every time I started the letter I didn’t know how to go on, what do you say to somebody who is dying but unwilling to accept the situation?

This, on top of the fact she lives 500 miles away, was one of the reasons I didn’t go to see her. What to talk about if mention of her illness is taboo? Mention it and I would be asked to leave, I was told. The usual sympathetic or valedictory phrases cannot be countenanced or used… the lady was sure she was going to beat this thing, heaven knows, if anyone could, it was her but I could see myself rolling up, saying “How are you?” and it going downhill swiftly from there.

She had known she was ill for four years and appears to have hoped that prayer, alone, would cure her. As I understand it, she went to the doctor when she suspected her illness was spreading but was merely given anti-depressants. I doubt that disposed her to seek medical treatment again.

That said, she was a lady of tremendous faith and may well have felt that if her faith was strong enough she would be healed. Instead it came to the point where her illness could not be disguised and she had to seek palliative treatment. I guess the nub of the matter is that no amount of faith will cure you if ain’t god’s will. As Bill was saying on his blog the other day, sometimes the art of praying is to find out what you should be asking for… it’s not always the things you think…

The action she took was her choice, of course. I know that in the first instance some members of her family were hurt by her decision but I am sure she did what she did because she believed it would save them heartache. A terminal illness is a big thing to carry alone for four years, I don’t think you’d take a decision like that lightly. I don’t think you could do a thing like that out of fear. It would have to be love, to protect your family from pain.

As I understand it she eventually accepted that this was her time and went willingly and calmly into the arms of her maker. I am very glad of this, I was a bit worried the good lord would drag her kicking and screaming from this earth! I don’t mean that in a disrespectful or bad way but I can imagine dying was inconvenient – she was in her 60s, which is not that old in the relative scheme of things and in her view there were a lot of things she still wanted to achieve. There was unfinished business and letting it go, leaving it there, must have rankled.

Devout, good, holy people are often difficult. This lady was no exception. As I said before, she meant well and personally I have a great deal of respect for her. I also have sympathy since I know she suffered and did so with bravery and stoicism. But in anything more than the for-your-fellow-man sense I’m not 100% sure I loved her. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I even liked her sometimes, though I could always appreciate that her intentions were good and every now and again there would be flashes of great kindness and sympathy.

So for example, she and her husband wrote me a very sweet letter when I had my miscarriage, something I appreciated very much. Conversely, she was also known for her belief that all women should have children and had a tendency to say this, loudly and forcefully, to absolutely the wrong people – people who’d just failed repeated bouts of IVF, for example. The note, though, was one of the reasons why I thought about paying her a visit. That and the behaviour of her daughter, who lived near me and who stood by me through the process of having a miscarriage when Mr BC was away on business. She came with me to all the scans, helped me, advised me and generally mothered me. It was crap enough as it was but without her kindness and help it would have been an utterly desolate experience. I will owe her for ever.

I have been thinking about this lady a lot since the news of her illness reached me but about three weeks ago I suddenly found I couldn’t go to sleep at night without worrying about the fact I hadn’t taken any action. I had not visited this lady or even contacted her since she became ill – although I have been in contact with her children – how would she know that she was in my thoughts if I didn’t at least write and tell her? So I decided I should write that letter.

Not a valedictory it’s been great knowing you one – actually, I think you can only do that in conversation – but a positive one, concentrating on the improvements in her condition, looking to events in the near future which she was likely to be around for, discussing the benefits of being at home rather than in hospital – and chatting about stuff I’d been getting up to.

So I wrote and immediately, a great weight of worry lifted from my shoulders! The day I posted it, I received an e-mail update from her son saying she was back in hospital with breathing difficulties and fluid on her lungs. She came out again on Friday, spent the weekend at home, was re-admitted to hospital at around 3 o’clock on Monday morning and died at quarter to seven.

Seeing her would have been a bad idea – I’m glad I didn’t go – but I’m so glad I wrote that letter and so glad she got it.

I have no idea if she enjoyed it. * My father spoke to her husband and said he had the impression it was very difficult to read. Since it was typed – I am famed for my crappy handwriting – the difficulties in question must have been down to what I said rather then whether it was legible. I am assuming that it was full of the kind of stuff that made him feel awkward reading it out to her or which was too light hearted (they’re not ones for levity this lot) or generally infra dig in some way – they do tend to think an awful lot of things are infra-dig. The important thing, though, was that one of her daughters was there at the time and the fact that I had written meant something to her, enough for her to write to thank me.

* Actually, as of today, I do. My father told me yesterday evening that the difficulty in reading it was because they were touched. BC 30 May, 2007

One of the hardest things about this death, I think, is not feeling particularly sorry. On the whole this is for the right reasons; partly because she had a strong faith so it was a good death, calm, peaceful et al, partly because life wasn’t much fun for her, she was blind, partially paralysed and in a great deal of pain so her death must have come as a release, but also, I fear, because she wasn’t always very tactful – so in many ways her absence will simplify life for those of us who are left. Although of course, I suspect we will miss the complications…

On the other hand, her family are splendid people and they were able to love her warts and all. They are not idiots, they know how difficult she was, they know many people will not mourn her departure in the traditional sense of the word and that must be hard for them.

So it’s interesting how love works. When it came to sympathy and love from outsiders like me, I know my love for this lady, herself, undoubtedly falls short and I suspect I am not the only one.

However, my love for those around her does not. I find myself looking at her in a new light because no matter how difficult she could be, she was mother to these splendid people, she moulded them into who they are and she and her husband must have done something pretty special for her children to turn out the way they did.

To me, this unspoken admission from everyone that she was difficult but that she meant well and was loved is moving and rather extraordinary. It reassures me to think that if you act with love, then, even if you’re a bit prickly, it will come back to you somehow, however indirectly, from somewhere, in the end.

I guess it’s bit like an indirect free kick, only not.

May she rest in peace.

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Comments»

1. hudds53 - 29, May 2007

Dear BC
My heart goes out to you and the entire family, all are in my prayers. Your posting is so very touching. I am glad for you that you were able to write that final letter. If you had not it may have weighed on you for a very long time. Possibly it may even have been a little of a sense of obligation that caused you to write it, but the fact is you did. When you did write I am sure it was with caring and love. As you say in the end of your post when you act with caring and love it will come back to you. somehow this will come back to you in a positive way.
I am sure a lot of what you friend did was out of love, her way of trying to protect her family from pain and worry, have to admire that.
Please know, today as everyday, you are all, in my heart, my thoughts and my prayers.
Bill

2. babychaos - 29, May 2007

Thank you so much for that very kind comment. I really appreciate it and it helps.

Bless you! 🙂

Cheers

BC

3. radiantwoman - 29, May 2007

I can admire what you did. You reached out to her and that is what matters. Now both she and you may rest. Especially for you since you now know that you did what you could. No coward-behavior here.

A whole story about difficult people and difficult dying is welling up. This comment became so long that I will write about it in a post instead.

One thing though, people who die and are so called ‘difficult’ are the most difficult person to themselves. They are giving themselves a hard time to accept what they did and did not do.

At least you let yourself make another choice and now you can be free. And so will this woman be free of her pain now too. May she rest in peace. take care babychaos.

4. Martha Mihaly - 29, May 2007

What a touching story. Thank you for putting such thoughtful words out for us to read.

5. mel - 30, May 2007

Beautifully written…and lovingly received.

We don’t all do it perfectly, but what we do–matters.
Keep looking in love–it’s a eyeopening thing, and it’s forever changed my perceptions.

Peace to you…..

6. mrsmetaphor - 1, June 2007

BC-
This was a splendid thing for me to read today. Thank you for your transparency in this. It is a real gift. I feel as though I’m always led here by the Divine Hand when I come…whether it is for something that makes me smile or weep…thanks for that.

peace
mrs m

7. babychaos - 1, June 2007

Everyone, thanks. I have tried to be honest and human. I haven’t necessarily been right. I hope you can give me some slack for that.

Cheers

BC

8. RubyShooZ - 3, June 2007

BabyChaos,

I’ve been trying to come up with words in response to your post here for the past few days and honestly, it’s been hard for me. The words I am left with are, I’m truly sorry.

You have been honest and human and that is always right and true. Thank you for being you and for sharing here with us. I know this hasn’t been an easy thing for you to talk about.

Your authenticity and love do shine through here.

Thank you.

Peace, love and understanding,

N.

9. Cormac - 16, July 2008

Wow, touching post!


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