Vigil

It is not death, but dying, which is terrible.

~ Henry Fielding (1707-54)

Lately, she cries even when she is sleeping.

I slip between unfamiliar sheets in a room carpeted with children, mine and those belonging to relatives, and gently roll her toward me. She hasn’t moved in hours, sleep having finally, thankfully, overtaken her.

I hold her. Let her dampen my chest. Tell her that it is all right to hurt. To be here and helpless.

We are in Fargo, North Dakota. On a trip we cannot afford to make. We are not sure how we will get home.

And he is here. Since Friday morning. He wasn’t supposed to make it through that day. So we came. Sixteen hours bookended – flooded – with uncertainty.

We sit. Occasionally, we wander through the big doors at the end of the hall and stand at his side. Hold his hand. Brush the stubble on his chin with our hands. Talk to him. Wonder if he hears. Hope he does.

Two weeks ago, the doctors said he had cancer in his lungs. We fretted, even when he told us in his simple way not to. Then pneumonia settled in. Dug in its bloody talons. Somehow he made the ninety minute trip here.

When asked, he said he wanted to live, so he is now adorned with tubes and induced by drugs into a healing slumber.

He is fighting as he sleeps.

And we are waiting . . .

[Flickr photo is by Brittany G and is protected]

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21 thoughts on “Vigil

  1. Brian, I’ve been there. With my grandmothers. With my mom. The vigil with my mom lasted two weeks. All the while we were afraid to talk to her about the reality of what she was going through. Well…I wasn’t, but I didn’t dare cross my sister, who had medical power of attorney and could have made me leave. I was 2 weeks post-op from a major neck surgery, but I sat in those chairs and talked to Mom and held her hand and loved, loved, loved her through it.

    When I had reached a point of exhaustion and had to go to the hotel (which we were paying for just to have a place to change clothes and shower), she slipped away.

    I feel your sadness, my friend. Hold on. You can get through this. God always provides a way. God or whomever is watching over us all.

    D

  2. I’m so, so sorry. This is hard, the hardest thing, maybe, to know what’s ahead and yet not to know how it will be. To wait. Sending love and strength to everyone in your family.

  3. Thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way. I’m glad you were able to go. It’s important. I wasn’t able to go for my former MIL’s vigil last March (it was the week my first grand child was born and my daughter needed me here) and it bothers me every day.

    Things will work out. Or they won’t and you’ll go on past it. But I’m sure that you will always be glad that you were there.

  4. I’m so, so sorry. We were in a similar situation (3+ weeks in a shock-trauma ICU) 8 1/2 years ago. Sometimes it is so fresh it feels like yesterday. Our vigil did not have the ending we hoped for, but we held each other close, as you are doing. The void left from his larger than life presence is still keenly felt, but our memories with him are cherished in our minds and hearts.

    Come what may, continue to hold each other close. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  5. So very sorry to hear your family is going through this. Sometimes we are blessed enough to have people stride into our lives, crawl in ever so carefully or just plain ole plopped down in front of us. Regardless of how they entered, their exits are seldom easy or pleasant.

    Thoughts and prayers …

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