A time to mourn in a time of much grief, my stepfather-in-law died this morning. He was a tough old bird, made it to 92 despite of myriad health challenges, and his grip remained strong. He was 60 when I met him in his backyard, fastidiously cared for by my in-laws. He’d worked his way up from machinist to engineer and worked for the same company for 30+ years. After retirement, he and my mother-in-law moved to an area in central California where they have no family nearby.
Because his father lived to be 94, we perenially expected Charles to live through the interventions required to treat the new thing that ailed him. Not this time. He had moved from hospital to a nursing facility, and six days ago the doctor said he had a week to live. Even when it’s expected, death sneaks up on you, bestowing tears in direct relation to the strength of love and history you shared.
These days, with omicron COVID racing around the world, are a time for massive mourning and loss. Somehow, my in-laws escaped the virus while inside the hospital and the nursing facility, even as it spread to many, many others, patients and healthcare workers alike. It made it more difficult for my mother-in-law to visit and some days’ visitations were cancelled for everyone. Thus, relativcs congregated outside the nursing facility each morning, finding out then whether or not they may enter and see their loved ones. Each day, if they are to be allowed in, they need to show a negative test that was less than 24 hours old. One man was frustrated to learn no visitors were being received just after he’d taken his test. My mother-in-law was so grateful she hadn’t tested herself and “wasted” one of her precious inventory. While tests were required, the store shelves held none. My husband and I sent her three tests we had at home, ordered her three packages of two tests each online, and shared the link for her to order her free tests through USPS. Now, she has a wealth of tests and no one to go see.
My husband will go down soon to help his mother with a honey-do list and possibly an estate sale. She’s mentioned that she’d like to stay put for four more years to pay off that home, miles from serious medical assistance and with no one there to help in an emergency. We’ve talked a bit about moving her here recently but she’s mentioned previously that her arthritis couldn’t withstand the cold winters here. We have time, presumably, to work through all these things, now that they’re not hypothetical.
When my 82-year-old dad died in 2019, it was totally unexpected. He coded during an outpatient surgery and died some days after when my mom, supported 100% by my sisters and me, made the heartwrenching decision to defer any further dialysis and to turn off the ventilator. Mom couldn’t stay for the end but one sister, one brother-in-law, and I held my dad’s hands, caressing his forehead, and letting him know it was okay to let go. In recent days, I had pictured what this might look like but I hadn’t accounted for after. Immediately, I found myself in a rush to leave because I didn’t want to see my dad dead any longer than the first minutes.
Can’t believe it’s been five years, but in 2017, we lost my sister-in-law, Steph, to ALS as we had my father-in-law, Ed, to the same back in 2011. Three months after Ed died, my stepsister-in-law, Cindy, succumbed to aggressive breast cancer in 2011, leaving behind her young children and her husband. Knowing ahead of time that they would pass did not make it any easier to learn of or to mourn.
In a world bathed in pain, illness, and loss, no less is the grief of each person affected by death.
Morning Has Broken Morning has broken like the first morning Blackbird has spoken like the first bird Praise for the singing, praise for the morning Praise for them springing fresh from the Word Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from Heaven Like the first dew fall on the first grass Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden Sprung in completeness where His feet pass Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning Born of the One Light Eden saw play Praise with elation, praise every morning God's recreation of the new day Morning has broken like the first morning Blackbird has spoken like the first bird Praise for the singing, praise for the morning Praise for them springing fresh from the Word