It's Linda, Robert's Mom one more time. He asked me to write a post about being with a loved one you know is going to die, so here goes:
I knew my husband had cancer before I married him. His was a cancerous large mole on his chest, otherwise known as Malignant Melanoma. I was his nurse in the army, and truly had trouble understanding how this 21-year-old strapping young man could possibly have cancer. he tumor was surgically removed, and he was told there was a good chance that would be the end of it. When we started dating, and then fell in love and got married, we both pushed this far to the back of our minds. Six years and two children later, he fell on the ice (it was winter in New Jersey), he fell and injured his back, and was in traction in the hospital. They did a routine chest x-ray, and there it was, a spot on his left lung, directly under the area where the mole had been. This was the start of a two and one half year journey, including numerous surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. Just when we hoped upon hope it was gone, it cropped up somewhere else in his body. When we found that it had invaded the bone marrow and was traveling, it was pretty much time to accept that we were not going to win this battle.
He was wonderful. He cheerfully underwent all these medical procedures, loving his job as a policeman, working even when he didn't feel up to it. He was the one who consoled me, because I dreaded dealing with the thought of him not being in my life any more. He did not personally worry about dying, but was more upset about not being with me to fulfill the future we had planned together, and not being able to be with our children as they grew up. We took a trip from New Jersey, driving to California to take the kids to Disneyland when we couldn't really afford it, just so the kids would remember this wonderful time with their father. I think we accomplished that. I didn't want to hear it, but he spent time with me talking about how I was to make a life without him, telling me he wanted me to marry again. I would get angry when he did this, and tell him to shut up, and dissolve into tears after he went to sleep at night.
His last battle occurred the year we both were age 30. We went with the family to the Jersey shore for the day, and came home early because he just did not feel well. He was nauseated and had no energy. This became worse and worse, and I took him to the doctor the next day. They did abdominal x-rays, and immediately hospitalized him planning surgery for the next morning. The next day, I sat in his hospital room, waiting to hear the results of the surgery. One of our friends, another policeman, sat with me, but it was hard to make small talk. Just a little over an hour after the surgery commenced, the doctor came into the room. I jumped up from my chair, my heart pounding in my chest, knowing this would not be good news. The other surgeries had all taken 3-4 hours, and this could only mean one thing: open and close. The doctor told me the malignancy had spread everywhere, even into the heart muscle. There was nothing they could do. I managed to ask "how long?" and was told probably 10 days to a month. They would tell him the bad news when he woke up. Our friend did not know what to say to me. I did not cry, just sat staring out the window, wondering what I was going to do. God seemed very far away. It didn't take 10 days, it only took 3. We spent that time in the hospital talking about our life, our children, our love for each other. He told me what kind of a funeral he wanted, and again told me he wanted me to marry again, for my sake and the sake of the children. (By the way, I never did do this.)
The last day he went into a coma. His mom and sister and other family members came to see him, to say goodbye. I didn't want the kids (Robert was eight, and his sister Kathy was five) to see him like that, so they didn't come. After everyone left that evening, it was just he and I left in that hospital room. He roused from the coma just once, looked at me and said, "I love you," and lapsed into the coma again. I held his hand, and prayed. The one thing he could do was chew on ice cubes, I spoon-fed them into his mouth, and it seemed to me that chewing on the ice was keeping him alive. When his pitcher of ice cubes was used up, I went to the ice machine to get more, and found a sign on it, "out of order". I went to the nurse and asked him where I could get more ice. She told me all the ice machines had stopped working because of some malfunction. I panicked, going to other hospital floors, looking for ice, but to no avail. There must be some in the hospital kitchen, but it was night time, and that was closed. I thought of going out to a liquor store to get a bag of ice, but I didn't want to leave my husband. I just sat with him, holding his hand, cursing myself for not being able to get him the one thing he seemed to need, the ice. At about 2 a.m., a nurse came in, and said they wanted to clean my husband up and put clean linens on the bed, and told me I could wait in the nurses' station. In about ten minutes, she came and got me. "If you want to be there, you better come with me now," she said. I went with her with dread. In just a few short minutes, he took one quick breath, and then nothing. He was gone. The nurse grabbed me so that I wouldn't fall down, and escorted me back into the nursing station. I was numb, just barely functioning blindly.
The next few days were a blur. I had to tell the children their father would not ever be coming home again, one of the hardest things I ever had to do. They both took it hard, especially Robert, who was older, and absolutely adored his father. There were funeral arrangements to be made, the funeral itself, (it was a full police funeral, with a procession of police cars, and was actually quite impressive... my husband was well liked.) Lots of people stopped by or called to see if we were all right. In the meantime I went to bed alone, and spent my days with the children, trying to make their life as normal as possible.
About a month later, the children were in school, people no longer came over or called (it was time for them to go on with their lives), and I remember driving somewhere (I don't remember where), and suddenly had to pull my car over and stop. I had never felt so alone in my life. I started first to cry, then to scream. I was screaming at God. "Why, why did you do this to me?!? He was the best thing that ever happened to me and you took him away!!! I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!!!!! After a while, I pulled myself together, and drove on, but I felt absolutely empty inside.
I can't tell you the progression, but eventually, I realized I was no longer alone. When I had decisions to make, money problems, questions about disciplining the children, they always worked out somehow. I came to realize that someone was helping me, and although there was no miracle, no voice, no visions, nothing supernatural, I knew my husband was there helping by his presence. God had assigned him to do this, and I knew that God was there too. It has been 37 years now, and God is still with me. I don't feel my husband's presence so much any more, but I know when it is my time to leave this earth, he will be waiting for me.
Thank you for reading this long rambling post. It was difficult to write, but probably good for me to do it. If it can help anyone else, I will have accomplised what I set out to do. God Bless you.