Tuesday, May 17, 2005

so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu

I suck at goodbyes. I mean it, I really suck at them, so I do whatever to avoid them. Usually that means not forming lasting attachments or shutting down and pretending it doesn't matter that much to me when goodbye is inevitable. Take whatever abandonment issues I may have had before, compound them with my significant other moving halfway around the world to Russia and throwing our entire world into disarray, my brother being stuck in a Mexican jail for four years, having to put my dog (my best friend and therapy for the past 13 years) down this past September, a bad breakup in December after five years on and off, people I've let close to me either moving from Los Angeles or moving to the Valley (I don't do 818) and well, let's just say my reaction to goodbyes hasn't improved over the years.

I wrote a short story that I read at a literary reading this past Saturday. I had some funny pieces, but this short story, titled "Girls", was inspired by my sister's wedding last week and was an homage of sorts to a short story in Rick Moody's Demonology. It made me sad to reminisce, but sometimes what is bleak and heartbreaking can also make you laugh. I read it to my brother on Saturday afternoon and it made me sad to say those words out loud, but I am glad that enough time and space had passed to enable us to laugh about what we went through growing up together.

My sister has cancer. It's difficult for her to talk, so she blogs. I don't know what to say to her when we see each other, so I just hug her when I see her. I know I shouldn't overreact, but when I read that she signed the "Do Not Resuscitate" papers, that the hospice rolled in the oxygen tanks and that she isn't as lucid because of the morphine and other drugs, I'm just a river of tears.

I'm with her now, sitting beside her while she drifts in and out of a labored sleep and a morphine-induced stupor. One of her doctors, her nurse, and her new husband just left me alone to stand vigil. She spent a good part of the morning hooked up to her oxygen tank and I'm trying so hard to not be alarmed by every sound that comes out of her.

This fear that has engulfed me and my family since she was diagnosed in July 2004 has taken on many forms. I'm sure I've reacted in all ways expected, but I still feel like I've been blindsided. There are fears that I have become used to, fears that I somehow manage, fears that I have faced and some that are just simmering below the surface but hidden well enough so that they don't become debilitating. Some fears are unfounded, some are improbable and some are just stupid. I fear that I might become destitute or I fear that I will be unlucky in love, but I never feared that I would suffer cancer, or that any of my loved ones would. This fear of losing my sister is overwhelming. I fear her dying, I fear her living in unbearable pain, I fear surviving her, never getting over that loss and going through life as an empty shell. I used to fear letting people know how much pain I felt, but it's so close to the surface now. It feels like it permeates everything, informs everything I say and do that there's no point in pretending anymore. I am paralyzed by this fear that I might have to say goodbye.


Team said...

I'm so sorry that you are going through this. Thanks for sharing with your loyal readers and I hope that your fears are not realized in this round with your sister. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family right now.
take care.

i'm so sorry to have missed the poetry reading. I slept thru Saturday and didn't awaken until after 10 pm.
I know you did wonderfully.

Los Angeles Fire Department said...


Our hearts go out to you and your family at this difficult time.

If your Neighborhood Firefighters and Paramedics can do anything to make you and your sister more comfortable, please let us know.

One of the little known services we offer is palliative care. Sometimes its just a matter of assisting the hospice staff with a physically demanding task, or attending to some necessary though difficult matters that require Firefighter's teamwork. We'll always be there when you need us.

We can also help through our Crisis Response Team volunteers, who are pleased to offer on-site emotional support in trying times, or through a referral to Info-Line, where you can connect with free guidance and advocacy by calling (800) 339-6993.

Respectfully Yours,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Nanette said...


Your post hit really close to home. My father died of colon cancer and it was quite an experience to go through that. Your description of the morphine-induced stupor is exactly what my dad went through.

Cancer is a helluva a disease and does so much to everyone it touches. I'm so happy that your sister got to celebrate her wedding and be surrounded by so many family and friends.

You and your family are in my thoughts. Thanks for sharing your experience.

And by the way, Brian, that's one of the nicest comments I've ever seen. My brother is a firefighter and I have lots of respect for what you do.


celia said...

Thank you everyone for your support and caring words. I just posted some pictures from the wedding. Laura was admitted to the emergency room tonight for a tracheostomy so that she can breathe easier. Her husband James called and they're both holding up well. She sent him home to her laptop so that he could post to her blog. There's a link to it on my sidebar. Again, everybody, thank you.

Brady Westwater said...

About the only words of comfort I can offer is that there will come a day that when you think of your sister, your first memories will be of all the good times you had together and how much she enjoyed her life. At first it will seem, for a very long time, that that day will never come, but it will.

I hospiced my mother at my home for her final year of colon cancer - with a morphine drip the last few months - and when we finally lost her, it took a long time before that was not my first memory of her. But now, finally, when I think of her, my thoughts are of how much she enjoyed her life during all the years before that time.

Brady Westwater