On my mother’s side, there are few of us left. She is gone, as are her three siblings and parents. One cousin is out there somewhere, but I have not seen him since the 1970s. My sister and I, plus Cousin Pat and her brother are about it.
Pat’s son died in an auto accident last year. She had never had any major health issues, but after this happened, she started to have various ailments and treatments. In October, she was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s condition). I’ve only read about it a little. It is one of those conditions that can be diagnosed because it’s not anything else that has been tested for in a person. There is no specific test for ALS. The body fails while the mind is still alert.
In the course of two months, she has flown downhill. We do tend to overachieve, but I wish she had not done so with ALS. Articles gave expected life span as 3-5 years. She is in her third month and has been in ICU for several weeks now on a ventilator.
Her husband calls me so I can Facetime with her. She is able to nod for “yes” and “no,” and she can still flip me her third finger. I try to make her laugh. She is feisty and always enjoyed a glass or two or three of wine and would curse and make me laugh whenever we spent time together.
We became closer when I retired in 2006. She is ten years older than I, and she and her husband went to my nephew’s wedding this past May in North Carolina. She was having trouble walking even then, but no one knew what was going on.
She has been hooked up on a ventilator the entire time she has been in ICU. It is so hard to see her there. I know I always say that we all have expiration dates, and it’s true, but I am not ready to see Pat reach hers.
Today, she was able to breathe on her own for almost 90 minutes before they had to reinsert the ventilator. She had pneumonia, and they drained fluid from her lungs. Her husband told me, when he was out of earshot, that they (including her) had decided that the next time the ventilator is removed, if she can’t breathe on her own, they will not reinsert the ventilator. I asked if this meant that she would suffocate, and he said it did. I asked if they would please dope her up so she wouldn’t know what was happening.
I have lost many family members and a few friends. It is never easy, even when I know it might be for the best. She would not want to live this way.
Someone gave her a pink teddy bear. She named it Jann, after me. I joked and said it was because I was a Bar-bear (Barber), but it made me want to cry.
I know everyone has problems. Everyone has sorrow. Everyone has joy. I am just putting it out here because I don’t know where else to leave it.
Hug the people you love. You just never know.