Monday, February 4, 2013

Consider Me Gibbs-Slapped

Dear John,
 
I've been struggling for a few days with something that I didn't tell you about because I knew you'd Gibbs-slap me. I've been feeling like somehow your death was my fault. I never knew how - sometimes I thought I had missed something medical, or not gotten you to the hospital soon enough, or given you MRSA myself, or even that God was punishing me. But somehow it had to be my fault.
 
Having come out of that, I have no idea what was wrong with me. But it's close to the worst feeling I've ever had. We all have a tendency to believe lies. And, as Julia Roberts said so well, the bad stuff is easier to believe. I've gotten my head back on straight, and it's because of an awful dream I had last night.
 
It was long and rambling, and involved Jen, a van full of church people, a couple that ran a Wendy's, weather forecasting, rental wheelchairs, badgers, and lots of other disconnected things. It was one of my usual novel-length dreams. I tried for all day to shake it and couldn't. So I finally sat down tonight, took a good hard look at it, and saw what it was really about.
 
You were alive in my dream, but the cancer had spread to your brain. You were having times of impaired motor skills, communication difficulties, and personality changes. And the times were getting more frequent and lasting longer. But your body was doing fine and you were going to live for a long time. And it was so hard on both of us and everybody else. And tonight when I looked at the dream, my first thought was, "At least we were spared that." And that was my Gibbs-slap.
 
I've always known that what you really died of was the radiation you got when you were 19. What I don't know is what would have been ahead of us if you'd lived any longer. Looking at things medically, I know that it wouldn't have been anything good. I don't know just what your death spared us, but I can imagine quite a lot. Your quality of life had been decreasing ever since you had myocarditis a few years ago. Between that and the radiation damage to your mitral valve, your heart failure was getting harder for you to live with. Radiation damage to your vocal cords and esophagus had been causing choking problems for a few years. Then the cancer came along, and that cancer spreads so easily to the brain. It's not a pretty picture.
 
So I got reminded that not living any longer can be a great blessing. As it was, you got time to prepare for death, we had three months being together most of the time, Jen got to spend time with you, Danica got to see you, you got a lot of time with your family, and you were spared any more deteriation from the radiation. It wasn't about me at all. It was about you.
 
So consider me Gibbs-slapped. The dream, and the processing of it, got something important through my very thick head. At least for tonight, I'm not listening to the lies. I regret not having made meatloaf more often. But that's a small issue in looking back over 34 years of marriage. It was good - you were good to me - I was good to you - we loved each other - we still love each other. None of it is my fault. Like we both said in the fall of 2011, if I weren't a critical care nurse, you wouldn't have survived that August. I have nothing to beat myself over.
 
So I'm off to bed, feeling much better and not beating myself. I'll try to keep it up. Do feel free to smack me in the back of the head as needed.
 
Love you with my big heart and my hard head,
Joan.

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