The Grim Reaper, I mean. He’s an evil one but one thing’s for sure, he gives you fair warning that it will most ALWAYS come in 3’s. You know when you get that first phone call. You know to wait, in panic because the next call is right around the corner, and then the next. If you’re lucky, it will stop there.
My poor sister in law just went through this LAST month. They were clients and acquaintances though. She’s an emotional person and it still hit her hard because although she doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve like I do, her feelings run deep and when they start to come out, they hit her like someone punching her in the gut.
I was at my little niece, Esme’s 4th birthday party on Sunday when Amy (sister in law) gave me the update on one of our friends, Lisa. Lisa is younger than me, a little. She, Mick (her husband) and Emily (her only child) have been friends of our family for years but Amy has known them ALL their adult life. They were close. I remember boating and fishing over at Lisa’s and our kids all playing together. I remember Lisa taking my hand and letting me know that she and Mick were praying for me when my outcome looked grim. I think they really believed I wouldn’t be long for this world.
Anyway, it was strange because they ALWAYS show up for one of our kids birthday parties or special events but Amy hadn’t heard from anyone about Esme’s party. She made a special phone call to them and nobody answered the phone. They texted her back on Sunday and Emily, the 13 year old daughter said, “Mom has refused treatments and I really know now that she’s not going to get better”. You see, last year, Lisa had battled and won her addiction with drugs and alcohol. Nobody even really knew she had a problem, aside from her immediate family. She fought SO hard. She was on top of the world when she found out that she had stage 4 lung cancer. Then it spread quickly to other parts of her body. When I saw her last, at my baby niece’s baptism, she pulled me aside and told me that it was in her brain and she couldn’t get rid of her headaches. She told me then that she knew she wasn’t going to live. She didn’t confide that in Amy I think, in part, because Amy is so innocent and only wants to be optimistic. Also, remember, the dying can confide in the dying. We can keep our diseases between us and that way, the ugliness won’t spread and infect other people. Sad. I knew in November that Lisa wasn’t okay and she wouldn’t get better but my poor sister in law was still hopeful.
Back to Sunday. Amy told Emily that she wanted to see Lisa. Emily said “Yes… she wants to see you too”. Amy knew it would be the last time. Lisa died that night before Amy had the chance to say goodbye.
How does a young family wrap their head around something like this? They’ve struggled as a family all along. They’ve struggled with infertility issues, they’ve struggled with addiction and finance. One thing that always impressed me though, was how fiercely loyal they were to each other and how they weren’t going to give up on each other. They fought off the world and many times, nobody even knew what was happening with them. They were just that way. They kept things private, between themselves. They didn’t want the world judging them and I think they were right to not share things until after those obstacles had been overcome. They couldn’t win the battle with cancer though. When the grim reaper comes for you, you have to go.
I knew when I took this picture of Lisa, it would probably be the last time I’d see her in this world. The strange thing is (about this particular pic) that she’d never seen Ireland, my baby niece before. She LOVED babies and was always even a little sad because her only baby was growing up and she couldn’t have any more children. She was afraid to hold Ireland because she was shaky, due to the brain cancer. She didn’t want the baby to cry if she were able to sense that something was wrong with Lisa. Being the pushy person that I am, I insisted and sat beside her while she fell in love, all over again with another baby. Ireland was fine, btw… she felt comfortable with Lisa instantly because she could sense a good soul. Babies just KNOW things. The funny thing is that Ireland isn’t okay with new people, ever. She isn’t okay with people she sees regularly. It’s just the stage she’s going through. She’s very choosy about who she’ll go to. I’m VERY blessed that she counts me as someone she loves but I was even more blessed, on this day, to see that she would reciprocate the love that Lisa wanted to give.
I knew that Amy would want these pictures. I just FELT that these would be important very soon.
In the back row stands Lisa and her little family, Mick, her husband and Emily her 13 year old daughter. Looking at these now and looking through the lens then, I could feel their sadness. This one didn’t turn out very good but it’s all I can find of their family together. This week will be the funeral and it isn’t fair that Lisa was so young. It isn’t fair that Emily won’t have a mom and that Mick won’t have his best friend. I’m wondering now why I’ve been spared. How is this fair that I was given a death sentence in 2007 (and every year since) yet someone else, a few years younger was given the same death sentence in 2012 and she’s already gone? I can’t make sense of it and I’m wondering if, when the family sees me at the funeral, will they be secretly bitter because I wasn’t the one taken? All I can do now is hand this to God and ask that he eases their pain and gives them a little bit of peace.
As I said, the news about Lisa came last night. Amy and her daughter Aubrie are devastated but still went to work and school. Once Amy got to work this morning, she received the phone call that her step dad, Jack had passed away. Wow. Now she’s inconsolable. Jack had Alzheimer’s but hasn’t been diagnosed for much over a year. We all know you can live a LONG time with Alzheimer’s. It was SO hard on Carol, Amy’s mom, because she was his main care taker. She couldn’t put him in a nursing home. She couldn’t afford it. Every time I’d see Carol and Jack, Carol was frazzled and looked as though her own health would decline. She is severely diabetic and her disease had to be controlled with a pump. Stress can make a diabetic VERY ill. However, that didn’t matter to Carol because she knew that if SHE didn’t take care of Jack, who would? Not to mention, she loved him so much. He has 2 daughters who only came around when they wanted money. They had NO interest in their dad other than what his money could do for them.
During Christmas, Jack came down with the flu. Normal people can fight off the flu but he couldn’t. His turned into pneumonia which caused him to be hospitalized. While in the hospital, he developed a brain infection and he almost became catatonic. He couldn’t swallow, which meant he couldn’t eat. Carol had a feeding tube placed down his nose. It’s called an NG tube. I’ve had these many times and I know they’re not permanent. It’s a temporary solution for people like us to get SOME kind of nutrition.
Last week, while Jack was in the hospital, Carol’s blood sugar bottomed out and she passed out. She fell and broke her ankle in 3 places and had to be placed in the hospital herself until they could do surgery and get her blood sugar under control. While in the hospital, Carol was confronted with Jack’s team of doctors. They needed her to decide whether or not to have a permanent feeding tube placed. This was SO hard for her. Logic would dictate that Jack didn’t want to live like that forever. When he HAD his mind, he told her that he didn’t want extreme measures to keep him alive. Carol is a strict Catholic though and she didn’t want him to die because of a decision SHE made. Besides all that, remember his daughter’s who came around ONLY when they need money? Yeah, they were giving Carol a hard time because they wanted their dad to live no matter what HE wanted. Thank GOD Carol decided to uphold Jack’s wishes and call in Hospice.
Last week, Jack was placed in the worst nursing home ever. NOT because the family wanted a bad nursing home but it was the only one available who had a bed available. Even though Hospice was involved, they weren’t giving Jack his medicine the way it was prescribed. The nursing home, I mean. Once Hospice became MORE involved, he started getting morphine around the clock, every 2 hours, whether or not the nursing home FELT he needed it. This shut down his system, as morphine often does, and he died this morning. I don’t think the family was prepared because they’d been advised that even though Jack wasn’t eating, his body was big and he was other wise healthy. They felt he might live another month or so.
No matter how much you’re prepared, when the life of another human being is placed in your hands, you’re not ready for the flood of emotions. They all know logically, that this is best for Jack BUT the decision was cruelly placed in their hands and they have to deal with the fact that if they HAD chosen a feeding tube, he’d still be alive.
This is another BAD picture but it’s one of the only pics I have that shows how lovingly Carol took care of Jack. Ironically, you can also see Jack in the picture of Lisa’s family, at the baptism. 2 of the people who came to that baptism have died within a day of each other.
Now, we sit and wait for the other. The one who will complete the #3. We’ve already wondered, out loud, if this person will be someone else who attended the baptism. I know, it’s kind of weird but you HAVE to wonder.
My brother called a little bit ago, and asked me if I’d watch my nieces this week. I’m not sure how much I’ll have them but I’m going to prepare for the entire week. They keep me young and alive though so I’l be looking forward to them walking through my door.
Please pray for the families involved, that they have peace and feel God’s love during this difficult time. Oh and that maybe THIS time the grim reaper won’t greedily come to claim his third soul.