Watching someone you love waste away is never fun. It's painful. It's heartbreaking. It tears your guts out.
This past weekend I was informed that my Aunt Joyce was not expected to live much longer. She was life-flighted from her home to a hospital two hours away because the country hospital in her area is not able to handle her case. This is the second time in two weeks she's had a helicopter ride; both to the same place and both for the same reason. I drove the three and a half hours to where she is on Friday night, hoping to see her before she died.
However, she surprised us all.
Her lungs, for all intents and purposes, are gone. She has very little left to breathe with at this point, and she may not be able to get off of the respirator. If she does get off of the respirator, chances are she'll be back on it again in very little time. She did not want to go to the hospital this time, and she does not want to be hooked to a respirator at home. She does not want to return to the hospital if she gets out this time.
Gee, I wonder where I get my stubborn streak from?
So I went. There were things I needed to say to her before she leaves this earth. I wanted to tell her again how much I love her and how much having her in my life has meant to me. I wanted to tell her that she was able to show me God in a way no one else could. I wanted to thank her for teaching me so many things, including how to see the good side of those who hurt me. I wanted to rehash the good times we'd had over a lifetime and to thank her for those. I wanted to thank her for showing me the beauty there is in this world, and how to appreciate it. I wanted to hug her and kiss her while I still could, and to tell her how important she is to me.
And I wanted to kick her in the behind for even thinking about leaving before I had a chance to do all of that.
Thankfully, with the help of the respirator, she was able to breathe and even sit up in a chair while I was there. She wrote notes and bossed people around, she smiled and pointed and got frustrated when we couldn't guess what she was pantomiming. She showed the spirit she's always had.
She's no dummy. She knows what lies ahead. She's had a lot of time to think and to plan. So while I had some time alone with her, she wrote a note to me. She asked if I would sing at her funeral.
And I cried like a baby.
She apologized for upsetting me, and then told me she would understand if I didn't think I could do it.
So I made a bargain with her. I told her I would sing at her funeral only if she promised to be the first to meet me when I got to Heaven. She agreed with a big smile on her face.
You see, she has no fear of death. She knows where she's going, and what awaits her there. For her, it would be a release. So while I was telling her everything else I needed to tell her, I added one thing.
I told her it was OK for her to let go any time she wanted to, even though I love her so very much.
My daughter and I will be going back to see her this next weekend if she survives that long. It seems The Girl has a few words of her own to say, a few hugs and kisses to give. She needs her own time to say goodbye.
And that's not so hard to understand.