We sat on the couch, listening to the story shared to us by my mom’s friend. I haven’t had my dinner. Anyway, that’s out of the point.
“They close the door whenever it gets too noisy, and sometimes, it can be a burden to his wife.”
So wrong, yet quite right.
I’m sorry, are you lost here? Okay, let me try again. Let’s start from last evening.
The time was 6.30pm, and I was home for my dinner. Mom’s friend was sitting on the couch sharing the story of her friend when I joined in.
For the sake of identification here, let us call her friend, Ann. Ann has a 9 year old daughter, and she has a husband (of course, you say? Well…?) who is, well, not exactly in good health.
During his last medical checkup, doctors estimated his remaining days to be not more than 3 weeks, and told her to be mentally prepared for his demise that would come anytime. Last night, as we were talking about this, 3 weeks had already passed, and he’s into the fourth week, still in pain. You might think that it’s a blessing, because he outlived the estimations of his doctors.
But think again.
He’s in the final stage of liver cancer, and at this juncture, we can be certain that his cancer cells have spread all over his body. What does that mean?
That means he’s in hell of a pain. So he’ll groan. He’ll moan. He’ll stay awake because the pain is going to be too much for him to sleep. That’s part of the suffering he has to go through in his final days. Pain and agony.
But what about his family?
They have bills – including his medical bills – to pay, mouths to feed (elderly parents, daughter), mortgages and perhaps, other debts they might have that we do not know. So they need income.
Feeling sorry is not going to feed anyone; neither does compassion pay the bills. Someone has to work.
But who? Ann’s husband needs constant care and attention, and their daughter is still in school. Someone has to tend to the girl everyday – going to school, feeding (not literally, but still, making sure that she doesn’t starve), schoolwork, and more. Okay, for now, let me just point us back to what we should look at: life goes on.
Ann can’t go back to work anytime soon, because she has the same 24 hours as the rest of us. Ann’s mother is helping Ann in taking care of her husband, rotating shifts with her, because love is not going to give Ann enough energy to go on 24/7. Two women taking care of a pretty little girl and a sickly man. Even with the help of her mother, Ann is reaching the point of exhaustion. Fast. As much as she didn’t want to, and tried to tell herself that the slightest thought of it is wrong, she can’t help it.
She wishes that her husband would just die.
Juggling between 1 bedridden and 1 school kid with no income is not going to be a survival plan. Her pay package from her boss did not including paying for her time taking care of her husband, and there’s no reason for her boss to be responsible for her husband’s illness. Take a moment to understand the harsh reality.
Metaphorically, it’s a choice between saving a sinking ship with everyone on board, or drown one and save the rest. Hard choice, but still.
I could see that Ann has reached the point of desperation. From feeling sad after her husband’s diagnosis, to pulling herself together so that she could focus on providing care, Ann did what she had to do to move on. Now, frustration is kicking in. She’s frustrated.
She’s frustrated because she has to stay awake every night to feed her husband morphine, and assure him that she’s by his side.
She’s frustrated because she has to make sure that her daughter still gets her education, and in the course of it, she had to relocate her husband to another place away from them.
She’s frustrated because she has to juggle between 2 places to care for 2 persons.
She’s frustrated because she has no income. Her leave days were used up, and she’s now on unpaid LOA.
Her endurance is running out.
“He groans in pain all the time. They close the door whenever it gets too noisy, and sometimes, it can be a burden to his wife. The doctors have estimated his end in 3 weeks, but now, in the fourth, he’s still groaning.”
I can totally understand how Ann is feeling right now. On one hand, she doesn’t want to see her husband die, because which wife hopes to? On the other, the end of 3 weeks could be a relief for her when it. It’ll mark the end of her husband’s pain, and end of hers too. Yes, she will be sad, and she will cry, but life goes on after tears are wiped. Yes, she’ll have to live her life with a different pain, and that will be the pain of knowing that her husband is no longer by her side. But time heals. The next chapter of her life will come only if her husband dies.
Her husband is still hanging on, and no one knows why. I had an urge to speak, and so I asked, “Has anyone assured him that the family will be well taken care of?”
“Yes. They told him that umpteen times.”
“How about his daughter?” I asked.
“No. They’re trying to not let her daughter visit her father because Ann doesn’t want their daughter to be affected.”
That moment, I realised I found the reason behind his strong willpower behind his fight with the grim reaper who has been waiting patiently by his bed.
As a father myself, I shudder to even think about what would happen if I were to die one day. Let’s not talk about the “leaving them behind” bullshit that generates the whole “greatness” deception.
I will not be able to see my sons’ smiles; I will be deprived of the opportunity to see them growing up and maturing into men; I will no longer have the chance to see my younger one running to the door shouting “Papa!” when I am home from work, and I can’t have the younger son inviting me to watch his favourite cartoon with him, if I die. I just can’t imagine not seeing my kids; they are too horrible for me to even think about.
“Bring his daughter to him. Perhaps he’s hanging on because he wants to see his daughter for the last time.”
Mom’s friend looked at me without an expression. I guess she (or Ann) did not realise that their daughter could be the string of hope that he’s hanging on to.
“Now you have reminded me…I’ll let Ann know.”
I certainly hope Ann will do something about it. Let him see their daughter for the last time. Let him know him that their daughter will be in good hands. Assure him that he can leave in peace. Convince him that letting go will be a relief for him and the family. Let him rest.
It is without doubt the word “death” is what many abhor to hear; yet it is also – in the case of Ann – a way to drop the burden that has long overstayed on the shoulders of the caregivers.
Andy Lawson is the average man on the street that you’ll not even trouble yourself looking at him if he passes by you. He’s sensitive to bullshit, and he hates mediocrity in most people. He is the author of his self-published book: Facts and Fiction of Fengshui: Facts that Masters are NOT Telling You. He doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter, because he hates to be associated with people who tend to be passive-aggressive online, but he does have a very limited set of vocabularies, terrible grammar, a twisted mind that makes himself God in his own twisted world and an ability to communicate with people who wish to be his friend.