I've learned that most people don’t really comprehend the stress associated with balancing life between the living and the dying. It’s kind of this overlooked or ignored portion of the primary caregiver’s process.
Only by the grace of God, did I stay afloat during those 17 months.
only. by. HIS. grace.
It’s not natural.
It’s not feasible to exist in this wait pattern; having young, energetic, lively children who need to live and participate in life and not sit in a house or hospital room waiting on death to occur. Loving them; leading them; helping them to develop into who God has designed them to be. Allowing them to fully experience their childhood and mature through it into healthy teenagers. All the while knowing their childhood will never again be as carefree as the majority of their peers.
Yet at the same time….
Caring for their father who is the ultimate, brave, fighter; who wants to be a part of every little thing they are doing. Not desiring to miss a second of their childhood; yet trapped inside a body that won’t allow it. This strong and yet even stronger-willed man who wouldn't accept his own physical limits and often refused to use his walker, only to become too weak part-way to his destination and pass out cold on the floor. I will never be able to erase the sound of his body slapping the bathroom tile, time and time again as his strength failed him. That sound. It rings out in the hollowness of my mind when those particular memories flood their way back.
I existed in this crazy ocean of exhaustive waves between the love of my life and our loves, trying to protect them all. My reality was that I couldn't always be with Tim every second of every day when we were not in the hospital. I had carpool to run and kids to shuttle to events, and groceries to buy; all the basic necessities for living. My other reality was that I could never allow the kids to be alone with their father. I was unable to run for a gallon of milk without taking both kids with me, for fear of them being alone with dad when he passed away. There were so many gruesome scenarios that could have played out for Tim’s death because of the nasty head and neck cancer that had invaded his body. I couldn't have a child be alone with him. I just couldn't.
For 17 months, every single time I walked into the door of our home, (if we weren't in the hospital or Tim wasn't with me), I knew there was a very real possibility that Tim would be gone. Without saying a word, I would try to position myself as the first one in the door or be right beside a child as they entered. I am still recovering from the mental exhaustion of constantly being in “Protect Mode”.
Hardest of all was bouncing between the two extremes. Giving my all to be “in the moment” and truly living with our children; then instantly transitioning into giving my all to be “in the moment” and tending to the every need of my husband who was truly dying. The waves of both realities crashing against my mind and body at all times; crushing me under their weight was just too much.
Too much to handle alone; I am forever grateful for my hope in God which was the anchor to my soul.
Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”