Coming Full Circle

This last month my husband of  47 plus years received the C-word diagnosis on top of his rapidly deteriorating pulmonary condition, and all to-do lists, book plans, and life plans have been knocked into a cocked hat. In the quiet moments, I think about how common an experience it is these days, moving toward an inevitable end, or as my husband calls it, life’s biggest adventure.


It’s amazing how swiftly priorities and schedules change with this turning point.  Although not a “crisis” which implies immediacy, there’s no second guessing or back-pedaling after a final diagnosis.  When doctors suggest hospice care, it’s the corollary to terminal illness, a giant step toward a life altering transition.  For now, every emotion succumbs to pragmatism.  The main concern is how best to get through the worst; health care may be the province of professionals, but home care is the landscape of family.  During 25 years nurturing financial clients, the stress came from so much I couldn’t control.  Now that I’m at home caretaking, the stress is amazingly similar. There is even less control and a totally unpredictable timeframe.


However, there is a comforting busyness when I can take charge and handle the down and dirty aspects of daily maintenance.  We moms and wives have been there before and more easily slide into the odd and eclectic demands of sickness.  We hold things together while our other, outside lives remain “on hold.”  My lofty plans for interviews toward a book about other people’s transitions have withered under this new reality.  I still take on different roles, but they’ve narrowed.  I’m able to see myself as an interested bystander at the same time that I’m an active participant.  My life has segued into an on-the-scene player in my husband’s end of life struggle.  Call it “issues” or “illness” but we’re inching toward Death.  The dreaded D word, the final…finality.  


My husband says it best.  “I don’t mind dying,” he admits, “I just don’t like the idea of not existing any more.”  That the world may chug along without us at its center is indeed hard to grasp.  


Now that things have squarely hit home, though, I realize we’re in this final scene together.  After all, I cavalierly signed on for this part long ago, via public vows and a marriage contract.  I more than happily agreed to abide by the rules.  It’s my time to live them all.  “Well, we’ve done the ‘for better or for worse part,’ I tell my mate, “I guess we’ve moved on to the ‘in sickness and in health’ phase.”  Admitting where we’re at is easier to handle than the frozen fear of the unknown. “It is what it is,” agree some understanding friends.  But it’s more than “what is” actually; much is also “what isn’t.” 


This nitty gritty end-of-life stuff certainly isn’t like the movies!  At least at our house.  Neither sentimental, frantic, overly sad or brutally bad, we women of a certain age move forward—that’s our strength.  Others less grounded in a mid-last century, middle class past might more easily pass the buck to paid help, nursing homes, hospitals or other admirable, professional institutions.  Our hospice providers are good, caring and competent.  But they’re not full time. Nor all-day.  Definitely not all night.  No wonder Long Term Care Insurance is the highest cost and commissioned product in the investment pantheon.  It’s indeed a bummer, definitely unromantic and un-relieving to handle death at home.


I am able to expand the boundaries of my mini-life with a walk to grocery store, library, park for an hour or so.  I can make exercise class very early in the morning before my spouse wakes up.  It’s good to revert to a schedule of sorts, gift myself some out-of-the-house time.  The kindness of near-by friends, the calls from across country relatives, our caring children, all demolish isolation and diminish aloneness. 


So I amble through the park and see the early budding of our area’s decorative fruit trees—a yearly symbol of spring.  The high school tennis courts are full, someone’s marking the fields for soccer…or is it already baseball?  I also received notice of two recent births… please fill in all the clichés re new life, budding flora, the earth turning and a new day dawning.


It is what it is.  And no matter how bound up I am with this “issue”,  I’ll face my own mortality later.  Now I’m changing, for the better, coping with lessons and experiences I will use to advance my own plans, dreams and wishes.  I’m moving forward and re-writing the first chapter in that transitions book with added insight as I live through this most important change.

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8 Responses to Coming Full Circle

  1. Mary says:

    Beautifully said, Evie. You are a class act and a great example for the rest of us, who inevitably face this time of life ourselves. Blessings to you and your family.

  2. Taru Fisher says:

    I helps to spell my last name correctly. Arthritis is strong in my hands with this cold, wet weather so my typing is less than stellar.

    If you can correct my spelling of my last name on the previous post, please do so.

    Thanks – Taru

  3. Anne Knight says:

    Hi, Evie,
    I don’t think I knew the C-diagnosis. I am sorry to learn of it.
    when you steal time for a walk in early morning, I’d love to join you. And please tell me how you’d like me to help.


  4. Pat Emard says:

    My dearest Evie,
    As I read your post, I recalled our not so recent lunch in which we discussed life in the past and changes we alll must make. It is with great sadness that I read about sweet Ollie’s condition and it is with a chuckle that I can see him saying the part about not liking the “not existing”–is is so like him not to want to miss anything!
    Please give large loving hugs to Ollie and all the kids–I know how special the bonds are in your family and how all must be having difficulty dealing with this inevitable experience. And know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers as you move through this time. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help—you know I will be there.
    Lots of love to all, Pat

  5. Jackie Wheeler says:

    Sylvia forwarded this to me. So sorry to hear about Oliver and to be re-connected in this way. So close but so far away.

    Maybe you could stop by on one of your walks and have a cup of coffee or tea?? I am in and out but let’s keep in touch and please let me know if there is a time when I stop by and say hello.
    Your writing, as always, is stunning.

    Our best to Oliver for love, family, friends and times as good as possible.


  6. Patrick says:

    Hi, Evie,

    I was glad to read your blog. I thought it was very candid. Hang in there, and please give my best regards to Oliver, and tell him we’re all praying for him. It’s good to see you both are trying to find the humor in all of this.
    Here we’re doing pretty good. The job is rewarding, and Steph and I just gave a concert, the CD of which will be available at 3060 South Ct in a couple of weeks. She’s sounding really good. She wants to start singing for agents again soon.
    Take care, and let’s keep in touch!

  7. Deborah Benham says:

    You’re the best Evie. Both you and your husband are in my thoughts these days. Keep walkin’, Debbie

  8. steve nash says:

    My heart goes out to you at this time.
    I lost my high school sweetheart and first wife to cancer. My parents kept saying you are too young, live some life first,Well she was my sweetheart and best friend first,many dates and many 1st experiences together, we watched each other grow up, we had talked of a great big future with a house,kids and a full life,wanting to be together as long as our grandparents had been together. When i hear of the cancer walks,and see the first springs many thought and emotions keep coming back. We were struggling with finances and of course the insurance companies fought with me as well,we werent prepared for this, i was borrowing what i could to help fray the costs and burden that was there, got it all paid a few years later, but it taught me how to save and to survive, there was no book at the time to help me with this part,but i did learn to save and diversify so i wouldnt be caught like that again. Evie you have put out a great book and i commend you highly for a job well done I look forward to the transitions and will pass it on to the many of my women friends so they can learn to survive as well.
    Steve Nash

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