Thursday, June 26, 2008


When I moved to Santa Barbara, it was against my better judgement. My wife, Sarah, was very ill with colon cancer. She wanted to be closer to our daughter, Laura. We have two daughters, Suzanne and Laura. But Laura is in Chicago. Chicago? Santa Barbara? Sarah picked Santa Barbara. Plus, we had lived here before in the 1970's.

I had various conditions: 1) we wouldn't move if Sarah was very, very ill. 2) We wouldn't pay a ridiculous amount of money for a tiny condo. -- Oh well. We did move here while Sarah was very ill and we did buy a tiny condo for a lot of money. It was cheap by Santa Barbara standards but... you know. Everything is expensive in Lotus Land.

I stopped working for a year. That was an excellent decision. I was able to stay focused totally on Sarah and we made the best of the hard situation. Sarah was one of those people who fights right until the end. She did indeed fight very hard. She went through all the surgeries and chemotherapy that could possibly help. At the end, we were waiting for a clinical trial.

Mercifully, one day, she awoke very confused. I knew it had gone to her brain and I was right. In about 4 days she died. She was spared a long period without her brain working. I'm thankful for that. She would have hated that.

While she was alive, we did pretty well that last year. I bought a huge digital frame and spent a lot of time building a big inventory of family pictures. We set it to random display and watched it. We actually would just sit and watch the show that was our life (42 years of marriage & family). You mostly take pictures of happy memories, so that was a great medicine for both of us.

I also loaded our 500 CD's into the computer. So, we were listening to the music we loved and watching some great scenes. Those was really some joyful moments.

Since I wasn't working for the first time in my life, I was worried about being bored. But the fact is, that being a caregiver is pretty intense. I did a lot of Jr. Nursing stuff. I learned how to clean wounds and give injections. At one point, we escaped from the hospital and stayed at a Marriott while the home health folks helped me with infusions of antibiotics. We made the best of it and the hotel definitely beat any hospital.

But I digress. My point here is that I was not bored. My job as caregiver took a lot of energy and time. I learned to walk every day since part of the plan was that I not get sick, at least until Sarah died.

As to the dieing thing, we did not talk about that. Sarah needed to keep her head in a living place and she didn't want to contemplate her death. I knew her wishes for funeral (no) / celebration (yes). But, in general, she didn't want to talk about "it." This is similar to the situation that I recently read about with Susan Sonntag. Her son wrote about her demand that he pretend she was going to survive. It sounded very, very familiar. It is very hard on the person who is going to have to stay behind when you refuse to consider your own mortality. But then again, who am I to decide such things. Like Sonntag's son, I deferred to her wishes.


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