I would like to tell you it was beautiful. I would like to tell you it was filled with the splendor of trumpets. Angels pouring down from above, carrying blankets of silk and the softness of clouds. Shafts of light pulling from above with the sucking sound of a waterfall yanking her from here. I would like to say it held all the power of Him, and there was peace. Would that make it easier to see? Would that make what I am to share lighter and more g rated for all your eyes? Would it change things? To reach that feeling, first you have to take a razor and scrape the lining of your heart. Make it raw and serrated. Make it bleed. Stay awake for 3 days until exhaustion takes you to a place where you can listen. When all that has happened, a small Voice, faint and real, heavy set in the silence, will be heard……… but first I want to just take everyone back a little.
After the calls and the cancellations, the words of no refunds or flights, hotels, etc…. reality began to set in for her. I watched as her emotions flowed back and forth between release of anxiety from her pain and anger for the pain keeping her from the list in her iPad of sights to see, canyons to explore, pillars of rock carved from God to marvel at. She snapped out, was angry, was moody at times. For 3 days it went on like this. I finally had had enough. “You can’t just be dwelling on this, Ames. It sucks, it really does, but you got to pull yourself up”. These words are easy to say, if you are healthy and strong to begin with. But when the fluid of your organs is pumping itself throughout the lining of your guts, and locking itself in the belly to no escape….. how can you? She settled in for the next 3 weeks, as the pain medication slowly increased. Lack of sleep. A little more each night. In that time, she had finally woke one morning and climbed on the couch. Finding her there at 3 am when I awoke to begin my day, she opened up her eyes and vividly said to me, “I am done with treatments.” For quite a few months, prior, she couldn’t have them due to the chemo destroying her. During the winter months, it had torn her uterus so badly and caused such heavy bleeding that she lost lots of blood. A cyst had formed, and was finally removed and ablated, stopping the daily loss of the clotting. This was her break from chemo. This was what she went through while she was supposed to let her blood levels recuperate for more treatment. There was no break, no reprieve for her to recover. Just replacing an oncologist for an obgyn for a few months. Near the end of March, I brought her to her oncologist for her appointment. By then, the abdomen had grown to the size it was when she carried our twins. Her pain was heavy. She would turn shades of pale and yellow. The oncologist looked at her and admitted her for a scan and for observation, thinking an obstruction in the bowels was beginning. Amy told him firmly that this was it. No more plans, no more chemo cocktails. Hospice was called. A social worker came down. Amy filled out info making sure they knew she didn’t want any excessive measures taken for her. She cried, she heaved back into the chair heavily. The doctor ordered a cat scan
The next day he came back with “great news”. She wasn’t obstructed. He felt she wouldn’t be for the remainder of her life. Then the day rolled on with promises of her release. It was dragged on and on, until I finally told them I was taking her whether they could get their crap together or not, before traffic began, and bring her home. They scrambled then, as a 6’5″ man with one ear and no smile told them to get busy as firmly as a thunderstorm. She came home with me and we settled in together, just cuddling for a while. I can feel it now as I write this. It was her weight that set me off to writing the next morning. I wrote this, or began to write this story…… and I insert it here for all to read because I am letting you see the last month of all this week to week. I don’t often share these writings. These are for her eyes only. You mustn’t judge or tell her I shared it. Just read it so you see that she was able to read small scribbling when she woke every day…………….then we will get back to business.
In the early morning, before all things wake. That’s when I find myself pulled to the knife of day. It has quickly become my favorite time. There is an eerie silence about it. I have felt it is now; the in between. For this brief hour I have reserved it to myself to keep it as the time when nothing has changed. In my mind, it is the beginning of just another day. She will wake soon, get her breakfast started. She will slowly wake and plan, whether it be the chores needed to be done, or a visit to a family or a friend. She will float through the day, crossing off all those many things on her list. When she’s done, she will come back. Her steps will be felt as they echo through the old boards of this building. The motions of the building all tied to each other with years of living. It’s a feeling as if it’s the house is a being unto itself. Breathing, heaving feeling the changing of the seasons and remaining as it always is. If I am asleep, I can feel it. If I am awake, my heart prepares itself for the moment the latch clicks, signaling we are back together for the evening. This is the time which no one knows, and no one ever will. It’s our time. We have done it for years, every evening and in some imagination in my mind I believe there are many who know us who must sit outside of our life and wonder in amazement what we do with that time. But they will never know. It’s no secret, it’s just beauty in all it’s enveloped sense. From sharing a meal, to reflecting on the day, to venting the frustrations of whatever may have been. To washing the day away in the evening and resting our bodies. All of it is an act of God, plain and simple. These things come as natural as ice in the late fall. They are not planned, not well though out. It is just life. The word life.
I feel her weight from 16 feet away as she lays in our bed. I awake some mornings and she is not there. She’s drifted away to the other room, or has risen to do something. It brings a quick flutter to my heart, a small drive of adrenaline hits me as I reach over. Then quickly subsides. I know she is here. In that brief hour before sunrises, I think of all these things. I sit very quiet and feel them lay on me like blankets of weight comforting and inviting layered in all the small things that we take for granted. Her presence is weight, and that weight is an anchor to me. No matter what, no matter when, or where, I believe in my heart that our Lord has made me this way, to feel these subtleties everyone neglects, or misses. Clearly it’s because they will never leave me. Even when the weight is physically gone, it will still be there. This is what makes the days come together. To make sure you wake up every morning so you don’t miss that time. So it doesn’t slip into a memory………………
Amy asked for her detailed scan a few days later. It was filled with information. The liver had innumerable tumors now, as did the lungs. Small ones yes, but innumerable. The spleen carried a mass. The pelvic area had enveloped the reproductive organs with a very large mass. Her lymph nodes were showing signs of tumors too. None were tested, but only because none needed to be. Fluid was shown in the abdomen. A lung was partially collapsed. The Ct scan was pages long, but could have been one sentence if the tech wanted to save a few dollars. It could have said, “you’re pretty screwed, so brace yourself for a ride.” Amy just said it was the concrete to seat her decision. We settled into hospice and began the new journey. She was getting some relief from some meds, and we ate at a few resteraunts. Her system was slowed, but working. For 2 weeks, she was fairly normal. She went north one Sunday herself and spent the day. Upon her return, she was so happy to have done the things she set out to do. But there was something else. She had some pain in her eyes. She told me all of it. Spilled it out. We met each other’s anger and we met in both our feelings of being upset. She lay on my shoulder and we talked. We determined what was best was to remain focused on us, on her, and the week’s to come. But we would remember the anger and deal with it when we could, when the feeling was there. We held the secret as promised until reinforcements would come. This was important to her. I knew it. But what was more important to her was what I could and could not do. Over our years together, many times she came to me with something broken. I would take it, and repair or replace it as necessary. I soldered wires for her, replaced tires, repaired garden fences, built stone walls, made compost for gardens, set up lights for her growing desires. But this one I couldn’t fix. It tears me that I couldn’t. So I try now, as the reinforcements take over, they need reinforcements too. I know my writing holds power, so many have said it. I promised her I would use it if I could. This is for her, and this is my last time I take part in this struggle; for her. Like Pilate, I must wash my hands of it. She didn’t hold me accountable for not being able at the time. In fact, we grew closer together. Sometimes, you have to know and feel that it’s not your cross to bear. This wasn’t. We had to remain focused, as finally a doctor was willing to share what he thought was her time left on earth. “You are in the last 2-4 months of your life and this disease, in my expert opinion, based on the scan, and the observation of you”. These words were heard the following Wednesday.
Over the next few weeks, Amy had declined physically in energy, and pain had increased. But her conversations lay as heavy as snow, and we talked and talked, and used the deepest sharpest words of love for each other. Every word out of our mouths were filled with adjectives for each other. We scrambled at her flower beds. Her desires were 2 things. See her flowers grow, and ride that Harley. She carries the strength of an entire regiment. She pressed forward, determined to do what she could. Her steps each day looked as if they were steps on wet sand. Each day the further she walked, the wetter the sand was, the more it slowed her. On Easter, I put her on the back of the Harley. She couldn’t ride herself, the pain killers and all… so we left and went through town, stopping for fuel. She looked at me and said, “it hurts too much, Nate, take me home.” We completed her quarter mile ride. It was her last. That evening, she fell into me. She sobbed and said out loud, “what more does cancer want? It took our intimacy, it took our trip, it took our dinners and meals, it took our time, and now it takes the happiness of the motorcycles.” My heart sinks now as it did when she spoke, and I see cloudiness in front of my eyes when I think on it. Her spirit had begun to shatter, and from here on out, was only a fraction of the spirit she had carried for all the years I knew her. She settled into the monotony of pain medication, stirred sleep. Routines every night of waking at 2 and going to the couch. Taking medication with food only to vomit it hours later. Chasing with more medication to keep it down. A visit once a week from hospice. Building a strong bond between her and the nurse who was so gracious to us. Slowly she grew more and more exhausted. I began to mess with her routine, trying to find a way to change it. Waking up at 3, I woke her at 4 for her Nausea medicine. I woke her again at 5 for her pain medicine. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it was the same. Her abdomen grew until it stretched, causing her to cry out. It brought her to levels near death and I scrambled to get her in for relief. We did. 2 times she had a needle stuck in and 2 gallons or more of fluid pulled from her. An appointment was made for a tube that was to help her by constantly draining her belly. I told her it would get her relief. It would make it so she may feel like moving around again, maybe riding. At this point, her thoughts were somewhat muddied. She looked at me and said, “that would be pretty good”. By this time, she had declined to eating only small amounts, or none at all. She lived on a few crackers, some small pieces of fish, morsels of her favorite meals I could make for her.
With her dear friend we went to Boston for her tube. She sat and waited, as we all wait. She filled out a new dnr and sat back and cried. “I am just done with all this, I want it over.” I leaned over and told her we could walk out right now, and I could get her home where a nurse would help us bring her into a comatose state of pain medicine, and it would be fine that way. I felt like the priest telling William Wallace if he only cried out mercy, it would be given. It hurts, it really hurts to be at this time and place. I told her we were here to try one last time for this relief so she could plant, and ride the bike. It would get better, it would relieve her. She agreed. She went in, and we waited for her all afternoon, no one came to me to get me. I went and looked for her, and entered doors that said authorized personnel only. When a man who is 6’5″ tall and has one ear asks where his wife is, people,listen. They brought me to her, and I saw she was awake and waiting, waiting for a doctor to come show her how the bag works. I told them I would remover her iv in minutes, and have her out in 10, ama. They scrambled, and someone stepped up and told us she could do what the doctor was going to. As we left the garage, I gave the attendant the last ticket from a pile of them we bought way back when chemo was in her path. It was ironic to use the very last one for the very last day. This was it, no more Boston for her. Exhausted, we went home. It was 10:00 when the doctor we were waiting for called me and said she was looking for her. I told her we had already left, 2 hours ago and waited long enough, and hung up. Amies pain increased, and her dosage increased that night. I hoped to see a change in her Wednesday.
The nurse came Wednesday and we met routinely. Plans for a Friday visit and a dressing change, etc… medications checked and filled. Amy had decreased her pain meds. We were happy. But it was discovered later she decreased then due to the vomiting, and only that. Amy went to bed, and I did some more work. I came down to the house to find her in her car. She looked at me and talked as if she were drunk. I got in and drove her to her flowers. As we walked to the garden, she fell into me, heavy and all her weight, and I held her. I told her I was coming in to take a nap, and she was ready too, so we went back and slept. I got up, and she remained in bed. All the rest of the day and into the evening. Thursday I woke her early and she looked at me and said “I don’t feel well at all”. I gave her her medicine, but I saw in her a change. She said she couldn’t do the garden today. We planned to with her brothers. I told her it wasn’t anything to worry on, just rest. I worked and waited for her brothers to arrive. I explained to them how she had changed. They came and saw her, and the seriousness of it all set in for them. Before they came, I went to Amy and asked if I could do something. I prayed. I asked God to see this, to see what it was. I asked it all in love for her. I said in my prayer to God that I release her from me to him. She is free. We cried, very hard. She was very coherent, and she looked at me and said that was so nice. She was very aware of what was changing, she said it was changing in her. We held each other for a time before I left to let her rest. Her brothers came in and saw her, and it hit them like a train. They knew then it was what I said. She was declining fast. We spent the afternoon with her, letting her rest and being with her. I asked then to do what I had done. I asked them to release her too. She felt peace with that. She reached out to me with names of some she wanted to see, and I got them for her. Friday was going to be busy for her, but it would be set in a time she could handle. I had her to myself Thursday and we lay together and held each other as best as the tube and the pain would permit. Her mind had begun to be childlike. Slower sentences, sometimes funny and non coherent things of her past being said. But still she was there, and answered all questions well. She was still Very aware.
Friday entered with a violent storm. Rain rain rain. Coming. The weather had hindered our plans for early gardening over and over. It affected what today was. Family had come. Friends too. She visited off and on with them all, talking and loving and laughing at the things she said. She vomited over and over, and food was not an issue anymore, it was not a possibility. She tried. She tried so hard, but it wouldn’t stay down. The nurse came and went. She said, it’s definitely changing. But, she felt there was more time. Days, maybe even a week. I was hopeful of this. More time. But agonizing too. More pain. My baby girl was hurting, vomiting was worse for her than anything, and my tears just flowed as I held her when she did. Late into Friday evening all had left, even our pastors. She was in a good state. I would ask of her visits, and she knew all of them. She awoke and walked to the couch with my sister and I. As she sat there, she sat back, talking. Her breathing at one time shortened to about 5 breaths in a minute, and my sister and I sat stunned and silent, tears rolling, but we did nothing. We were trapped because Katie and I are both knowing that there is a time when this needs to end. Her pain outweighs our love here. We watched. She regained composure after an eternity of a minute. She said she was ready to lie down.
I climbed into bed with her and we held each other’s hand as we slept, an hour later she pulled away, but I rested my hand on her thigh and we slept more. I had been able to give her pain medicine, and she kept it down. She was able to rest. An hour after this, I awoke to her saying, “Nate, help me.” I jumped up, and went around the bed. She had managed to remove all her pillows and she’s was struggling to get up. I lifted her up, and as she placed her feet to the floor, she almost collapsed to a pile. I lifted her onto the bed and lay her down, sat her up, and she looked at me and said, “I have to go the bathroom because I have so much to throw up”. I gave her her pain medicine. Her eyes turned sideways to the left and right, her breathing began to get heavy and labored. I cried out and said, oh baby, oh baby, and put my hands on her. Anywhere, everywhere, as she was seeking me with her eyes, and they weren’t letting her. She looked at me as her breathing was spaced and heavy, and her face was straight with no emotion. With tears rolling down my face I watched her. I wasn’t going to do anything to pull her back. I said to her “I love you so much”. So much….. earlier that evening, she had gone to bed we had kissed and I was close to her face and had said that too, and she looked at me then and said, I love you too. She knew. Our eyes were no more than 4″ apart when we did this. She was clear headed at that moment, 2 hours before.
We were alone when it happened. Her breathing just stopped. I took a minute and called my sister and told her to come. And I sat in silence and sadness, and held her. I want to hold her now as I write this, I want to squeeze all of her I couldn’t squeeze for so long. She had gone. Faster than it could have been. She went before the pain medication could take effect. She didn’t need it. When we lay down in the darkness before this, 2 hours before, I prayed to Jesus this time and asked for him to take her away from all this. I had prayed this before, for my daughter Libby, and 2 hours later she was gone too. It is ironic to see this now. It feels as if it were in my hands, or at least, my power to trade her from this world to the next. I watched this for 3 days, and I believe now that for a body to die, the Lord needs to sever the soul from the body. The process is hard, and harder for some than with others. I believe the more peaceful you are in Christ, the easier the spiritual surgery is in the end. Amy’s was very easy when the time came. Some writhe and torment for days. She didn’t. I Believe now that the severing of the soul from the body was not originally done by Christ. People did it to Jesus the first time. The pounding of the nails through the hands and feet. The thorns twisted and set to the head, the raising of the body to suspend it on the cross, letting gravity pull the body back to earth and the spirit to the sky. They did it first, and now we see it at these times. There is no one to blame but Adam for this. We wouldn’t see this if it weren’t for the original sin.
You may find irony in all that is in the hindsight. I see a heavy irony in the fact that my wife’s
last journey was on a Friday. People had come to visit and see her, and give what they could give. Mourning and sadness, and happiness and celebration. She saw them all, she gave them this. She came out to the couch on her last effort of living, and showed the signs it was closer now. She passed into the night, early morning. Saturday was reflection, rest for all of us, quiet, and an attempt for some rebuilding of our bodies. Sunday, I sit and write this to all. On Friday, Jesus look down from the cross and saw her mother, and others, and disciples, and spoke. He saw anger, and others with that too, and pain, and the turmoil which sat in the back that is occurring here as well. He took it all in. He died on Friday, he lay on Saturday. He rose on Sunday. Amy’s loved ones are trying to put together some of their lives today on Sunday.
Amy and I said all we could about what we meant to each other over these last weeks. It was vivid and real. She knew of my love for her, and I knew of it for me. She sat in Idaho and brought up a conversation to me. She looked at me and told me how powerful my personality is. She told me how great a father she knew I would be, and how much love she felt. She said she knew there were and was someone out there who needed what I have, and I need to open my heart someday for it. I got very defensive and said no no no. There isn’t, and I don’t want someone else’s problems. Someone else’s children, someone else’s pain, someone else who may get sick. Another baby who could die, and so on. It’s very painful and a hard conversation. A few weeks ago, she mentioned it again. This time I was able to reply in a way that made her very tender. I told her how I feel, about her and abojt love. I said, “Amy, there is not a thought or desire, even a remote feeling of those things, and that crossing my heart right here and now. But, I know now that all of this is Gods plans. I have completely lost all connection with thinking I have total control in my life at this point on. I tell you this though. If what you’re suggesting was in my path in the future, I see it somewhat impossible to overcome, and almost impossible for another woman to accept the fact that if that was true, she would have to share a little of me. Truth is, I will never stop thinking of you. I will never stop saying out loud, even if you are not there, that I loved you so much. That I miss you and it hurts deeply. I’ll never be able to press those down somewhere where they won’t float up again from time to time. I don’t see that as fair at all. Being shared. Please don’t think about these things, because you are here, and I am here. And I am at peace with what is in front of me right now.” I mean this. I told her too, that in a way Amy loved me so much, she ruined me. I am a ruined man, with nothing carried in my heart but a love few will ever understand. In 8 days, our 7 year anniversary is here. I had 7 years of my life to feel things I am unsure I will ever feel again. I am answering questions from many as to how I am doing, and I tell them it’s hard, but I am ok. The truth is, I am not “ok.” I can function and do what lays before me. I can even work, as I do enjoy it, I can plan the service we are planning, to the t of my wife’s wishes, which will be in a few weeks, as I want it perfect. And I want it huge. I can read, write, ship out items from Amy and I’s side business. I can cry, I can be funny, I can ride, I can fix things. But I am not “ok.” My heart felt hope is I lay down to sleep one night soon, and that God finally has put on my heart that I did it. I know for many years I felt I had something important I had to do. It was clear to me as A child. I have suffered. Those who know me know this. I have felt pain. None like right here and now, but I have felt pain. I knew there was a reason. I hope this was it. Is it wrong of all those who love me to tell them that if I were to lay asleep and just go to sleep forever that this is wrong? Can a man hope for something like this. I know if this hope is not what is Gods will and way, I will go on. I will go fishing, I will spread ashes where she wanted them. I will throw her celebration, and I will pick up one day to the next. I promised her and promise all that I will take on Gods will. I know too that when we were first married, Amy suffered a feeling I needed to be more of a spiritual leader. I wasn’t able to, and couldn’t then. My extended family had destroyed me then. It took a few years for the things she was having trouble with to sort out, and for us to seek God more for our decisions. In the end, she knew through her own physical pain all I said and felt when I described mine, and how it makes you angry about it with God. She not only understood, she lived it for the last year. If she had survived, I know our relationship would have grown in the shortness we had of our lack of my leadership in being more God like. This was her desire, and I saw it in her journals I am reading, we did grow closer in time with this, but it would have been so deep, so unfathomable, that she would have been in complete bliss in our marriage. I don’t beat myself up on this. This struggle is in all who are in marriage. But it makes me strive for better. All who are reading this need to do the same. It would be Amy’s theme. It would make her happy. Seek God in your marriage. For when the realities of this cruel and unforgiving world come to your feet, without Him, you will suffer beyond hope. You will change and be unrecognized. With Him, you will overcome what feels most impossible to conquer.
I will provide details of service arrangements later. It is in the works, but may be delayed as long as a few weeks. There are specific wishes Amy wanted to see. I plan to do all of them.