I had the opportunity to spend the day yesterday with my Aunt who has cancer. She has lung cancer but it has metastasized to her brain. I don't know what it feels like for her but she looked like she was not feeling so good. She ate a decent sized meal, went for a walk with my brother and I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with her at several different times but she has slowed down quite a bit. She has definitely slowed down and for a woman who was something of a spitfire in her day, it was hard for me to see the signs of destruction that this disease has done to her body.
When I was 26 years old I moved back home to care for my grandmother who was dying of Parkinson's Disease. At the time I moved in, I didn't think of her as dying exactly, but that was indeed what she was doing. She even asked me once if I was going to care for her until she died and I didn't know how to answer her. The job of keeping her alive and well cared for was what occupied my every moment so to think of her dying was beyond my abilities.
One day I was sitting and feeding her lunch, this was when she could still communicate verbally, and she asked me if I ever thought as a child that one day I would be changing her diapers after all the diapers she changed for me. I had to excuse myself and go to the kitchen and I couldn't avoid the tears that were streaming down my face. It took me several minutes in the kitchen before I could return to the table and continue feeding her.
As my grandmother continued to go down hill I was consumed by anger. I was angry at the way people treated her, staring at her in her wheel chair and talking loudly to her as if she was deaf. I was angry at her church community who never came to visit and especially her pastor, who showed up the day after she died to prepare funeral notes when he never came to visit her when she was alive. I was angry at my mother who was so involved in her work and her new marriage and her new home that carrying for her own mother seemed like a never ending burden. I was bitter and angry at my siblings for placing this burden on my shoulders and leaving the care of my grandmother to me, on days when the tedium of being cooped up with an 82 year old who didn't talk or interact with me seemed endless.
I didn't talk about my anger or my feelings to anyone. I didn't open up about the blame I placed on people for her eventual death from a terribly debilitating disease. I bottled it up and saved it for a nice therapist that got all that baggage as well as a whole lot of other stuff I'd saved up over the years. I will say that now that time has gone by I can look back at my experience with my grandmother and appreciate those last days I spend with her. I feel like I made her last 2 years more comfortable and more tender. I think that I learned many things from the experience including patience and compassion for the elderly and sick and dying. I feel like I can honor the circle of life from birth to death.
I hope someday I get to see my Grandmother again.