I'm in the past a lot these days. Some people I know through the Internet—I like to think of them as friends; I hope they feel the same way—have ill spouses who are approaching end of life, and reading about their experiences and thoughts takes me back with startling clarity to the last few months of John's.
I'm not going to look back on what I wrote then; I have a feeling that I was overly optimistic and measured in my tone. But I have been honest with these women who are staring down the barrel of the gun, albeit a gun pointed at someone other than themselves. And so I shall be honest here.
I remember the day—the very day!—that I understood that John's death was on the horizon. It turns out the horizon was further away than I thought; he died four months after this day I recall. But it was on that day, the day I knew John was done fighting (and I say that with no judgment about his decision) and the day he had truly accepted what was to come, that my emotions changed, too. It was on that day that I started to fervently wish that he would just die right then.
Yes, I thought that. It sounds awful, but I did. And I then went on to be at times full of rage that it took him four long months to go.
Of course I wanted him to live longer, but not when he was a shell: exhausted, ravaged by disease and medication and side effects, uncomfortable, restless, unhappy, disengaged from life. He was done, and I was done.
There's not a lot of room in the culture I grew up in to accept death, especially a death not your own. I used to get so mad at people who put pressure on John to fight harder, fight longer, not to "give up." And yet, what I said to John back then was, "I love you. I need you. Stay with us." Yes, part of me felt that way. But the bigger part of me said that because I felt I was supposed to.
I wish I had had the courage to say this instead: "I love you. It's OK. I'll be OK. We'll be OK. You can go now." Because by the time I did say that, I'm not sure John could even hear me.