February 26, 2012 1:58 AM   Subscribe

What it feels like to have your spouse die. This left me speechless.
posted by rahulrg (52 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, me too.

posted by spitbull at 2:24 AM on February 26, 2012

Thank you. Right now I am dealing with the death of my (estranged) mother, the final steps in arranging my divorce after a year of separatin (Australia requires it thus) from my spouse of 20 years, a new job, a new residence (with speed junkie neighbours) and an undefinable long distance relationship which, while supportive & caring, is not ideal nor enough.

This woman's measured words have, for the moment at least, grounded me. Sometimes, anyone of us will have to bear the unbearable, we will have to continue to get up and meet our obligations, to make sense of the senseless world we inhabit, and keep on going.

Its comforting to be isolated with her, to be one if those people with dramas or tragedies that are inexplicable in a social sense, to find yourself protecting strangers from the circumstances of your grief. It is real and it is difficult, and I suppose it comes to all of us at some stage, in some way, and atheist blessings on her head for talking about it like it is a normal & ordinary life experience, because damn it, by the number of Askme's on a million different topics, it is part of life, it is life, and please, may we be kind to each other, because some days, it is so hard to get from wake-up to restoring sleep.

Goddamn it, babies, you have got to be kind.
posted by b33j at 2:53 AM on February 26, 2012 [29 favorites]

This made me cry (cathartically). It reminded me of the last week I spent with my father dying of pancreatic cancer. Thank you for posting.
posted by northxnorthwest at 3:42 AM on February 26, 2012

Nice post, but I didn't think it was heartwrenching. This was death, as good as it gets. Sure it came earlier than expected but nobody gets to choose when, and it's never a good time.

Heartwrenching is when nobody has made their peace with what's happening, and everyone spends their loved ones final days not saying and doing the things they need to, but burning up those last precious moments in anger or worse, in terror.

I'd be fine with any of my loved ones going like this when they have to go.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:50 AM on February 26, 2012 [15 favorites]

Wow. I wish I hadn't read this now, hitting a bit close to home. At my age-mid-fifties, with the exception of my father, who died suddenly, I haven't had anyone close to me die, or even really be sick. I am very lucky.

I recently broke up with a woman, who was going through a similar process, even basically the exact same disease, the same last time together. I was the new boyfriend, and honestly after just a few months was a close to being back in love as one could reasonably expect. In the end, she felt he would not have approved, I guess. I'm not one to cry, my generation I suppose, or generally to post publicly before 7am, but sometimes I wish I could.
posted by sfts2 at 3:51 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Heart wrenching doesn't have to extraordinary or special. In fact for me, my heart is wrenched by the every day pains that a bullied child or their parent goes through, the pain of loss, the every day real life difficultie that any of us have to cope with. Poverty, marriage break down, dabilitating illness, estrangement from family. It hurts, it cuts deep. This writer conveys the pain, humour, alienation without self pity.

In being human & good to each other, let us not set standards of what kind if spousal death is heart wrenching and what kind fails to make the grade. If you love someone and they die, it IS heart wrenching without ever taking in to consideration a very early death and loss of mobility & choice.

And if you gave higher standards for empathising, well then, I am glad I am not you, and no doubt, you are glad you are not me.
posted by b33j at 4:01 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Please blame my iPhone & stupid ISP for typos above.
posted by b33j at 4:03 AM on February 26, 2012

Sure it came earlier than expected but nobody gets to choose when, and it's never a good time.

How very glib and unconvincing. Have you ever had a loved one die young?
posted by thelonius at 4:03 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm just not the type of person to be able to move on after something like that. I don't envy her for it, either. I don't understand it, but I am glad she's happy and come to terms.
posted by Malice at 4:36 AM on February 26, 2012

Nice post, but I didn't think it was heartwrenching. This was death, as good as it gets.

Of lung cancer, at 33?

posted by running order squabble fest at 4:40 AM on February 26, 2012 [28 favorites]

After reading this, I feel quite shallow and am reconsidering what is important in life and relationships.

This woman is a giant.
posted by Silo004 at 4:48 AM on February 26, 2012

My Grandfather died unexpectedly recently of esophageal cancer. I was tormented for awhile that I was not experiencing the same sort of grief that everyone else seemed to have. It wasn't until I was with my Grandmother after the grave-side service that I cried when she said in a heart-broken voice "He's gone and he isn't coming back."

I can only imagine just how much more lonely it must feel to be alone after being half of a couple for so many years.
posted by jamincan at 4:53 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's always heartwrenching. However, I agree that Scott's is about as "good" a death as a young death ever gets - having plenty of notice and time to sort out responsibilities, say goodbye to people, take a trip, staying lucid 'til the end, and apparently not in great pain. That is the method by which I would prefer to die, if I have to have an ending thrust upon my unwilling self, rather than choosing death at some appropriate point. Dying suddenly in an accident, or over a very long period of extensive physical and/or mental deterioration, seem worse to me. YMMV.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:59 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

The article sounds about right. It didn't seem extraordinary to me, honestly, but maybe it's because I have gotten to the age where I've had quite a few people die in my life. We will all, if we live long enough, have to go through a loved one dying, and if we don't, it's usually because we're the one dying. It's only heroism in the sense that we are all called to be heroes in our lives, one way or the other.

It is partly about love, it's partly about grief and loss, and partly, it's a matter of taking care of business in the midst of the grief and loss. And about a whole bunch of other things. With my most recent death, when my mother died (after I spent ten years taking care of her) the process was about humor, anger, annoyance, boredom, cognitive dissonance, sorrow, relief, and social anxiety. In other words, living through the death of someone close to you, whether early or late, is living.

I have a colleague going through the death of her spouse right now. And I'm willing to bet you probably know someone else who is going through it. My suggestion: Don't get all seized up with empathetic pain, wonder how they're going through it, and hesitate to say anything. Instead, show up. Keep in contact without being demanding. Run errands for them. Make sure they have support at work or someone to do the grocery shopping. A buddy of mine and I helped our colleague put up her Christmas trees. I'm going in early tomorrow to make sure her desk is tidy. She has to keep living, and that's what makes the death of a loved one so hard.
posted by Peach at 5:01 AM on February 26, 2012 [13 favorites]

it's never a good time.

A good time is when insurance gets to cover it. Or a hail of gunfire when you are defending God and Country - right?

Meanwhile something for you to think about "grief".
"the symptoms are not better counted for by Bereavement, i.e., after the loss of a loved one, the symptoms persist for longer than 2 months"

Is thinking about the dead for more than 2 months happy-pill worthy?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:07 AM on February 26, 2012

Damn. I knew this might be a tough read now, but I´m glad I did it.

A good friend and mentor of mine lost his partner to suicide last year. All cliches about being far too young and full of promise apply; I only met her once, but by all accounts I´ve heard and what few scraps of web presence she left, she was an extraordinary person.

He moved out of their shared apartment shortly after her death, and several friends of his, myself included, showed up from near and far over the following week to help pack up his stuff. What I remember most, what really drove home the humanity of the situation, was the small pile of her food. He was desperately trying to hand it off to us, get it out of his presence. Just ordinary things--a box of macaroni and cheese, a tin of green tea--and all I could think was ¨there was a living breathing person here just a few days ago who would have eaten these things.¨ Couldn´t bring myself to take them.

In ways I can´t quite articulate, this article hits some of those same nerves for me as that pile of food hit. All her little loving details: the way he built his computer, his fondness for research, the gorgeous wedding picture. Things that made him human and made her relationship work.

I live within blocks of this friend now. I think I will follow Peach´s excellent lead above and check in with him sometime this week.
posted by ActionPopulated at 5:11 AM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Depends on what effect the thinking about them has on your life. If you're in constant pain and sadness from the loss, yes, that's something that you could take to a therapist. If you remember the good times with them and are grateful that they were part of your life for as long as they were, that"s probably OK. Nobody but you and your therapist really gets to decide whether your grieving response is appropriate. The only criteria for that is your quality of life.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:12 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

ActionPopulated, it is often the case that a suicide was thought of as an extraordinary person; this is because the most common suicides (other than self-euthanasia especially in old age) are sufferers of bipolar disorder, and in the manic "up" state, bipolar people are often awesome to be around. That is when they feel like socializing and leaving the house and so on, which probably includes interacting with you, so unless you're a family member or housemate, or very close friend, you really only get to see them when they're "up". So the natural tendency is to assume that they are that awesome all the time. Many people, on seeing them in the "down" state, will run. (If they post to AskMeFi, they will normally be advised to do so. It's not stupid advice.)

By not running, by choosing the option of loving her, your friend did help her. In the end though, it was her responsibiity to decide for herself that her life was worth living. He couldn't save her, he never could. All he could do was to help her save herself if she believed, as he did, that she was worth saving. She probably put off her suicide as long as she did, partislly because of his influence.

However, he may not see that and he may never see that. The best you can do (and the same applied to him with her) is to be there to help if he decides that he needs it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:45 AM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I could read this dispassionately until I got to He died around midnight, just a couple days after his 33rd birthday and then I lost it.

My wife died last year, only a few weeks after her birthday, after having stopped treatment for the side effects of the side effects of the medication she had to take to keep her kidney from rejecting (I was the donor) after two years of living in and out of the hospital. So much of what Betsy Megas went through and is still going through I've gone through or will go through as well. That was an amazing, honest article.

I envy her for one thing however, for being there when her spouse died. I had wanted to do the same, but nevertheless her death came still so unexpected -- I'd seen and spoken with her only hours before, saying I would see her again tomorrow -- that she died without me there, though luckily her son (from her previous marriage) was there and was holding her hand when she did.

That's my one regret. Apart from that, she had as good a death as she could've had in the circumstances, having managed to say goodbye to everybody, no longer in pain, no longer with the need to struggle -- and you don't know how much of a relief that was until you experience that -- which is why I can completely understand PeterMcDermott's comment about it being a death as good as you get.

It's good to be able to end a struggle when it only means more suffering, it's good to be able to make your peace with your coming end, to have those who love you know you love them and say their goodbyes and it's a much better death than many people can get.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:51 AM on February 26, 2012 [17 favorites]

I am not sure whether reading this article was a good idea or a bad idea. My husband, who is 29, was diagnosed with Lymphoma last June. He's been through the special hell of eight rounds of chemo. And he'll be finishing radiation this coming week, which he says is less difficult, even though it's an every day thing. Then we wait in limbo until May for The Scan. All the oncologists on his team continue to be very optimistic. They use the word "cure" instead of "treatment" which we take as a good sign that he will likely live long enough to die of something else.

I've been trying very hard to keep a positive face on, trying to keep our life normal and steady, especially for the sake of our daughters. But the thoughts, they creep in. I don't like to admit how often I think about the possibility of him dying. It's not really all that helpful or productive. But it's hard to stop.

It creeps in.
posted by fancyoats at 6:30 AM on February 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

How very glib and unconvincing. Have you ever had a loved one die young?

Given that Mr. McDermott helped start one of the first needle sharing programs in the UK, he probably has seen the death of many a friend over the years. I'm assuming that his glibness comes from too much familiarity to death, rather than too little.
posted by zabuni at 6:44 AM on February 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

How very glib and unconvincing. Have you ever had a loved one die young?

How young do you want? I've had a partner and the mother of my child die at 28 and a parent die at 60. I've cared for an in-law through their final days with cancer.

I'm sorry you're not convinced, but death really isn't a stranger to me.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:10 AM on February 26, 2012 [15 favorites]

Borrowed Time by Paul Monette deals with this subject beautifully. At the end, Paul puts on Roger's sweater, and their dog, Puck, dances around, thinking his master has come home from the hospital, and is well
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:22 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, and I hadn't noticed zabuni's comment, before I posted, but while I agree death is an experience with which I'm far from unfamiliar, I don't at all accept that what I posted was glib.

When my mother died -- at sixty, of a reoccurrence of her breast cancer that she thought she'd had successfully treated the year before -- her fear of death was so great that she wouldn't take opiate pain relief because it made her so drowsy, and she was terrified that she was going to die in her sleep.

The day that she did die, she got out of her bed and the cancer (or the treatment) had so weakened her bones that her femur snapped like a twig. When she was finally taken to hospital, the porters who were attempting to shift her from the stretcher to her bed rolled her too far and she fell out the other side.

My mother worked on the production line in factories all her life, packing biscuits and cigarettes to try and earn enough to keep body and soul together. She died of breast cancer the year that she retired. She died in terror, ignorance and misery.

Now tell me again that this guy didn't have a good death?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:24 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Really, it's not a contest. All this started because you argued with the OP about their personal reaction to the story... based on your own personal reaction.
posted by hermitosis at 7:26 AM on February 26, 2012

All this started because you argued with the OP about their personal reaction to the story

No, he didn't. He said that he had a different personal reaction. Could everyone stop getting in a pissing contest about the "right" way to respond to something as overwhelming as the death of a loved one? It's really unbelievably jarring.
posted by yoink at 7:28 AM on February 26, 2012 [17 favorites]

I think it's perfectly fine for someone to say that something, even something like this, wasn't heartwrenching for them. It wasn't said confrontationally or in order to invalidate anyone else's experiences. Geez.
posted by lydhre at 7:32 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Reading that made me put some things in my life in perspective. I wanted to share the piece with other people, because I thought it might allow them to view things a little differently as well. I do not expect others to have the same reaction that I had - that would be expecting all of us to have had the same experiences in our lives. And I did not believe Peter's comment was confrontational - I thought he expressed a fair point.

All in all, I just feel extraordinary lucky that I have not had a loved one go through something like this. Thanks, everyone, for sharing.
posted by rahulrg at 7:38 AM on February 26, 2012

I appreciate your answer, thanks.
posted by thelonius at 7:40 AM on February 26, 2012

I think we've all got stories we could tell about personal experiences with death. I've got mine too.

In some sense, the post presents a beautiful death (for the reasons outlined by PeterMcDermott). It is also somebody's personal tragedy.

These things can both be true.
posted by mazola at 7:43 AM on February 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been trying very hard to keep a positive face on, trying to keep our life normal and steady, especially for the sake of our daughters. But the thoughts, they creep in. I don't like to admit how often I think about the possibility of him dying. It's not really all that helpful or productive. But it's hard to stop.

Fancyoats: those thoughts are probably unavoidable for anybody in such a situation (I knew they were for me); there's no shame in having them, even though it can feel as a betrayal of your partner. Sometimes (and it's usual at 3am on a school night) your brain just needs to work through the worst what ifs.

The only practical things you can do about them is to talk about it with a third party you trust, if that helps as well as make sure that you are prepared for the worst: is everything legally tied up, do you know what he wants to do if, are you able to do that if and so on, so that you have piece of mind in that everything possible you can do has been arranged.

IME, anyway.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:48 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

[A couple of comments deleted; let's not get into personal attacks, please... and maybe everyone move on from that bit of a communication tangle above? ]
posted by taz at 7:54 AM on February 26, 2012

Just over 2.5 years go, I was at the dermatologist, and his assistant, who was removing stitches from a previous biopsy said, with her back turned. "Oh, the pathologist says that it is melanoma, and it is thick enough that it has probably metastacized." She was reading it for the first time.

I felt like I was punched in the gut, because it was so unexpected. The entire mole was removed a few minutes later.

I remember sitting waiting for the bus, being underdressed, and finally calling my wife for a ride, who was on nearby, on her way home. She had no idea of any of this, just that I deal with a bit of bothersome basal cell carcinoma now and then.

I told her when I got home and she went into her positive-thinking mode, that no way it had spread, etc. I, on the other hand help up my outstretched hand and said, "It could all be fine," touching my little finger, "Or I could die from this," touching my thumb. I felt very matter-of-fact about it, but also very scared.

I had to wait for 3 weeks before seeing an oncologist, and we'd had a trip to NYC planned, so we went, and I even had a couple fun meet-ups, with this hanging over my head the whole time.

But after numerous scans and lymph node biopsies, it has not spread. But a lot of me is just waiting for the other shoe to drop, even as I get checked ever 6 months. I feel incredibly, stupidly lucky.
posted by Danf at 8:03 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I had my first go-round with cancer in my early 30's. The second bout was in my late 30's. Both times, I lucked out - surgery was sufficient to cure things, so I didn't need chemo or radiation.

But after reading that, I think I need to go hug my girlfriend.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:31 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

So much of what she writes I'm living now. I lost my husband to leukemia 5 months after he was diagnosed...the anniversary of the diagnosis is coming up. He was just 40, and we have two young boys at home.

I agree with so much of what she writes. I want to say that she's lucky, she was able to have time with him to travel, for him to be home. We were told he had 6 months, and a week and a half later, he had a brain hemorrhage in our bed.

The hell of the flashbacks, of having to tell people who don't know, never go away. The feeling still of wanting to text him or phone him...and not being able to. We met when I was 16, married at 24. He was my world.

We did blog everything too, it was easiest as there were too many people around the world wanting updates. Thankfully, he was able to blog most days, and Twitter and FB kept him occupied, as well as coding C++.

The hardest part is all of a sudden being a single parent. Most people think of divorce when you say you're a single parent, not widowhood. I'm 40 and a widow.
posted by piearray at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2012 [18 favorites]

I am reminded of Calvin Trillin's About Alice, a similarly heart-wrenching account of love and loss.
posted by gern at 9:49 AM on February 26, 2012

@Fancyoats It will always creep in. And acknowledge it, and then move on. Totally normal, really. I am still trying to hold it together too.

All you can do is one foot in front of the other.

I'm not the praying type, but I will send all good thoughts your husband's way. This disease is shit and I"m sick of it taking good people.
posted by piearray at 10:03 AM on February 26, 2012

I totally get what PeterMcDermott means by a good death...

A very good friend of mine died of cancer on December 3rd last year. Stage 4 melanoma, metastacized everywhere, diagnosed in early August just about a week before her 42nd birthday, and gone less than four months later.

About two weeks before she died, the doctors stopped treatment and sent her home for hospice. She got to be at home, in comfortable surroundings, with her husband and 7 year old daughter taking care of her (with the aid of truly amazing hospice workers, who I can never thank enough), her beloved pets within arm's reach, and a parade of friends coming to say their goodbyes. A few days before she left us, she slipped into an unresponsive state, probably close to comatose. But she could still hear us, and we sat at her bedside and held her hands and talked to her. Her husband decorated the house for Christmas, making sure her favorite decorations were close to the bed in case she could actually see them... the night she died, he sat up reading Tina Fey's book to her while her favorite big band Christmas album played, and she went peacefully.

As fucking tragic and heartbreaking as it is to lose someone so young, so smart and kind and generous and so much a force of nature to be reckoned with... I think of it as a good death. Is my heart broken? Oh, hell yes. Very much. I miss her every day, and I know my grief pales in comparison to her husband's... I know that everyone who knew her would prefer that she still be with us, healthy and happy and gloriously trucker-mouthed (that woman could cuss like it was her calling). But cancer is a motherfucker, and it wasn't going to let her get away. So with survival removed from our menu of options, the choice came down to spending her last days in a hospital being poked and prodded and given last-ditch-effort treatments, or spending her last days at home with enough drugs to (hopefully) keep the pain at bay.

I think the former option would have been a bad death, a very very bad death. The latter option wasn't much better, but in comparison to the other options, it was a very good death indeed. When my time comes, I really do hope I'm as lucky as my friend was.

(fancyoats, I wish you and your husband the very best of luck, and I'll be keeping you in my thoughts. And Danf, very very glad to hear that yours has not spread. Fingers crossed that your semiannual checkups keep coming back clean. b33j, piearray... huge hugs and loving thoughts for both of you.)
posted by palomar at 10:48 AM on February 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

Jeez, I just can't do this thread today. Powerful stuff.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:50 AM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I may not be crying on the outside but inside I'm building a lake of tears; this woman's story was so powerful and affected me in all kinds of ways. Her husband's slow demise mirrored that of my dad's when I was 12 and I could do nothing but think of what would happen were I to pass on and leave my partner to carry on without me.

It has really made me hope I'm not going anywhere any time soon, not for selfish reason but that I don't ever wish my loved ones to have to go through what was told in this woman's story.
posted by DuchessProzac at 12:23 PM on February 26, 2012

The older I get, the more devoutly I wish for a good death. There are too many bad ways to do the most frightening thing we all ever go through.

But more than that, I wish not to lose my husband. This piece hit on my worst fear. Especially this line: It's hardest, though, to figure out who I am without him and strive to be that person.

I miss every creature and person I've loved and who has died, from my grandmother, mother, and father, to all the beloved pets I've put to sleep over the years. I wish the deaths became easier but they just leave more holes behind. This is the price of love, and it is steep.
posted by bearwife at 1:05 PM on February 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

I don't know if I can read more than a few paragraphs into this. Both my parents died of cancer. My mom was 52 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and was dead not quite two years later. I was barely out of college, and living 3000 miles away. My sister was 15, and still at home. Mom's illness, deterioration and passing devastated my dad in so many ways, most of which I probably will never know about. He remarried twice, the second time after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was dead about 18 months later. My heart goes out to this woman and all her family. It's a terrible thing, and all too many of us know this story first hand.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:19 PM on February 26, 2012

My friend Nina died last week. She called all her friends to say she was dying, then called the oncologist and asked him how to die. He said "just let go". In the middle of the night she took the monitors off, and in the morning she was gone.

A kind, decent death is something to be hoped for. My son Charlie hanged himself two years ago, and it's hard to live with, but my father Donald, knowing he had cancer, took his life in his late '80s, which I support.

We as a society do not think enough about death; it's projected as a scary subjectfor manipulative reasons. I want a decent death without suffering, and I vote. (a regional joke - not that i think voting makes any difference to the 1%). Let's open to the fact we all die, and stop it being such a black hole.
posted by anadem at 9:36 PM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

My older brother was dx'd small-cell lung cancer October 2010, he died not quite a year ago, March 13. He called me the day of his dx, late afternoon, I was sitting outside, it's a pretty, chill, gray day, I'm sucking down a cup of coffee at a local place, watching the Austin happen, as we talked and cried I climbed into my pickup and started driving, everything had changed and it is changed, our family is so messed up in so many ways but there is large love all over in it, mixed in a confused jumble with the chaos but it's absolutely there. David was 63.

I haven't yet found the peace with it, I'm still angry, I feel like he got nailed, and he had. In our family we'd dodged so many bullets, so many horrific car wrecks and construction accidents and I have had my own health problems but we walked through it all, came out on the other side on our feet, staggering as we do but moving. My father died, Alzheimer's nailed my dad at 84 but that's not a bad run and we knew it was coming and got to get used to the idea as he declined. Mostly I'd really gotten to thinking that we were bulletproof.

The last three of four years of David's life a decline, first Parkinsons climbed onto him and dragging him down, both the illness and the damn medications slowing him physically and also mentally, he was still smart but not fast, and he'd always been a damned razor. It really is a heartache to watch someone you care about come undone, Jack London wrote so much about the nature of life and the nature of death, his stories of fierce animals getting taken down in their decline by clawing badgers or slavering wolves, over and again I'd think of those stories as David walked through those illnesses, or, more accurately, as they walked through him.

His death was not pretty. The radiation blasted some of the tumors down, the ones causing him difficulty breathing, and there was hope when those tumors melted in the face of that radiation. But about ten minutes after they stopped the radiation those damn tumors had grown back, they'd come on strong, and the cancer had gone everywhere, he was in agonizing pain — did you know that as small-cell cancer spreads into your spine all the bones in your spine start breaking, small bit by bit, piece by piece? I didn't know that, and neither did David. But he found out.

Have you spoken with your brother when he can scarce get a breath and bones breaking in his body and the tumors so big that he can't even get any water down his throat and for days he hasn't had a drink? And even if you maybe think that fundy Christianity is just stories and you still can't believe that David got snared in it, maybe you'd shut off that judgmental prick mind for once and accept that this is his truth, it's real as rain for him, he can barely fucking talk but he's telling you he can't wait to get to heaven, that Jesus is there on the other side, David knows it, Jesus is standing there with a glass of water held out to him.

I cried like a kid.

I'm 57. Most of my sibs older than I, the idea of them taking off, one by one, it scares me so. The idea of my sister Judith not being here — all my life she's been my champion, the best sister could ever be asked for, when I had my time of troubles she was a rock, I still can't believe how she came through for me. It hurts even to think this. But I've thought it since David's death.

I will not go out like David did, not if I can help it at all, and mostly I can. There is a great thread here about easy suicide that is not violent, and damned if I want to commit suicide but if I'm in trouble like David was I'm heading out the door before my damn bones start breaking in my back. And if I'm disabled IE car wreck and broken up and can't move, I've got friends who will shoot a boatload of heroin into me — they're good friends, we've talked about it, they're junkies, clean and sober but junkies nonetheless and getting heroin easier for them than it is for you to get milk at 7/11. I do talk about death, it's been pretty much a constant idea in my own life — as someone upthread mentioned, lots of people with this manic depression thing take themselves out. Quite frankly it's remarkable that I never did so. In any case, I've talked about it with friends who've also lived on the outside, and they'll help me if I need it.

David wasn't a saint — he understood things about people, he was cunning, and I'm not, and lots of people are not, and they'd walk away with their wallets magically lighter, they'd walk off scratching their heads quizzically. Regardless that, he was lots of fun, the three of us older boys were all supposed to be dead many times over, it was fun to be who we were, all those memories. I miss him.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:19 AM on February 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

1. fuck cancer.

2. I needed to read this. I'm dealing with my mom's cancer symptoms going out of control due to her recent bout of pneumonia. Her labs are saying all is stable. Her demeanor, spirit, physical symptoms of weakness and pain are telling me different. I'm having an incrediblly difficult time dealing with this, my dad being an utter asshole with abusing her and her crying over it, her asking me to buy a ton of sleeping pills so she can end it, asking me when is she going to feel better.....and then going home and taking care of my 3 year old, my husband, the house, the bills, and getting up at 5 to go to work (and dealing with that bullshit). I agree wholeheartedly with everyone being nicer to each other because I"m ready to crack. And now I have to talk with HR about what are the rules with FMLA and a family member because dude, I totally want to detach from life right now and rest. But I would have to go unpaid and well...not an option.

3. did I say fuck cancer?
posted by stormpooper at 6:37 AM on February 27, 2012

I'd be fine with any of my loved ones going like this when they have to go.

Do you know anyone that has passed away from cancer? It's a pretty horrible way to die. Watching someone waste away to nothing is also pretty horrible.
posted by chunking express at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2012

How young do you want? I've had a partner and the mother of my child die at 28 and a parent die at 60. I've cared for an in-law through their final days with cancer.

I should read the whole thread before posting. Damn.
posted by chunking express at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2012

My partner's death was due to suicide. Not sure why I thought she was 28 -- she was actually 34 and she'd been diagnosed schizophrenic about five years before. For the umpteenth time, she had stopped taking her meds and developed some psychotic ideation that involved her joining the drummer from Echo and the Bunnymen in the afterlife. (He'd died in a motorbike accident some six months before. She believed she'd had some sort of thing with him. It was possible, but I've no idea how likely it was.)

My father-in-law, in contrast, had the long, drawn-out cancer death, in which it went to his brain and he gradually lost his faculties. But he died at home, with his loved ones around him. Even if he hadn't made his peace with the fact that he was dying -- his family had, and ultimately, I believe they're the people who matter most.

The dying person dies. It comes to us all eventually, and as I said before, there's never a good time or a good way. It's always inconvenient, and can we just have an extra year to do our bucket list please?

So, I've had quite a lot of experience of death, and quite a lot of time to think about these things. I'm currently 57 -- just three years younger than I was when my mother died, and between Christmas and New Year, I received a Hep. C. diagnosis. Although it's treatable now, there's still a 10% chance I'll go on to develop liver cancer.

For me, the things that are important are whether your loved ones got to achieve some sort of closure. To feel like they were able to say the things that they really needed to say, and care for that person in their final days, in the way the deceased actually wanted to be cared for.

If I had the kind of death that was described in the OP -- surrounded by people who loved and valued me, everybody expressing how they felt about the process and getting the opportunity to really do their best -- I'm honestly not sure how you could have a better death than that. If you've got any hints, please do tell me. I'm not a million miles away from the point at which I'll have to put them into practice.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:40 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

The idea of losing my husband one day terrifies the shit out of me. So much so that I fantasize about what I would do to survive afterwards. Sell the house? Live with my mum? What about the pets? It's so hard to imagine a world without him. I don't know if anyone else does this and I'm not sure why I do. It's not really a comfort.
posted by deborah at 11:26 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I do it too, deborah. I try to plan for things I dread . . . not that it works, it is just my way of trying to cope.
posted by bearwife at 9:01 AM on February 28, 2012

For me, the things that are important are whether your loved ones got to achieve some sort of closure. To feel like they were able to say the things that they really needed to say, and care for that person in their final days, in the way the deceased actually wanted to be cared for.

I've been alive for the deaths of my Father and both of his sisters, all under 60, from cancer. My Grandpa on my mom's side went up to the farm he grew up on for a family reunion for his 90th birthday. He had a few extra schnapps and was having a great time, surrounded by much of his family and passed the next year of prostate cancer. Lost a friend suddenly at 22 in a canoeing accident.

This is a good summary of what I've taken away from it, with an emphasis on in the way the deceased actually wanted to be cared for when that's applicable. Some other things: Enjoy your life while you're living it, make peace with its ending, spend time with your loved ones, and forget about the assholes. Oh, and smile more :)

Credit goes to my family and friends, those still with us and those who've passed on through. May peace be with you.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:00 AM on February 28, 2012

My husband would have been 49 years old today. He died 3 years and 6 months ago exactly of thyroid cancer. So much of this woman's story mirrored my own especially the part about picking up his ashes and sleeping in a bed alone for the first time. But the other part that feels the same, was finding love again. New love doesn't take away the pain of the loss of your partner but it's the most important way for me to keep living.
posted by in the methow at 5:04 PM on February 28, 2012

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