In a recent post of mine (here) I talked about the stages of death and dying. I talked about how these stages affected me, not Richard. We made a big step this week towards Richard moving through the stages. And it has not been fun. Well, whoever thought death was fun. I have read my share of books and self-help crap that deals with death and dying and I am going to tell you that going through it yourself is NOT the same as reading about it.
Richard has been stuck in the first stage of the Kubler-Ross Model for some time. I think he has been there since his diagnosis with Parkinson's in 2006. I know he was in denial when he had a stroke in 2011. He has been in denial about all of this. And that is hard, when you cannot help someone to accept that this is what is going on in their life. According to Kubler-Ross it is this first stage, denial, that helps a person learn to cope with the fact that they are dying. And it helps them to survive. And it is really, really hard when everyone in the family is not on the same level. And that is where we have been.
This past week, however, I think that we hit the milestone. It was late in the evening (actually closer to midnight) when suddenly he started to cry. And cry. And cry. Finally I was able to understand what it was that he was crying about. He said, "I am not going to beat this, am I?" "I am not going to get better" and "I am dying." It was very sad. It is always hard to watch a grown man cry. My husband, thank God, is not one of those macho men who would never dream of crying in front of people. Over the years he has unashamedly shed tears for a variety of reasons. He is very patriotic, so anything to do with the National Anthem or our American flag will bring a tear to his eye. A thoughtful, heartfelt deed by a loved one has brought a tear to his eye. The unexpected kiss and hug with an "I love you Papa" will always bring a tear to his eye. But this was deep, down in the chest sobbing. And all I could do was hold his hand and pat his leg. I felt so helpless.
After the crying was over and we were settled back into his chair for the night we talked for a long time about what was in the future. How we would take care of him here at home. I promised him he would stay with us until the end. That was one of his biggest fears. I reassured him we would keep him happy and comfortable. I tried to tell him that the kids and I will be okay. That we are strong. That we will miss him terribly but that we will be able to go one. He knows that he is loved. And that is what is most important at this time.
It is the denial of death that is partially responsible for people
living empty, purposeless lives; for when you live as if you'll live
forever, it becomes too easy to postpone the things you know that you must do.