I’d paid a social visit to friends, Les & Ursula, who live two doors down in Brookland Village and updated them on my health situation. Les has dementia, not too serious yet but progressing. He is quite sharp with words still and still loves a joke.
When I was leaving and Les came with me outside to wish me well, he said, ‘Find me a cloud.’ There had been storms threatening in our area for three days but they didn’t deliver any rain. He has an attractive garden full of colourful shrubs which will survive without water for weeks, but if it doesn’t rain he insists on watering them by hose. I suspect it is cathartic for him, like him believing while my garden plants live I’ll live.
So I thought the the request from Les was for me to wish up some rain, but of course it wasn’t, it was a wry request from Les for me, when I’m up there in heaven, to seek out a comfortable cloud as a resting place for him in the paradise of heaven. He was facing up to his own dying.
Now I am well and truly on that path with Les. It has become of great interest to me exactly how I and my family are dealing with the issues — Advanced Medical Directive, new Will, Power of Attorney, funeral planning etc. It is an intellectual as well as a deeply emotional experience, and strangely I am loving, while the palliative care medication is keeping me going on overdrive.
My palliative care nurse was frank in the prognosis — that I won’t see in 2019. My dear friend, Tim Apelt, who died three years ago, when on the same journey after a medical check up unexpectedly revealed he had aggressive small cell cancer and had just eighteen months to live. It seems my bone cancer has set me on the same course with a similar time line. When I last saw Tim alive he was in the final phase, about a month to go. He was very quiet, pensive, and resigned to the situation. He knew the love of family and friends were around supporting him, yet it was his own personal journey in his heart and mind. He may have been surmising what would be said in the eulogy, and wether his Catholic faith in God’s blessing was justified. Who knows?
Many people don’t have Tim’s and my opportunity to reflect for so long on death and dying. They are snapped away in car or plane crashes, in bizarre shootings, by drowning at sea, or sudden heart attacks, and are never given the chance to share that dying phase of life, the brilliance I am finding in the sunset, the fading light.
That is so sad for them and their families, while I am so grateful I can die with dignity and without fear.