Thursday, October 08, 2009

I wish I had a better answer


I have to tell ya. This Karmic Cowboy gig is no fun at all. Because when you go out to ride, boldly ride, it means somebody is suffering. And in this case I feel especially bad about it, because I had no idea. For a week or better, I was so wrapped up in projects at work, at home, on the blog, elsewhere, that I didn't notice my dear friend hadn't poked her head up for days. And when it suddenly dawned on me that her absence -- conspicuous by it's very nature -- hadn't been prefaced with some kind of notice I knew it couldn't mean anything good.

I was right.

Her father, who's been battling heroically against a couple of protracted illnesses for far too long a time now, is in the palliative care unit (that's Hospice to most of us). The last stop on the earthly railway line.

If you read Mimi's blog, you can pretty well figure out she's not ready to let go of dad yet. I'm hoping this time in hospice will allow her to do that. I know it did for me. When you see it coming, you can tie up the loose ends. There will still be some things left unsaid, or undone. There always are. But you can say/do the important ones, the ones you know you'll regret not saying/doing, the ones that you know would haunt you to your grave. Contrast that with , where death came suddenly and if not completely out of a blue sky, at least unexpectedly. Knowing Carmi, I rather doubt there was very much he "tabled" and never got around to. But I'm sure if you asked him, there are a hundred things he'd want to tell his dad if he'd known. He wasn't ready to let go either, but he didn't get the chance that Mimi's getting. She's actually been getting it for quite some time now, and to her credit, she's made good use of the time.

And maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe you can have too long to get used to the idea. Maybe when it takes this long, you've said all there is to say, all that's important, and you're just marking time. And maybe that feels like time you're wasting, time when you should be doing something, dammit. Anything. Making it better. There must be something that still needs to be said, but you don't know what it is. It's like death on the Easy Installment Plan, and with an criminal rate of interest.

When my dad passed in July of 2000, he did it like he did most things. He was never one to put off what needed doing in his life, and he didn't modify that philosophy in his death. His stay in Hospice was mercifully short, sparing us the agony of sitting shiva for someone who's not yet departed. He hung around long enough to put his affairs in order, to make his last decisions and by the grace of whatever you want to call the ruling influence in the universe he was still able to make all those hard calls for himself. He made it easy for us, or as easy as it could be. So even though I've spent the night waking bolt upright at every little noise form the hospital bed next to me, I don't know what it's like to endure what Mimi and her mother and sister are going through. Even though my dad's decline was swift, it wasn't a bolt from the blue, so I can't empathize completely with Carmi and his mom and their family.

I can't offer either of these friends empathy, not really. I can only offer a hand, an ear, a shoulder. I wish I had a better answer.


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