Our lives, as we care for, and love, Handsome Husband, have taken on a new rhythm. An awkward rhythm, but still…
Our two sons left for their respective homes in Arizona and Connecticut. They didn’t want to, of course. They want to be here when their dad dies. Our two girls want the same thing, but we had the conversation with them yesterday that it’s time for them to return to their lives. Jobs, children,partners..life. Yes, life continues even while their dad is dying.
Friends have come to pay their respects. Not in a you’ve already died way, but in a very living way. Handsome Husband mentored many young people throughout his military career, and in his ordinary life. Some of those people traveled from NJ and other places to tell him, again, of their love and respect for him. As I’ve observed them, I’ve also seen that they are, to coin a word, “representing”. One person is physically standing in front of Handsome Husband, but the spirits of hundreds are with him or her. Thousands are standing here with him, writing to him, calling him, telling him how much he has meant to them, and thanking him. Our younger daughter told me, after a day long visit from 3 of his friends, that it was like having a bunch of big brothers around. What a comfort that was, she said.
Handsome Husband isn’t going to be here much longer, I sense. His heart is still strong. His heart will always be strong, because each beat of it only echoes the love he has always had for me, for his kids, for anyone around him. No, he isn’t a saint, and he would laugh if you suggested that. However, I can tell you honestly, dear readers, that his intent, upon meeting anyone throughout his day, was to leave them happier than when he said hello. He’s a good man. One of those men of honor and dignity (without being stuffy)! A man whom many have looked up to. (yes, that is a dangling participle or something and I find myself not caring in the least).
He’s a favorite with the hospice staff. No surprise there. Always polite, always appreciative of the slightest effort made on his behalf. Each day more effort is required of him as he struggles to maintain a sense of self and freedom, but he relinquishes small bits of freedom on a daily basis. For two nights he slept in a chair, striving to find a comfortable position. That’s a tough call for him, as he has a tumor around the area of the base of his spine, and it pains him when he sits. And yet, sit he must, or lose his breath entirely and be overwhelmed with pain from the tumors in his lungs and back. Now he must sit upright in a bed, however. In sleep the other night, his body slumped sideways, on his arm, and now his arm is full of lymphedema. His body is breaking down under the stress of cancer.
Hospice is, thankfully, about pain management, and each day Handsome Husband accepts the increments of upping the levels of medication, as he surrenders just a little bit more to the inevitable. He had a long career in the military and by training and personality, doesn’t know the word “surrender”. I’ve suggested to him that maybe it isn’t so much “surrender” as “relax into”. Take the necessary pain medications, even if it sends him into permanent sleep. Yes, you’ll be sleeping, and not seeing us, but your sense of hearing will be more acute if not blocked by pain. Your sense of touch, as we stroke your head or your arms, will be heightened, if you aren’t grimacing with each wave of pain that courses through you. Your breathing will ease so you won’t be so anxious.
He will miss “us” he tells me, and I agree, my heart shredding to pieces at the thought. I miss him and I miss “us” already. The feeling of missing-ness is already acute and growing. But for now, my love for him is so strong that I want only for him to be out of pain, freed as much from the emotional toll this is taking from him as much as the physical.
Handsome Husband has always been my protector, my defender. Let me protect you now, I tell him. I’ve got your back. I promise you will be pain-free and comfortable. I’ll be with you to the absolute last-minute until you walk through that veil into the next place you’ll go. Ride with the lack of pain feeling. See that open road in front of you. Windows open, sun pouring through the open roof, breeze singing through you, tunes on.
I am summoning the Archangel Michael to be with my most beloved Handsome Husband. To guard him now, to greet him as he takes his final breath. As Handsome Husband has protected me, this angel will protect and guide him. A strong angel for a strong man. He is deserving of nothing less.