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.