The hardest thing ever to do in your entire life is to watch someone die. And even more difficult than that? To let them go.
My sister in law is dying. She has cancer - she's fought it bravely, heroically and unceasingly, but the battle is supremely close to completion. She is in hospice care and the levels are disintegrating quickly. I've not mentioned it here on my blog out of concern for privacy, both hers and her daughters.
So, why now?
Because I love my sister in law and I can't pretend that this isn't happening. I've been married to my husband for 23 years and this past year she and I have gotten very close - and it's been brutally tough for me. Not as tough as it has been for her, and definitely nowhere near as hard as it is for her daughters, who are losing their mom to an insidious and evil monster one day at a time -
but it's been so, so difficult. I'm tearing up right now, just typing this.
Cancer is a beast. A horrid, horrible black beast with great, dripping fangs that gobbles anything in it's path without concern for love of life, family, wishes, thoughts, hopes, dreams or desire. It's the monster in the dark room that grabs you and won't let go as it sinks it's teeth deep into your throat. It's the black abyss that we all fear, the cry out in the night, the Great and Powerful Unknown.
I've cried, off and on, for a few days now. Mostly in the shower, or when I'm alone in the car. My children aren't taking it very well, and I can't add to it.
Yesterday the priest came to give her Last Rites. Well, it's now called Annointing of the Sick, but we were all there and we all knew it for what it was. We sat around her and held each other, consoling each other as we muttered long conditioned responses. It was a deeply powerful and spiritual time. Everyone cried. We were all encouraged to talk to her, to tell her that it's ok for her to go. I leaned in and whispered in her ear, "I love you, JoJo - I will miss you every day of my life. I'll watch over your girls for you and make sure their babies have everything they need. Say hi to your mom for me - I never got to meet her, but if she's anything like you, she was amazing." As I said these words to her, she squeezed my hand and her breathing quickened.
I hope she heard.
I will remember her when I have Starbucks or spray can whipped cream - she was a nut for that stuff. I'll remember her whenever I see a motorcycle, and every time I wear my half of the matching shirts that I bought for us at the Harley museum. I'll remember her when I see a Native American Dream catcher, wind chimes, or an Indian Head - even the spooky one whose eyes seem to follow you around the room. I'll smile when I hear the St. Francis prayer, which was her favorite. I'll remember her when I see turqouise and silver jewelry - her favorite - and every time I wear the "Sisters Forever" ring she gave me.
She will be deeply and thoroughly missed. The family will never be the same.