Thursday, July 26, 2012

It Was Harder than You Let On

Dear John,

I'm talking to you at all times of the day now - oh, what chaos is unleashed upon the world!

Yesterday afternoon I drove up Main Street by the hospital and had an almost overwhelming urge to turn in. Habit, wanting to see you, general fondness for Goshen Hospital - I don't know exactly what. As I was pondering it at a stoplight, my first thought was that I wished I could still go visit you there. My second thought - generally the more reliable of the two - was that I was so thankful that I couldn't.

I'm so thankful that you're not suffering anymore. You'd had to deal with health issues since you were 9 years old and had rheumatic fever, and with cancer since we were 19. That's a long time. Most of that time you felt fine, but we always had this thing hanging over our heads and a constant awareness of our own mortality.

The last 4 years have been so hard for you. Since you had myocarditis with that bout of mono, I know you hadn't felt good. Your energy level had been low and we were constantly dealing with your fluid status - CHF, peripheral edema, then pulmonary edema and pleural effusions. The lung cancer was just one more thing. You dealt with it all so well. You stayed positive, worked hard to take the best care of yourself that you could, were never irritable or discouraged or self-pitying. But it was much harded than you let people see, I know. It was harder than you wanted me to see, but you can't fool an old critical care nurse.

It's so hard to never feel good. And it's much harder to know you may never feel any better. The radiation saved your life when you were 19, and took it when you were 56. In between the two, it caused one problem after another. It didn't take us long to figure out that the complications wouldn't stop until one of them was fatal.

And one of them finally was. When the end came, I think you were more than ready for it. You fought so hard and lost so gracefully. And as much as I miss you, I wouldn't for all the world have you back to suffer any more. As a nurse, I know that pneumonia and sepsis was the easiest way you could have gone. I don't know what terrible things you were spared by getting MRSA in your lungs, but with my experience I can imagine quite a lot.

So I'd love to see you - but not in that hospital bed, trached, and on a vent. My favorite photo of you was taken on the front porch of the Governor's Mansion on Mackinac Island. The way you were that day is the way I remember you. And now you're even better than that - for the first time since you were 9, you're healed and healthy. And I'm thankful for that. If it means that I'm alone for a while, that's a small price to pay. We'll be together again - and both of us will be healed and healthy then. That's what I hope and work for!

Love you, love you, love you!

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