A Journey’s End

Today my husband and I are heading out-of-town together. Usually this is a good thing. Over the past few years he and I have begun taking little trips–sometimes just for the day, sometimes overnight–that don’t involve the kids and are just for us. We don’t do much typically. I think one of my favorite weekends we drove up to Jackson, a small town in the foothills, where we spent the afternoon wandering quaint little streets window shopping and just relaxing. Oh, well we window shopped that is until we came to the TWO STORY USED BOOK STORE! I thought I had died and gone to heaven! What a great store! I would have happily spent the rest of the weekend just browsing but since my husband doesn’t quite share my obsession with books I was relegated to only a couple of hours there before he drug me out and took me to dinner.

The next day we packed up the Corvette and headed out without any real plan. We ended up driving down Highway 49 through all the old Gold Rush towns–Fort Sutter, Sutter Creek, etc–until we arrived in Auburn. It was a beautiful, relaxing day and we ended it with a visit to our best friends who live in Lincoln, a small town outside of Roseville.

Today I will be visiting those friends again and spending the night there, but this trip will not start out fun and relaxing. Before we head over to their house we are going to go see my god-daughter and help her plan her mother’s funeral. My god-daughter is in the Air Force, stationed at Beale, and she has one of those kinds of jobs that if she told me what she does exactly she would have to kill me sort of thing.

This young woman has been through a lot in her short life. Her brother served in Iraq in the last war. 82nd Airborne, Special Forces, Army Ranger. He served with honor and pride, but he came home a changed man. He is doing well now, but it took awhile. She decided to join the Air Force when she realized she wasn’t going anywhere in her own life. She moved in with us after she graduated from high school because she and her mother didn’t get along very well at the time. Next thing I know she is off in Texas in boot camp and the rest is history. She has been in Florida, Arizona, and before she ended up at Beale she served a year in Korea. She loves what she does most of the time and is considering re-signing for another 6 years when her contract comes up for renewal in a year.

Her mother became very sick while my god-daughter was stationed in Texas the last time, and she has steadily gone down hill since. She is dying of kidney failure and is even now in the last stages of the disease. She started dialysis when she moved here to live with her daughter, but a few weeks ago she chose to stop all treatment. No, she can’t get a transplant. Yes, the disease would finally kill her no matter what. So yes, she has chosen to die.

I am not sure how I feel about this. I think I am angry at her for doing this to her daughter. I am angry that she has chosen the path she has because my husband is going to lose his best friend in the whole world. They have been friends for over 20 years and I am not sure how he is going to handle this loss. He’s never lost anyone before that he was close to. He was in denial at first– “Oh, she’s just throwing a tantrum, she’s just mad, she will get over it.” But last weekend he called her and went up and saw her and realized this isn’t a tantrum. This is death. She is done fighting, she is done with being sick, and she doesn’t want to live this way any more. It’s her choice.

There were other paths she could have chosen in the beginning. She is not a candidate for kidney transplant because she uses medical marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of her disease. Without it she cannot eat or sleep, and the pain becomes unbearable. She is a strong advocate for the benefits of marijuana for patients suffering various ailments, especially those with cancer, and has been involved for years with studies and groups that are seeking to make it legal for medical use. I admire her for that, but not at the cost of her life. Not at the lost opportunities to enjoy her future grandchildren or the company of her own children. Yet this is the course she has chosen, and I have to respect that. I cannot judge her. I can only be there for my husband and my god children and support them as we go through this process of acceptance and yes, even grief. I have known her my whole life–my cousin dated her brother back in the day–and for me it’s the reality of someone my age passing away. It’s the finality of it all. It’s death. And I am not sure I am ready to say good-bye just yet.

So today will be difficult. My husband and she have discussed her demise at length over many phone calls and visits in the past year. He knows what she wants and is ready to step up and help her daughter make those arrangements necessary so that when she does pass her daughter isn’t overwhelmed with details and formalities. I am going because he asked me to come, and I know he just needs me to be there as the reality of what they are doing slowly sinks into his heart. Yes, I am in tears as I write this. This will be one of the hardest things I have done in recent memory, but since I love them all I have to be there for them. If she makes it to Christmas it will be just because of the force of her will. Either way we will be saying good-bye to a dear friend sooner than either of us thought we would.

I didn’t mean to be such a downer this morning. This was on my mind so I thought I would share it. Blogging is about talking about what is going on in our lives and the reality is that it’s not all sunshine and butterflies. Life gets real and things happen that aren’t pretty or fun, but it is what it is. If all I ever had were good times, how could I be a writer? If I never experienced the harsher realities of life, how could I enjoy the beautiful things? There has to be a balance, a give and take, the good and the bad, for better or for worse. It’s what makes life interesting and worth the effort of living it.

I always end with a question, but today I am not sure what that question should be. I do not want this to be a moribund recital of how we have all lost loved ones–I am pretty sure that most of us have walked this path at least once in our lifetimes–and this is pretty depressing as it is. I think I wrote this because I knew we had all been where I am today. Maybe not in the same way, and maybe not today, but either we have all been here or will be here some day. We know that we will all have to make these choices sooner or later. I shared this because I know you will all understand, and I take comfort in that I am not alone. I am not asking for sympathy–I just needed that affirmation that this too shall pass and life will go on…