End of Life

The post I had in mind for a month ago was “Cooking for One”, but I found myself, not for the first time, with writer’s block.  It’s been a rough last few weeks.  So, today, forcing myself to write, I decided to post what’s kept me from writing.  “Cooking for One” will have to wait.

It should come as no surprise that my somber mood has to do with Martin. Over the course of the summer he declined significantly, more seriously so in the past few weeks.  Hospice says it’s a matter of months.  I ask the question.  A few months?   Several months?  They don’t know.  Just months.  Martin’s primary attending predicts a more rapid decline in the next 90 days.  But, even he doesn’t know for sure.  All they know is the signs are there for end of life.  But, this disease is as unpredictable as it is cruel.

I’ve long steeled myself for this moment, yet somehow through all the years of anticipatory grief, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming feelings of impending final loss.  Adrift.  Alone.  Indecisive.  Unfocused.  I feel as if I’m slogging through mud up to my knees.  Just putting one foot in front of the other takes effort.  Yes, I’m depressed.  Who among us wouldn’t be.  We all experience loss throughout our lives.  We walk through the actuality of our sorrow to hopefully come out on the other side to accept the loss and start our lives anew.  It’s the getting there that depletes us.  

This end has been coming for the past ten years, twelve if I count the two years prior to retirement.  That’s when I noticed changes in Martin’s once predictable personality.  Blamed on stress and depression he chose to retire from his pressure cooker job.  It was one night not soon after that we sat in the kitchen sipping cabernet and talking about dinner.  Instead of bowl Martin described mixing something – I don’t remember what – in a box.  “You mean a bowl,” I said.  “No.  A box,”  came his answer.  Perplexed, I got up, went to a cabinet and pulled out a bowl.  He smiled and said, “Oh. Yeah.  A bowl.”   I brushed aside my concerns not knowing a years long trial had just shown itself.

My vast experience as a caregiver tells me the best thing I can do for me and Martin is take care of myself.  To that end I started seeing a counselor again.  Hospice, of course, has social workers and a chaplain to talk to.  Family and friends are getting me out to some fun events.  And, my readership gives me purpose.  Last week I took my first ever yoga class.  It was so rejuvenating I wish I had started sooner in my caregiving journey.  I read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking for a second time.  With its honesty her memoir about the year after her husband’s sudden death speaks to me as I experience many of the same emotions, confusion and wishful thinking.  Meditating and reading my spiritual guide each morning at least starts my day off on a peaceful note. 

I sit with Martin, who no longer recognizes me, looks at me, won’t let me hold his hand, but still allows me to rub his shoulders.  He can no longer say even one word.  I talk to him soothingly telling him it will be ok, not certain if I’m reassuring him or me or both of us.  I’m hoping somewhere inside what remains of my Martin he recognizes my voice and takes comfort from its sound.  And I pray for mercy and grace for a peaceful death.  Soon.

39 comments on “End of Life

  1. You are dealing with a mountain of emotions. I’m happy to read that you recognize the importance of taking care of yourself. I’m sure that sitting quietly with your husband brings a flood of memories as well as grief. Yoga is a wonderful practice. I hope you stay with it. This reader sends virtual hugs.

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  2. Dear Kathy, I look forward always to your blog…and today, I read your sadness and despair. I am so sorry for you and for Martin. Life is cruel at times. Indeed…taking that next step forward is never easy. Please know others care about you…Even though I don’t “know” you…I care about you and your well being. I will remember you in prayers…and somehow I hope that gives you a little comfort. Continue to take care of yourself…and one foot in front of the other. Nannette

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  3. I can’t begin to imagine how you are feeling. I thank you for sharing with us what you are going through. I hope you know we appreciate it.

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  4. Kathy, I am so sorry that you have reached this point with Martin. There is nothing to say that makes this difficult journey easier for the both of you, but I wish I had those magic words to give you. Know that those of us who read your blog do feel your pain and are sending love and support to you.

    My husband has been diagnosed with two types of incurable cancer now, and I think often of you telling me that I was stronger than I thought when we were awaiting the results of his first bone marrow biopsy. Your words make a difference.

    May you find the peace and strength to get through these difficult times, and know that you matter to those of us who are privileged to share this journey with you through your words.

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      • Kathy,
        I have been thinking about you and Martin. Please know how much I hope his journey is a peaceful one, and that you are surrounded by those who love you.

        Sandi

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  5. I have tears reading this and wish I could help you. You have been so brave and strong and so giving of your words to pass on to all of your readers. You are never alone.

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  6. I can’t even imagine your thoughts and feelings. While I don’t know you personally, your writing has lent me a sense of familiarity. Please accept my love, hugs, and whatever I can convey through a simple comment. ❤

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  7. We your readers are here for you on your journey.
    Prayers are coming your way.
    We appreciated your connection that you have created for all of us.
    Love coming your way.
    Carol from California

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  8. Your candour and ability to be forthright are generous gifts to all of us as readers. I have followed you for years and you feel like a personal friend now. Be good to yourself my friend. These are difficult days but your grace, your self-awareness and your strength, all demonstrated through your writing, will get you through this.

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  9. Kathy, I have no words…
    I have been blessed with a wife like you…my greatest gift from God.
    You are an inspiration to many!

    Tom

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  10. May Martin’s final journey be peaceful. Bless you Kathy for sharing your story. Caregiving is no easy task. You have done all you can for Martin.

    Marsha

    Get Outlook for iOShttps://aka.ms/o0ukef ________________________________

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  11. Kathy, thank you for writing and posting this. Took a lot of courage for you to share. Again, thanks.

    Glad you are taking care of yourself. My very best kind thoughts to you.

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  12. So sorry, Kathy. Can’t even imagine how difficult this is. Glad to hear you’re taking care of yourself and finding things that bring you pleasure. Just take it a day at a time.

    All the best-

    Carolyn

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  13. I’m so sorry Kathy. I can’t imagine how tough these last years have been and now, even tougher. We always want what’s best for them, but how can we know what that is? I wish you and Martin peace as you navigate these final steps. I know you’re doing everything you can.

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  14. Oh, Kathy! My heart breaks for you AND for Martin. Nothing and nobody prepares one for an end of life like this. Nor for the pain and grief a loving spouse must go through in witnessing a loved one gliding out of life. I can only offer you a virtual hug and encouragement, and hope. The hope that Martin will still be part of this Universe even when he’s gone, just in a different form. And as the Queen said wisely, you two will get to meet again.

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  15. SO hard! I’m not there yet but fear that I may be since my soon-to-be 93 Y/O spouse’s memory continues to sputter. I’ll be 86 in January, so we’re much older than you and many of your readers, but I’m not sure that will make end of life and the months/years preceding it any easier on a practical level. I hope, along with you, that Martin’s end is peaceful and not prolonged–a hope I share for my husband and myself as well.

    Take care.

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  16. Dear Kathy and Sister in Christ ,
    So very saddened to read your words today. Truly my heart hurts for you both especially since as retirees we also will suffer this kind of loss. It was difficult not to shed tears thinking of your love for your husband Martin. Please know that I will keep you and Martin in my daily prayers.
    May God grant you wisdom, hope, courage, strength and peace during this most difficult journey and may joy of your lifetime together fill your heart daily. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.“ Romans 12:12
    I’m curious how old you and Martin are in this season of your life? Sending hugs and prayers your way!
    Maria

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  17. Dear Kathy,
    Sending Love and Strength for you and Blessings for Martin.
    Your raw honesty throughout your retirement has lessons for us, your readers.
    Words have power but I wish I could offer you more.
    Sincere Best Wishes,
    Imogene

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  18. Hi Kathy- I have been in your shoes. Try to take care of yourself as best you can. I attended a grief share program after my wonderful husband passed away 7 years ago. I have become very independent, and I have a wonderful family. You are in my prayers.

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  19. Kathy, I’ve been reading your blog for years. It sounds like you are such a strong woman. Your comments also show me what a wonderful, caring spouse you have been to Martin. In retirement, we all just want to enjoy our years with our spouses. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would. You are truly inspiring, as we all will have to make it alone. Thanks for sharing!

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  20. Kathy ,
    My heart cries for you . Your words seemed to some degree like ones I could have written . Different disease and circumstances but the feelings ! The grief of waiting . In the end I prayed for a peaceful release .
    I’m sending you my love for today and all the days ahead

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  21. Kathy, I am so sorry for the loss of the Martin you spent many wonderful years with and the pending passing of Martin as he is today. My heart goes out to you and your family.

    I found your blog about 7 years ago, a few months after I retired and was trying to figure out how to add meaning to my life after work. You inspired me to volunteer, take some classes and seek out new friends in two different communities. I’m sure you handle most days with grace, but there must be many days (and nights) of rage at your circumstances. Your readers admire your grace, offer our virtual shoulders as needed and understand your frustration and anger. With support , Terry S.

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  22. Dear Kathy, What I can offer is my deep compassion and understanding as one who has endured this hard journey. What I learned best was that each moment was precious as the one we love was still there. Holding that close is all we have and allowing ourselves to be with that, completely present is the kindest heartfelt offering of all. Please take gentle care and know that I am holding you both close to my heart. Much love..
    .

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  23. Thank you for sharing with us. It reminds us of the inevitable, which we shall all face, albeit at different times. May God’s grace be with you and Martin.

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  24. Awww, I feel you Kathy and sending prayers from across the miles in the Philippines. I have followed your blog since I retired and found it inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story, your insights, your joys, and your pain. The end of life is something universal yet each one goes through it differently. Sending virtual love for you and Martin.

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  25. Hello, Kathy, and thank you for sharing your journey with such eloquence. Here’s the piece from today’s writing that I’m going to hang onto: We walk through the actuality of our sorrow to hopefully come out on the other side to accept the loss and start our lives anew. It’s the getting there that depletes us.

    Indeed. During particularly pressing times in my life I make myself point to a future date on the calendar—how far out depends on the circumstance—and say, “On this date I will not be going through this.” It helps, but getting there can be tough, tough, tough.

    I send you wishes for strength, energy, clarity, purpose and humor—all the way from my home in Alaska.

    Warmly,

    Connie

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  26. Dearest Kathy,

    Your journey of a slow mental and physical loss is painful and at times numbing I’m sure. While you are gradually losing him think of the fun and happy times you had together. Continue your self care as much as possible and make sure your affairs are in order. Prayers of strength and peace are sent to you.

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  27. One of the last duties of a faithful caregiver is learning to let go. Your husband trusted you to protect him and you have for years.

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  28. Thank you for being so honest about your emotions and about your journey at this point. It’s a tough subject, but it’s reality for so many. And it helps those of us who haven’t experienced your situation (and maybe will in the future) to have more empathy. My aunt walked a similar path with her husband. Self care is important, and I hope and pray that you use everything available to help you make it through these tough times.

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  29. As I type this, my eyes tear up…I am so sorry Kathy. Keep taking care of yourself during this difficult time. I will pray for you both.

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  30. Dear Kathy, you and Martin are in my thoughts and what is to come. You have been so strong, but I realize how trite that might sound. After all, what else can you be? There will be a light at the end of this tunnel, and I hope you find the support you need from your friends and family and your family of readers.

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  31. Thank you as I’m getting ready to spread my sons ashes in what would of been his 42 bd birthday. You are putting into words I can not. My son also declined with alcoholism for many years. We get out of bed and one foot in front of the other. Praying for comfort.

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  32. God bless you. You are living — and articulating — my greatest fear. You are so right to work on your self-care to enhance emotional survival, and I applaud you for it. (And yes, isn’t yoga great?) But please know that even in your depression, even in your pain, your words are helping others like myself who may negotiate the same path. Prayers and hugs to you in the weeks and months ahead.

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  33. This is just heartbreaking. I’m so sorry for you and for Martin. I remember him in the pink of health and can’t imagine how much he has declined. I know that this was not what you envisioned in your retirement as you both were always so active. Wishing you peace and the love and support of friends and family as you go through this sad journey. Love and hugs, Joanne

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  34. Kathy, I am so sorry to see what you are all going through. I pray that you all find peace soon.

    I came across your blog as an assignment for a Blogging and Podcasting for Beginners course. You have done a wonderful job with your blog, and I appreciate you sharing your journey. It’s exactly what I was looking for, and the type of content I hope to create. As time goes on, I look forward to hearing more of your story. Thank you again for sharing.

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