This situation sucks. We know it. We also know we aren’t the first to go through it, nor will we be the last. How do you say goodbye to someone yet living when you both know they are dying? How do you say goodbye?
You leave to visit family a few days earlier than planned, stunned by the news. You frantically scramble to adjust your hotel reservation dates. You go to the doggy daycare in person to request permission to board your dear Gunny later that day. You spend the rest of the day completing all your necessary tasks – get the car inspected today because you don’t know if you’ll be back before the month ends, put together Gunny’s food and medication for Thursday through Tuesday…and add enough for a few extra days, just in case, pack and triple check that you have everything ready. Try to sleep…only get two and a half hours of shut eye before the alarm blares and you race out of bed. Look at your sister, notice the haunted expression she keeps trying to hide as you swallow down two cups of coffee before you get on the road. Pick up Starbucks for you, your sister, and your Mom and drive north to pick Mom up. Say hi and bye to Dad and Annie-girl. Drive and drive and drive, switching off with your sister on the thirteen hour trip. Why didn’t you fly? Too expensive – $845 one way per person…Wonder over and over and over if you’ll make it in time.
You do. You have dinner with your Mom and sister before Mom leaves to visit her brother while you head back to the hotel to unpack. Your sister reads tarot spread after spread, seeking…god, you don’t know what. You practice Reiki and silently thank your teacher for fitting in your level II attunement the night prior. Mom comes back and you get to bed around 11…somehow you sleep in until nearly 7, before spending the day with your uncle at the hospice. The pattern over the next few days – you all go to pick up Grandma, go to breakfast, pick up lunch for your uncle, spend a few hours with him at the hospice. He looks surprisingly good…but for the fact that he’s the thinnest you’ve ever seen him, he has no color in his face, his fingertips are getting more blue by the day, and you try not to focus on how often he seems to stop breathing for a few seconds, how often his voice fades to nothing as he’s speaking, how much your visits seem to exhaust him…because he lights up when you show up. He laughs and cracks jokes and you all try to pretend everything is fine. You leave for the day, letting him rest. Drop Grandma off at home and head to your remaining family on Dad’s side. You pick up your step-grandmother for dinner. You are thankful for her tight hugs when you arrive and when you leave. You enjoy dinner with her, then take her home and spend a few hours chatting in her garage as she has her after-dinner smoke. You all say good night and you, Mom, and your sister head back to the hotel. You spend an hour sending Reiki energy to the hospice center and all within it, to your family, to yourself. You try to sleep. Wake up. Rinse and repeat. You find yourself feeling more and more drained by the day. Your coping mechanisms are helping less and less by the day. Two days remain and that stupid voice of Nox returns. You applaud yourself for recognizing it is a Nox thought instead of a Katie thought, but you are struggling. You tell Nox to go away. You try to pretend you are fine.
Your last day in your parents’ hometown arrives. So how do you say goodbye?
You end the last visit to your uncle with a tight hug that lingers longer than usual and you reminded him that you love him so very, very much and he tells you the same. He smiles as he walks away and you try not to cry. Mom, you, and your sister have a late lunch with Grandma and your other two uncles on Mom’s side. Drop Grandma at home and proceed with the usual evening routine. Hug your step-grandmother longer and tighter as you say goodbye for another year. You head back to the hotel and pack up as much as you can. You don’t practice Reiki that night because you took time for that in the morning that day. You try to sleep, but your sleep tracker says you got barely five hours.
You pack up the car and you manage to upset Mom by insisting you want to drive. She cries for three hours and doesn’t stop until you reach the first stop on the Ohio turnpike. Your sister wakes up and texts you to ask why Mom is upset. You explain. You let Mom drive for the next few hours, but before you get back on the road, she talks about how hard she was trying not to break and you feel guilty, but your sister reminds Mom that she needs to let those emotions out – it isn’t healthy to keep them inside. You remember your posts on this blog about how long it took you to learn to process your emotions in a healthy way. You let your sister and Mom switch off driving for the remainder of the trip home while you sit in the backseat with your headphones on, listening to your “I can do anything” playlist in an effort to re-center yourself and send Nox away. You find yourself tracing the symbols you learned during the Reiki II course into both of your palms over and over and over again throughout the day as you watch the scenery go by.
You get back to your home state in the early afternoon and drop Mom off at her and Dad’s house. You stop in to say hi to Dad and to Annie-girl before heading back home. You drop the suitcase off at your condo and head out to dinner with your sister, and then you pick up Gunny. You return to the condo and take the first deep breaths you’ve been able to take since the 22nd. You take an extra day of leave to decompress emotionally and to rest. You end up sleeping most of the day on the 29th. You go back to work and it is hard. Explaining where you were and why is hard. Hearing people’s condolences is hard.
You know your uncle is still here, but god, you jump and cringe every single time the phone rings. You dread picking up calls from Mom. You know that call will be coming some day soon. You continue to send Reiki energy to the hospice center and your extended family. You try to go about your day without thinking the worst. Nox is quiet again, and you are grateful.
You wait. You wonder if you should reach out to your uncle since he’s still being active on Facebook, but you don’t know what to say. You find yourself fighting back tears at odd times and for strange reasons. You wait and you wonder…how do you say goodbye?
Love from yourself,