Sunday, March 18, 2012

Waiting for Death

March 11th.

I have a first cousin who doesnt have much longer to live.  Most likely just a few days, if that.

Late summer or early fall he had an ear and sinus infection that he could not get rid of.  He finally ended up in a hospital over it, they got it under control and released him.  Not too long ago he was sick again, went to a doctor, who sent him to a hospital.  He had double pneumonia.  They were able to get that under control, but they took a chest xray as part of this diagnosis, and found a spot on one of his lungs.

It was very close to his heart, apparently, so close that the surgeon did not want to take a biopsy.  So they did the surgery, with the idea that they'd remove the tumor, or the whole lung if needed.  Turned out they didn't do either.  During the surgery they decided it was inoperable, and I guess untreatable. I was told the tumor was attached to his heart in some way, as well as his lung.

This all happened very rapidly, at least from my point of view, but of course lung cancer doesnt happen overnight.  He smoked, which is a risk, and he worked on strip mines, mining coal, another risk.

March 18th.

I started this post about a week ago, and my cousin died the next day.   I think his cancer was diagnosed less than a month before his death.  He was very sick, but also very aware.  He knew he had a very short time to live. 

He spent most of the last three weeks at his home.    He moved into a  hospice facility in Hazard, Kentucky literally a couple days before he died.  Once they found out it was terminal they managed his symptoms, but did nothing further to treat the disease.  He died late in the evening of March 12th.

I don't know what I'd do in that situation.  It seems he handled it about as well as anyone facing certain death can.  Well let me amend that a little.  We're all facing certain death, but most of us are not facing immanent death.  He was, and he knew it.   I don't know how I'd react.  How can anyone react.  If you are literally deathly ill, you aren't going to do a whole lot.  If I were able, I think I'd just sit out on the porch and feel the air and listen to the birds.

On television people with chronic or even terminal illnesses take yoga classes and play tennis, and seem to be healthier and more active than the rest of us.  Reality is a little different.

He had a lot of family and friends, and most, including me, attended the funeral. It was held in Hindman with bluegrass/gospel music and a sermon.  It was a very long procession to the cemetery.  He was buried in the family cemetery near his home, the graveside service coinciding with a very heavy downpour, soaking most people there.  He would have laughed, everybody knew it, and they all laughed about it.  He was buried next to his (and my) grandparents who raised him, and who he thought of as parents. 



1 comment:

Grace said...

You wrote warmly about a sad happening. My sincere condolences.