Friday, April 5, 2013

Running free

I awoke this morning doing what I usually do: Reaching my hand out to touch my love.  But her side of the bed was empty. She was already up, telling me later that she had some bad dreams that drove her to shake the sleep off and get a cup of tea before dawn.

So I lay there in the darkness, listening to the sound of rain and thinking about how empty my life would be without her.  If she were not in another room, but gone.  Morbid stuff that seems to have been on my mind a lot lately, ebbing with the sun but flooding back in when I think about so many who have left.

And inevitably my thoughts go to my cousin, my closest blood relative, who is lying in a hospital in Richmond, diminished to being as close to death as one can be, but being kept alive because his wife can't bear the thought of life without him.  His body now has bed sores, his swallowing ability gone, his colon blocked, his breaths controlled by a ventilator, and his nourishment coming from glucose dripping into his deflated veins.

I listen to her telling me that he is a great teacher who can choose to get better.  He comes from the direct line of Jesus. The doctors are wrong because he doesn't have brain cancer. His mother has invaded his body with her evil spirit and is trying to keep him sick.  And she refuses to let him go because she is selfish and can't imagine life without him. If he dies, she says, then the last eight years she has cared for him will be for nothing.  She tells me that she has a plan for herself if he decides to leave his body and not return.

It takes every effort that I have to not tell her that she is insane, crazy with co-dependence, and torturing this man who I grew up with, ran with, joked with and shared adventures with for so many years.  I am a coward for not telling her my truth.  But a voice within whispers that this isn't up to me.  This is not my business or my fight.  Yes, he has an advance health care directive that she is ignoring.  Yes, he is in a hospital with doctors and nurses all around him.  And, yes,  death with come eventually when the cancer causes his brain to short circuit and his heart shuts down.

In the meantime, I look up the numbers for social services at the hospital, and the statute covering advance health care directives in Virginia.  My mind seesaws between thoughts of him lying near death wasting away and minding my own business.  I choose the latter because I know that once I go down the path to interfere,  I will have started a shit storm that will lead to....where?

Meanwhile, another day starts for me.  And another one starts for him.  We are 480 miles apart, but I can see him in my mind-- not sick, frail and with sores, but barefoot and running with me.  I hope that happens soon.  I feel it can't happen soon enough.


  1. man, i am sorry about your cousin...and what he is going through right now with her unable to let go...i appreciate your restraint as well, as i would probably get myself in trouble...

  2. I think your sister-in-law is simply insane. My god! How horrible! This must be incredibly difficult for you, Syd. I am so sorry. Sorry for all involved.

  3. wow. I'm so sorry you're going through all this. I'm pretty sure I would also get myself in trouble as Brian mentioned. I, too, admire your restraint. Thinking about you. I hope you somehow take care of you.

  4. I would struggle with the decision regarding your cousin's wishes, to reveal his directive to the Doctors. What protection does someone have in this vulnerable situation?

  5. This sounds like a nightmare and your cousin's suffering is so unnecessary. Unbelievable that his health directive can be ignored because of a wife's mental illness. And Syd, I feel such sympathy for you in that dilemma.

    And I hope you and C have many many happy years to come.

  6. I would mind my own business like you. At least I think that is what I would do. And then torture myself about it (like you).

    I think it is because you are not a selfish person like she is to leave him lying there with absolutely no quality of life.

    Since she believe in Jesus perhaps a preacher can talk to her about letting go.

  7. The advance directive is all up to whomever he appointed as the one with legal authority to enforce it. In MI we appoint two. I used my wife and daughter, if my wife won't my daughter will. and vice versa. If it is the same in VA the second person has the right to do what he advocated for when in sound mind and health.

    Yeah uhh one thing Syd. Morbid thinking will only drag your ass through the know this so let them go. Just let them go away you have outlived the hardest parts of your life.

    Me? I;d start the shitstorm simply because i thrive on confrontation especially when I know I am right- I don't think you are that type though so think of the two boys playing together.

  8. I agree with you on everything about your cousin. Right down to the part where you know you can't say anything. I can't stand when people hijack Jesus for their own selfish means.

    Hoping C can work through her pain - it sounds like she is doing it but I know it is hard for you to watch.

    Hugs, love and healing prayers.

  9. Wow, there is nothing to say. I pray God comes into this sad situation and takes control. I applaud your ability to stay out of it and keep your own sanity. God is good, my friend. He will repay for the years the locust have eaten.

  10. You're in my thoughts friend. I admire your strength and ability ti make peace within yourself even when you are struggling inside. Be strong.

  11. This broke my heart Syd. Went through something similar with my sister. She was in a vegetative state with no hope of recovery after a brain injury. Husband stated that he wanted to care for her for the rest of his life. His life, not hers. Hers was over. We, my sisters and I, fought and won to remove her feeding tube after 6 months of this madness. She had a medical directive that was also being ignored by her mentally unbalanced spouse. Saying prayers of healing for all involved. God grant YOU the serenity Syd.

  12. I read this yesterday but was on my phone and for some reason can't comment using my phone anymore. This is so sad. And bless your heart for trying so hard to figure out what the right thing is to do. You are such a good guy Syd. I know you didn't write this to hear that, but your kind and gentle spirit shined through in this post. The wife must be in so much is tragic in so many ways.

  13. There was a time when I would have kept my opinions to myself in a situation like this, and not interfere, but after years of advocating for my father I have become braver and I am afraid I would - like you - be investigating the laws on medical directives and finding out if there was anything I could legally be doing. That is a sad situation, a legality run amok. I believe it is evident that your cousin's wife is not of sound mind - that should have some bearing, if there is any fairness in the process at all.

    You must do whatever brings you peace at the end of the day. Sometimes that means stepping in, and sometimes it means bowing out. Like everything else, it's complicated, and only you can decide what is right for you. I wish you strength and steadiness and clarity.

  14. Syd, I would say something... because sometimes when you are so lost in the forest you can't see dead trees.

    My daughter was on life support for 10 days. I could not comprehend she was dying... I did not even recognize the obvious, "she's on life support..."

    My son addressed the issue with me head-on at the end and together we made a decision.

    She needs guidance...

  15. I hope you will use your voice with your cousin's mate, Syd. And if not your voice, directly, then your prayers.

    Still, I have this hunch... that you are supposed to say something loving and real. This poor soul is talking to you for a reason, and perhaps it is because of what she needs to hear from you?

    With love, Syd, with love, all things are possible. May you and your cousin be running free and barefoot, side by side.....soon....

  16. What a powerful post, Syd. I can't believe that my children would not honor my wishes ... but just to be sure I have had all three of them (in front of each other) swear to me that they will honor my wishes ...which is to NEVER be put on lifesaving devices.
    You certainly have had a tough year or two of hard choices.

  17. Syd, you know how seldom, if ever, I give direct (unsolicited) advice. But I am going to do so here.

    I can't believe medical professionals are listening to her obvious delusions and letting her make decisions on behalf of your cousin, when they are clearly not what he wanted.

    Most hospitals have patient advocates you can talk to. Barring that, they have chaplains. I think intervention is appropriate. Wouldn't you want your cousin to do the same for you?

    I think medical durable power of attorney requires the person with the power to be of sound mind. She clearly is not.

    Sorry for being so direct.

  18. Thanks for such a frank and honest post. I admire your fortitude in not getting involved - I agree and can see your point about opening up the shit storm.

    Also shows me so much about good and bad relationships - that is just all so horrible.

    Thank you


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