I was reading the blog of a friend of a friend. Her story is so touching. She's facing major life-altering, life-ending (?) issues, and she asked her readers to share their answers to these questions: "If you got a really bad diagnosis, what would you do? What would you change about your life?" Of course, that got me to thinking...
My first, immediate thoughts were about my children and husband. Because I can imagine the situation very vividly and therefore distressingly, I have to skip these answers until I get through the other ones, and then come back.
The next wave that hit me was not, as you might imagine, all the soppy, sloppy "make up with my estranged [insert family member here]" people-related changes, nor was it "go sky-diving" kinds of things. This wave is all about control. I would finish things: The last of the trim painting after the kitchen renovation was completed last month. Going through the laundry baskets of my kids' school work and records for the past three years. (Really. They sit there. In the way. And they've been in the way for three years. I now view them as ugly, unfunctional furniture and pile things on them until they slide off -- much the way I treat my similarly ugly, nonfunctional -- because I don't use it -- treadmill.) Take the bins of stuff for the next yard sale to the donations center instead of letting them sit in the basement. Make decisions about all the stuff that falls under my purview. Get my ducks in a row. (I said this was about control, didn't I?)
I've thought about the people-related idea, too. I'm good with my siblings, though I'd want to talk with my brother more. (Love him, just don't talk with him much.) I don't think I could make up with my father and his wife, and I'm not sure that I'd want to put my energy there as the chances of reaching a successful understanding are slim. (One would have to have the capability to see past one's own interests; since that's not the case, I think that I'd be doing all the conceding, which wouldn't be coming from the heart, and so it would fester.) However, answering the "what would you do" question is a hypothetical for me at this moment, so if it were real, maybe the above wouldn't matter and I'd suck it up, Buttercup, anyway, knowing that it was the right thing to do. That leads right into my relationship with my mother. My mother is mentally ill. I can't give her what she thinks she needs from me; it's not healthy. She's not interested in addressing her issues, and I can't make them mine. I've mourned the loss several times over, at each "life stage" and for "little things" when mothering wasn't given. Again, the right thing to do might be to leave her feeling that there is no unfinished business. I don't know if I have the necessary Christian charity in me. Perhaps these people-related areas need a lot of prayer and divine help.
On an easier note, I don't have any "go sky-diving" wishes. Not one. The closest thing would be getting slim enough to fit my sorry self into a movie theater seat without pinching my bohunkus in the armrests, but I can only assume that whatever the "bad diagnosis" is would likely be addressing this sort-of wish, and Hollywood would have to make better films to get me to spend my breathing time closed in a giant, dark box for two hours...
Having gotten through the above, I'm left with those things which I can imagine so well that I cry at the thought. Were this my reality, I don't know how I would continue, I would be so overcome. The question pulls answers from a mother's stock of nightmares: Being separated from your child/ren in the ultimate of separations. This breaks my heart. Both of my children have special needs, and I'm the one who sees to them. My husband is in the picture, but I'm the one who schedules appointments, takes them, follows up, deals with the insurance woes, sees to the daily needs, the school needs... I'm also in charge of regular jobs such as homework, play dates, AWANA, Girl Scouts, Destination Imagination. Over the years, I've come to know that my husband can take care of our kids. He'll see to their needs. It's just not the way I see to their needs. It would be very difficult for him to take care of the kids and work his full-time job -- the one that he has to keep because of the insurance benefits. (What is Autism if not a pre-existing condition?) We also don't live near family -- three hours away are the closest. The best are 4.5 hours away. Perhaps by doing all those control things mentioned above, I'd not freak about this part. But I doubt it. That part is my perspective.
However, what will my children do without their mother (in the general sense)? While children do survive without their mothers, how do they thrive without them? How will they learn the things they need to know that mothers teach their children? How will they deal with all the situations that need a mother? And how will they be without me, Mom? I'm their mom; I won't be here. How will they grieve that loss? How do you prepare them for that loss? How do you comfort them when you're not here to do it? (Now I'm crying, and there's a weight on my chest, and it hurts.) How can I communicate to them my greatest desires for them as adults: that they have integrity (to do what's right even when nobody is looking), that they know that what they do has an impact on others, that they be kind to others (not patsies, but kind), and that they live their lives so that they have no regrets.
What will my husband do without his wife? How will he deal with all the things that have to get done? How will he remember to see past the work to the joy that remains? And what will my husband do without me? We've had some bumps along the way, but he's my best friend and has been for 27 years. What do you do with such a void? I know that I've always believed that he should "go out and love some more" a la Harold & Maude, but will he?
So what would I do if I got a bad diagnis? My husband and children know that I love them to the sun and the moon and the stars and back again. I'd have to love them and love them and love them and love them and love them. For as long as I could show them. And then I'd have to trust that they remember that. I think I'd try to make some outstanding memories for them of the little, daily things. (I remember of my own mother that when we were little and wanted to ride our bikes, she'd get out the folding lawn chair and sit by the mailbox; she'd drink her Fresca and watch us go back and forth from the curve in the road to the left of her over to Spring St. on the right. "Hi, Mom! Look at me!" She'd smile and wave and take a sip. Those kinds of memories.) But oh, how it would hurt me to know that I wouldn't be there later.
So to the friend of a friend who faces, "If you got a really bad diagnosis, what would you do? What would you change about your life?" I have to offer prayers for comfort, for strength, for peace. Prayers to know how to hang on to life tenaciously and how to let go if she must. But, oh, how I hope that she stays.