Sunday, June 27, 2010

A new day was starting.....

"A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist." . --Stewart Alsop

My mom opened the door to his room but I was the first to enter. My uncle was tucked neatly in bed as if he were a package. His face looked relaxed. I placed my hand on his forehead and it was stone cold. My aunt started to sob.....

My uncle was taken to the hospice facility last Monday. He became noticeably weaker, deteriorating a bit more each day. By the end, he no longer had the strength to talk, keep his head up, or even sip from a straw so we fed him bits of water and lemonade with a needleless syringe directly into his mouth.

On Saturday he was unresponsive and ran a fever. The hospice center called my aunt later that evening, just hours after visiting him, and told her to come by. Informing her that my uncle had passed.

Our backyard morning glories

"I guess I was just hoping for a miracle," My aunt said to my cousin over the phone. "I really was."

I offered to spend the night yesterday because I knew my aunt wouldn't want to be in their house alone--too many photographs and reminders of him when the death is still so raw.

It was around 4 o'clock Sunday morning when I wrote the words to this blog post (obviously I couldn't sleep). Even though the full moon was still visible, the sparrows chirped and sang outside my window anyway. Lying in bed in my aunt and uncle's spare bedroom, it became quite apparent that whether I was ready or not....a new day was starting.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thinking about death.....

When I was in 8th grade I used write A LOT. The stories were extremely morbid and dark. About people getting killed. Just really twisted stuff. So much so that my classmates said I'd be the next Stephen King when I grew up!

That dark side got quietly tucked away as I grew older and found art. But now that my uncle is slowly dying, that disturbed part of me has been unleashed to run amuck in my head....and I'm glad it gets to be expressed again.

"Thinking about death"
Mixed media in Moleskine journal - (NFS)

I'm consumed with death lately. Thinking about what it's like to die. The final moments before passing. If there's any pain. If there's anything after you're gone.

These thoughts have been tormenting me and there are nights I can't fucking sleep!

Sometimes I'm emotional and can't stop the tears, or I've gone numb, or just don't know how to feel or what to think.

My uncle gets closer and closer to death every day and I can't stop thinking about it.....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Putting life on hold for death.

Death is nothing new to me.

All of my aunts, uncles, and grandparents on my father's side are deceased. I'm always told the story about how my maternal grandmother died of breast cancer four months before I was born. How she desperately wanted to see me.

My grandfather (on my mom's side) died of lung cancer when I was in 7th grade, one of my cousins died of heart failure seven years ago, and today marks the 5th anniversary when my dad died of a massive heart attack.

Now I visit my uncle as he deteriorates a little more each day at the hospice center.

A fallen sprig from my neighbor's pear tree.

I called my therapist and cancelled all future appointments for the time being, telling him I'd like to wait until my uncle passes. Due to logistical issues, it'd be too difficult doing both. Therapy will always be available to me when I'm ready to go back.

I haven't drawn or painted anything since early last month but that will be waiting for me too....I hope!

And I'm apologizing to all my fellow bloggers. I've fallen behind on everyone's blog. Once things settle down I'll be able to get caught up. But right now I have more pressing matters to attend to.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Making other people happy.....

My uncle was sleeping so the three of us sat in the corner of his hospital room and talked in hushed tones.

The doctor took my aunt's hands and gently smiled. "You're making the right decision. We can't make him any better at this point. Hospice will take good care of him."

She talked about the dying process, trying to reassure my aunt, telling her it's in God's hands now.

My uncle knows he's dying or at least understands he's too sick to go back home, so he agreed to be taken to a hospice facility versus home care.

He was apprehensive because now my uncle is starting over again at a new place. We'd gotten close to all the hospital staff these past couple months.

The nurse who was getting him ready to leave the hospital, knelt down by his bed, gripped his hand and said, "You take care of yourself, okay?"

"You're a super girl," my uncle replied in a weak voice. "I love you."

"I love you too," she said giving him a hug.

I did my very best NOT to cry at that moment.

My cousin drove in from Ohio for Father's Day weekend so my uncle could see his grandchildren....probably for the last time. She brought with her a cluster of helium-filled balloons (9 in total). Colorful and shiny, they bobbed and weaved, adding a little fun to the atmosphere.

So when my uncle was being transported out his room yesterday evening to go to the hospice center, I told the nurse we no longer needed the balloons. To please give one to each patient on our floor, especially those that don't get a lot of visitors or have family.

I talked with my cousin on the phone that night, mentioning passing the balloons along to cheer up the other patients and brighten their day.

"Good idea," my cousin said. "That's what it's all about. Making other people happy."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dirt in my salad.

His hospital bed whirred. I adjusted it to incline up then handed my uncle his glasses once the doctor came in. The darkness of the hospital room was cleaved as I drew open the curtains a bit.

The view from my uncle's hospital room.....

My aunt sat to my uncle's left, looking like she was about to burst into tears and I was on his right while the three of us took in the news.

"What's my expiration date?" my uncle asked, hands semi-folded with fingers pressed together. The doctor didn't like that phrasing but said my uncle had about 2-3 months left to live.

My uncle was admitted to the hospital (yet again!) this past Tuesday for being dehydrated and extremely weak. He steadily began refusing to eat or drink much of anything these past several weeks, dropping 15 pounds since Memorial Day. He's skin and bones at this point.

The oncologist said the cancer is too far gone and his appetite will never really come back. That my uncle wouldn't be strong enough to receive chemotherapy and we should start looking into hospice options.

The last time my uncle was at the hospital in May, the doctor told me something similar. That he'd become sicker and sicker, begin missing chemo, and eventually die of the cancer. But this time around they gave a targeted timeframe so the news seemed more definite and urgent.

My uncle was given a "banana bag" in his IV to see if that would boost up his nutrition but now he's storing excess fluid in his belly. We were informed a feeding tube wouldn't be much help either. That we'd be prolonging the inevitable. His body is literally shutting down.

On Saturday he was awake for maybe an hour the ENTIRE day and only had about 8 ounces of a shake in the morning. He's extremely tired, desperately wanting to sleep, only waking up when the nurses give him his meds or when the pain is too intense.

The hospice representative told us yesterday that my uncle probably wouldn't make it through the end of the month. After all, once he's back home, he'll simply not eat or drink much and essentially dehydrate and slowly starve to death.

So we went from hearing 2-3 months several days ago, to my uncle just lasting weeks. It's a lot for all of us to take in.

But after another long day visiting at the hospital, I was finally back home and decided to fix myself a late dinner.

The sun was setting as I plucked a few leaves of swiss chard from the garden to add to my side salad. I was so tired and drained by EVERYTHING that I forgot to rinse off the greens! So there ended up being dirt in my salad but I ate it anyway. That's the least of my worries right now.

Now we have to decide does my uncle die at a hospice facility or at home. He's going to want to go back home. I'm just not sure if my aunt and I can properly take care of him even with the help of a visiting hospice nurse.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hello Kitty!

It was a Grey Day yesterday as I headed downtown.....

Buckingham Fountain yesterday! This is my kind of weather!!

While waiting on the platform for my train, I noticed a pullout from a child's coloring book lying on the sidewalk down below. A black and white illustration of a cat scribbled with green, blue, and pink crayon.

She sure looked happy. Smiling, with flowers in her hat and hearts on her dress.

Even though trampled and worn, it was still an unexpected piece of art that I was DETERMINED to get! I had to have her!

But I would've had to walk all the way off and around the platform, missing my train which was on its way. So I just looked at her one more time before boarding, transferring all of my craziness onto that whimsical kitten!

Please, God, let me have it, I thought to myself. Let it still be there I when I get back. Please, please, please let me have it. I can't lose this too. I need it. Please!

Much of my time was spent worrying about that cat art! Visions of it blowing onto the street and getting run over, soaking in a rain puddle, or simply picked up and discarded. Lost forever.

Four hours later, I'd gotten off the train back where I started. Down and around the ramp I dashed.

Would it still be there for me? I looked under nearby cars, to no avail, in case the wind moved it. The rain held off so it couldn't have gotten wet. And there in the distance....on the sidewalk just where I had first found it, she was waiting for me!

I gingerly picked her up and sighed. She was mine. Mine. All mine! And I took her home.....

Friday, June 11, 2010

Let's go Hawks!....I guess.

"It's a good thing you don't work downtown anymore," my mom said earlier this morning. "Everyone's going to be down there for the parade."

"What's the parade for?" I asked.

My mother explained, "The Chicago Blackhawks. This is the first time they won the Stanley Cup in 49 years."

"Oh," I replied.

Judging by this conversation, you can easily deduce I know very, very little about sports. I hear there's a World Cup thingy going on now too.

An estimated 2 million people showed up for the Chicago Blackhawks parade on Michigan Avenue today, so I should show some excitement, right?

Let's go Hawks!....I guess.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

All I do is lie.....

"I never know with you," my therapist said yesterday. "You always come in smiling but the exterior doesn't match what you're telling me."

"It's a defense mechanism," I explained. "I'm hiding the truth."

I lie every day. To family. Friends. The general public.

If I appear sad, I always brush it off as me being tired.

When someone asks how I'm doing, my typical reply is, "I'm fine, how 'bout you?"

It's so much easier to lie. To keep it to myself.

Imagine if a bank teller asked how I was and I said, "I'm severely depressed and want to die, how 'bout you?"


Sometimes I can't fake it though. When my therapist mentioned me possibly having to be on medication, my half-smile quivered, my blue eyes welled up, and I couldn't stop fidgeting with my fingers.

With all that said, if you asked how I was today, I'd reply with a smile, "I'm fine, how 'bout you?"