Today I took Janet, my mother-in-law, to what may be her last oncology visit. It was emotional and very sad for the both of us. The cancer had spread to her abdomen and her lymph nodes. Although the compassionate doctor stated there was no way to predict a specific time frame, she told us that based upon her experience with cancer, Janet may have 2-6 months to live and it would be important to get her affairs in order.
I was trying to be so strong for her. Inside, my heart was shattering into a million pieces. At the end of each visit, we always see Jodi to check out and schedule our next appointment. Today, she seemed distant with us. I wasn’t sure if it was because she knew this was the end of the road for Janet. When she gave us hospice material, I spoke up and asked her if this was the hardest part of the job for her. She got teary eyed, as did I, when she said “yes.” She knelt to talk to my mother-in-law who was sitting in the wheel chair and said, “You inspire me and you have lived a good life.” As Jody gave Janet a hug, I was no longer able to compose myself; I broke down and said “I am losing my rock.” Janet, very stoic, replied “I am not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to leave my family.”
My thoughts immediately went to my children. How are my husband and I going to prepare them for grandma’s farewell? As Janet and I were driving home I asked her if there was anything she really wanted to do during the remaining days of her life. She said that she wanted to go to the zoo with her family. Janet loved to entertain and I suggested we throw a party in her honor to celebrate her life while she was here on this earth. She agreed. Since she loves to garden, someone suggested her friends bring a favorite flower and plant in the garden for her. I planned to have my children involved in the planning of her party.
We talked about her sons and grandchildren getting support from Hospice and I suggested we also make a picture book for Gabrielle. I asked Janet if she would help me find pictures of Gabrielle and her together and make a book. I have heard that one of the most loving things you can do for a dying person is to tell them how important they have been in your life. For the time we have left with my mother in law, I will encourage my children to share the bountiful memories they have with their grandma and to tell her why she is important to them.