суббота, 15 сентября 2012 г.

A Dying Gift

By Margaret M. Marty

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love.
~Thornton Wilder

Out of the blue he said, "I think it's time we get that puppy you've been wanting for so long." He was wrapped in a furry lap robe, sitting in the glider I had moved into the kitchen so he could be near me while I prepared meals. His black hair had turned to silver, his voice had lost its clarity, and the sparkle had faded from the dark brown eyes that had shown his love for me through forty-eight years. I knew that he knew it wouldn't be many more months before the cancer won and the chemo treatments would become ineffective.
For several years I had been begging to have a puppy, but his response had always been, "Not until you retire, because I don't want to be the one getting up in the night with a whining pup!" Now I had given up my job, not because I was of retirement age, but because I needed to be home to care for him while he battled the monster lurking in his bone marrow.

We went the next day to West Rock Kennels and picked out an adorable Shih-Tzu puppy, the healthiest-looking one of the litter. For several days I concentrated on choosing the perfect name for this adorable little distraction. Precious? Fritz? Piddles? At the suggestion of my sister, I finally settled on Skoshi, the Japanese word for small. While part of me wasted away along with my dying husband, Skoshi provided a silly kernel of delight that kept me going.

The diagnosis had come as a complete shock in the summer of 2002. During a routine checkup at our local clinic, his primary physician noted an unusual spike in a blood protein and referred us to a specialist for further follow-up, never mentioning the dreaded "C" word. As we drove up to the professional building in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, our hearts skipped a beat as we read the words "Humphrey Cancer Center" in bold design above the door. After further tests and consultation with an oncologist, it was confirmed. He had multiple myeloma, the technical term for bone marrow cancer, considered to be one of the more difficult cancers to treat.

As the months went by, we had many conversations about his impending departure, and he made lists of the important things I should know how to do when he was no longer around. To put his mind at ease, I assured him that I would be fine and that he needn't worry about me.

One day, in October 2005, a clinic appointment for a blood draw indicated that his chest cavity was filling up with fluid, and he had to be hospitalized. The doctors planned to remove the fluid the following morning and advised me to go home and get some rest. Sleep did not come. I prayed and committed the man who had been my best friend and lover for so many years to the Lord's care, asking that he be spared further suffering.

The next morning I rushed back to the hospital and found him somewhat confused. I reminded him who his visitors had been the previous day — grandson William, son Bruce, daughter-in-law Jeri, Pastor Tim. Then a strange look came across his face, as he said, "Oh, Marg, I feel so dizzy, so dizzy!" He lost consciousness, as I frantically ran into the hallway, calling for the nurse. Within minutes the once vibrant man I had loved since our teenage years lay still and silent, as I lay my head upon his chest and wept. The inevitable day had arrived.

I was strong and resolute throughout the week of making plans for his memorial service. Our grown children came to be with me. Together we chose music that he had loved, flowers to grace his casket, and special friends to take part. The last time I looked on his dear, familiar face, I wanted to climb into his burial bed and go to eternal rest along with him. But I greeted friends and relatives with a smile. I watched proudly as his children eulogized him, his granddaughters read his favorite Scriptures, and his seven grandsons carried him to the family plot to take his place alongside his mother, father, and grandparents, where one day I will finally lie beside him again.

Kicking aside the dead oak leaves as I walked the circle of my driveway in the late afternoons, I called out to the sky, "Where are you? Do you see me? Do you know my heart is broken?" My husband was finally free from the cancer's pain and suffering, but I never dreamed being left behind would hurt so much. As I walked, Skoshi faithfully watched and waited from the kitchen window. Day after day, spent from crying, I went inside to the joyful, wiggling, tail-wagging welcome from Skoshi, who needed my attention.

Friends called me from time to time to ask how I was doing. I always replied with a lie, "Oh, I'm fine. It's hard, but I'm doing fine." Funny how we want everyone to think we can handle situations that have rendered us immobile, unable to cope. I continued attending church, my one refuge, but as I sang the beautiful praise songs, the tears would not be denied and would soon stream down my cheeks. I felt a compulsion to destroy things that once held meaning to me, but no longer did. I stood in my living area and contemplated ripping all the books off the shelves and slamming them around the room. When I went to my closet to dress in the morning, I wanted to pull the clothes off the hangers and stomp on them.

I could sense that my children were becoming concerned, especially my daughter who began calling every night just to chat and make suggestions.

"Mom, maybe you should make an appointment with your physician and ask about taking an anti-depressant?"

"Mom, I'm worried about you."

"Mom, have you thought about seeing a counselor? Take down this number; he's a good one."

Most days I wanted to stay in bed, turn my face to the wall and never get up. As I lay there on a dark December day in 2005, Skoshi, curled in sleep behind my back, began to stir. He stretched, stood up and found his way to my pillow. As he licked my chin, I finally realized I needed help. I gathered that precious little dog into my arms, the last gift of love my life partner had given me, and murmured, "Thank you, my beloved Gordon," into Skoshi's furry little body. Once again, even in death, he had come through for me. Skoshi smiled at me, as Shih Tzu are known to do. Then with all the courage I could muster, I picked up the phone and dialed.

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