Delayed Reaction

Blogs-contributors, Dan Waeger — By on April 2, 2009 at 9:45 pm

It’s true- when you are in the middle of an intense situation, your perspective is definitely skewed. In our situation, it’s probably better that we never really focused on just how serious Dan’s illness was the last few months of his life. We certainly sensed it (my Giving Tree blog entry) but I don’t know that either one of us ever truly acknowledged it. I’m not sure that it would have bought us anything. I knew what metastic cancer meant to others, but never applied it to us.

The other day I saw a picture of Dan the week before he passed. It was shocking to me to see how much weight he had lost… almost like I hadn’t been with him through the end. At that moment, for the first time, I realized how sick he was. Obviously, as the person with him all the time, I was acclimated to his appearance and limitations. As his physical capabilites declined, I was somehow able to just see him as I always did… though it’s clear to me now that I was compensating for the situation. A gift that my mind gave me.

As I move through my days, I’ve also been increasingly aware how many medicine bottles are in the house… empty pill bottles, half empty pill bottles, cough medicine… they are everywhere, in every room. I can’t move the cough medicine stashed conveniently in the bathroom and kitchen. I am just so accustomed to seeing them. And of course, they weren’t always there. Just in the last six months, when life was not about being cured, but about overcoming whatever physical challenge popped up.

In the moments when I miss Dan so intensely, these reminders…. the photos or pill bottles…. bring me back to the peace that he is no longer limited. He is not coughing or uncomfortable. His diet doesn’t consist predominantly of smoothies and Ensure (that stuff is so gross, yet I can’t throw it away). He was so sick, yet I never realized it until now. What a blessing. And I am only slowly realizing the impact of his illness on my own life. Of course, when you love someone, there is no other place that you’d rather be than right beside him. But I am noticing things I am able to do again that weren’t always freely available… exercising, eating out, visiting with friends. I don’t resent that those activities had all but disappeared those last few months. Rather, I am keenly aware that, now that I am able to resume them, I am a profoundly different person.

As I resume a more normal life, I am not tentative or remorseful. The days are tough, but I find that the few moments I get that I do feel normal are also happy. So even though I didn’t realize how tough life was the last months of Dan’s life, I am grateful that that “cancer” life resulted in the set point being in my life being happy. It would be easy to confuse grief with despair, but my perspective is not desperate. I am only more thankful and appreciative of Dan, and how knowing him, even as he neared death, changed my whole perspective on life.

PS- no karoake choice yet. I am still noodling. I may need to practice a few first.

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