Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is It Truly Better to Have Loved & Lost...?

This has been a rough year.  It's about to get even rougher.

I found out, last week, my *almost* sister-in-law is dying.  She's 35. 

Normally, vivacious and bubbly, W lays in a hospital bed now -- too weak to stand, and hooked to a variety of machines that keep her alive and her pain as minimal as possible.  She hurts a lot.  The medicine can't take it all away.  Nothing can take it away at this point.

She's dying as a result of liver failure.  She's been in and out of the hospital for the last month or so.  Each time, we hoped the tests would show us the path to her recovery.  Each time, the tests came back inconclusive.  We know what she doesn't have, but we still don't know why... why her liver failed, why she has to endure the horrific pain, why she's being taken from us.

This week, the doctors told us her spleen and kidneys were failing, and failing much faster than expected.  She is quickly sliding into total systemic failure.  She is no longer a viable candidate for a transplant.  They can do nothing to save her.  She is going to die.  She is going to die within just a few, short months - at most.

My brother, who is a seasonal fisherman, flew home from Alaska last week.  At that point, we still had hope that she could rebound.  J was going to fly back up, in time for the fish runs... but he's going to miss them this year.  He has no intention of leaving W's side.  We expected no different.

J waited a very long time to find his special love - his one love.  It was on his 36th birthday (last year) that, after months, he finally spoke to the tiny red head at the bus stop.  "It's my birthday," he told her.  They went out for the first time that night.  They've been together pretty much non-stop since then.

They're a darling couple.  J towers over her, at well over six-feet tall, by more than a foot.  He's a big teddy bear of a guy, with soft hazel green eyes and a soulful face.  He's quiet, and uses his words sparingly.  W is curvy and bouncy and filled with the zest of life.  She loves to talk, and can engage even the most curmugeonly grump into a conversation.  They are opposites, yet fit together perfectly.  They were planning for an autumn wedding, and getting married on the water.  They both love the water.  W bought a beautiful green dress to celebrate the occassion.  The dress now hangs, where all can see it, in a sterile hospital room.

J sleeps on a cot in her room.  He only leaves for short periods of time, and then, only when someone else can be there with her.  She doesn't want to be alone.  We don't want her to be alone. 

W's mother died several years ago, following a long illness.  J's (and mine) mother has become her surrogate mother, and our family is her family.  She's asked our stepfather to give her away.  She has a way with him... she can tease him until he is unable to sustain his grumpiness.  The affection is both mutual and obvious.

It's a waiting game now.  We wait helplessly for W to die.  We wait with broken hearts - unable to fathom Why!  Why her?  Why now?  It's so cruel.

What will happen to J after she's gone?  I worry about him.  He's always been a loner, but with W's influence, he came out of his shell and interacted with the world more.  I forsee him totally withdrawing back into himself, disappearing from us all for a while, or longer...  I worry he'll never truly recover, that he'll forever shut his heart against any possibilities.  He's so very sensitive - far more than I am.  Sure, I cry easy... I cry at silly commercials, Disney movies and the sign of wildlife who lost their bid against moving vehicles.  But I'm pretty resiliant--I bounce back, with time.  I have a need to love, to pull people close and nuture them... to take in strays and try to help mend wounded souls.  I have to reach out and be touched back.  J doesn't have that same need.

He's my little brother.  My heart aches at this tragedy, at his and our loss of this vibrant person we love so very much... it's so unfair.  But then again, so was the loss of my son-in-law, just a few months ago.  If I were a religious woman, I might wonder why God was doing this to me.  Rather, I simply wonder why.

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