Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Out, out brief candle

My mother-in-law died nearly six years ago. It was sudden and very much unexpected. Of the two, my father-in-law looked more frail, so if anyone placed bets, he clearly would have been picked to go first.

I felt very sad for FIL when MIL went. It was about four days later, and through a whirlwind of decisions and a thousand tiny details, we found ourselves alone in the last place he and MIL lived.

"Your mom died before your dad," FIL said.

"Yes, that's correct."

"How long did your dad live after your mom died?"

"Nearly six years."

"That's too long."

I nodded. I think my dad felt the same way, and although his death certificate said the cause of death was pneumonia, i really believe it should have read broken heart.

Cold comfort for my FIL. He and my MIL were one of the happiest married couples i have ever met. They weren't without their flaws, and each was aware his/her partner had some, but i never once heard either speak a derogatory word about the other.

My FIL and i always got along and always spoke freely to one another. He could never tell his kids he thought six years was too long to live without his beloved wife. And he never thought twice about telling me things because he knew i knew what to share with others and what to keep between ourselves. I told him that unless he was suicidal, how long he would survive her wasn't really up to him. He agreed, and while he wasn't happy being on the planet without her, he never became suicidal.

When i got the go-ahead to become a telecommuter and move to my current location, i was slated to move just after the August birthdays. We have a slough of them: both my nephews, FIL, Himself, and me. My younger cousin, who's more like a sister than cousin to me has three boys, and two of her three have August birthdays, too. With Himself's family, we always had two birthday get-togethers: one in February for MIL's and my sister-in-law's birthdays, and then in August for everyone else's. My brother-in-law's birthday is in October, and his wife's is in early September, so some years we'd have a Sept/Oct birthday celebration, too, but many years, it was simply August.

After MIL died, Himself's sister wanted to keep the August birthday tradition going, and the year i was to become a telecommuter was no exception. FIL was turning 80, and SIL wanted to have a party at a nice restaurant FIL loved. By this point, he was living in an assisted care place, which was his choice after MIL died. It was nearly three years since MIL had died, and he had aged a lot. He allowed SIL to plan everything, and i got the impression that while he was glad to see everyone around the table at the restaurant, he could have done without the party hats and favours, but didn't want to disappoint his daughter. It was a lovely meal, and i knew that he knew and he knew that i knew this would be the last time we'd see each other.

And it was.

A little over a week ago, he was taken to the hospital after displaying symptoms of pneumonia. While in the hospital, they diagnosed emphysema. My aunt died from its complications, and it's not something i'd wish on anyone. This particular hospital also routinely tests for MRSA and yes, the test confirmed he had that as well. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a staph infection that's resistant to many antibiotics. Fortunately, the doctor told FIL's kids that this was a tall order of things to overcome, and FIL was frail. He thought it best that they prepare for the worst.

My prayer was a simple one. If FIL wasn't going to survive this trifecta—and i was pretty sure he wasn't—that he could go in his sleep and without much pain. His kids visited every day (or nearly so as i explain) for the past week. He was alert and awake. He felt some discomfort. He had a DNR in place. Himself went Saturday to see Dad, and as Dad wasn't liking the food very much, Himself had gotten in the habit of stopping at McDonald's for French fries, sometimes with a burger and milkshake, too. On that Saturday, he thought the milkshake not a good idea, given milk's phlegm producing capabilities, and got something like a slushy and order of French fries. FIL was awake, drank the slushy, ate every French fry, and after a bit said he was tired and going to nap, so Himself left. He had to work Sunday and by Sunday afternoon was done in, so decided not to visit. He called SIL to let her know. She said both she and my BIL had visited and that FIL was most likely sleeping. FIL died in the wee hours of Monday. Himself called me shortly after
3:00 a.m. to let me know. His heart had simply stopped.

I wasn't surprised, although i lay awake until 5:00 a.m. or so just thinking of this and that as one does after those sorts of phone calls. Snippets of conversations, or the way someone talks or gesticulates with his hands, or how he laughs. I cried a little, mostly for me and for those who would love and miss him. I'm not sorry for him, though, as he's wanted to leave for quite some time. I got the feeling that he saw his kids were finally ready to let go, so he felt he could let go, too. I was grateful that my prayer had been answered.

The viewing and service are later this week. I shall travel back to the old location, and have had myriad invites from people. My dance card is full with a waiting list. Meantime, i'm at the current location tying up some loose ends, making provisions for the kitties. FIL died just short of his birthday. I'd like to think he's spending it with his wife and all the other loved ones who went before him.

It's my hope that when it's my time to cross the bar, there'll be plenty of folks on that far shore eager to see me.

So i might fall a bit behind on my blog reading. Sometimes real life needs every minute of our days, and for the next four or five, i shall give myself wholly over to it.

And since i mentioned crossing the bar, i ought to close this entry with that poem:

Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star,
  And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
  When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
    Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
    Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
    When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
    When I have crost the bar.


  1. Very sad news. My sincere condolences to all family members.

  2. Well told; a tribute to your husband's parents. Condolences to all.