My father in law is dying of cancer.
I won't go into what kind. It doesn't matter now; every organ in his body is filled with tumors. He is getting to the final days, recently given 'days to weeks' to live.
My husband is 3000 miles away from home, sitting with him around the clock in his palliative care room. Watching his dad wither away from lack of nutrition and disease. Watching him writhe in pain, listening to his confused speech. Watching the result of cancer in the brain take away who his dad is and leaving dementia in its wake. Watching the effect it all has on his stepmother. Trying to be strong for her sake. It is a nightmare. A living hellish nightmare.
I am safe from this sight, safe in my own home with my children. Far from his dying dad's side. Yet I feel like I should be there to support my husband as he supports his stepmother and his father. I feel helpless. I feel his pain in his voice when he calls to talk to me and the kids. I feel guilty for caring more about my husband - his emotions, feelings and pain - than I do for my father in law. I feel tired, alone and overworked, going on five months of single parenting while maintaining my home businesses.
I feel angry. Angry that my husband has to watch his father dying in agonizing slow motion. Angry his stepmother demanded he be there for his father's death. Angry that he has worked the entire winter without a day off and has twice now flown out to be with his dad for weeks at a time. Angry that our children are asking for their father and I can't tell them when he'll be home. Angry that when he does come home, fresh from his father's funeral, he will go straight back to work and not be heard from or seen until springtime. Angry that cancer has deprived us of husband and father, and ultimately depriving us of my children's grandfather.
I have to soon explain to my extremely bright three year old what death is. I have to carefully lay out what happens when a person dies and not scare her in the process. I have to answer her four million questions that will be never-ending. I will have to shush her never-ending fountain of talk about her grandfather when her father is present, lest it upset him. I have to leave my children with my chronically ill mother (who recently came out of MS remission, and is in no shape to chase toddlers around) and fly out to partake in the funeral proceedings. I will watch my husband crumble into grief.
I've tried to think about what I would do if it was my father who was dying. My mind is so repulsed by the thought nothing coherent comes of it. I suppose that is answer enough.