This has been a month of, well, difficult conversations.
It was kicked off with a little chat in the Hospital Vall d’Hebron with a doctor who told me the best course of action was to make Susan comfortable so that she could die in peace a couple of days later. Followed by me having to go into Susan’s ER room to share this with her. Obviously, we didn’t go that route.
Then, a week or so later, I had to sit our boys down to tell them that the following morning they would be going to the hospital to say goodbye to their mother for the last time. That was, well, you can imagine. Turned out though that it wasn’t in fact the last time. Which, you know, was a good thing.
After that came the phone call with Susan’s oncologist, and gathering her parents and sister to tell them that his prognosis was that she would live for only 2-3 more weeks. That was a rough night. The next day Susan and I discussed it and decided that this was news that needn’t be shared with the boys immediately. We could give them the weekend, anyway, without the burden of this particular information.
But last Monday Susan and I called a family meeting. We told the boys that their mom might not live for more than a couple of weeks, probably less.
Given the circumstances, Susan and I agreed that they took it pretty well. Tears, of course, on G’s part, but all in all that could have been a much more devastating conversation.
(Mind you, I’m not just moaning about how difficult this all is – I’m trying to make a larger point. Although I am also moaning, but cut me some slack, people.)
During that talk with the boys Susan reiterated something that she’s been saying for weeks – that she’s the luckiest woman in the world. Given what Susan has gone – and continues to go – through, that might seem rather a stretch. But she really means it. She says that she has a wonderful family, a beautiful home, and lots of people who love her. And whom she loves.
It would be natural, and understandable, for her to be raging at this moment about her misfortune. To feel that fate has fucked her over in a very big way. To be furious that providence or destiny or divine will or whatever has chosen to tear her away from her children and her husband. She isn’t. She feels lucky.
Susan’s cancer has taught me a lot of things, but these might be the most important of them all.
First of all, not to shy away from difficult, or uncomfortable, or even painful conversations. There may be things that need to be said, and it’s generally better to share them than to let them be bottled up. Whether they be about life or death or sexuality or whatever, it’s better to discuss them than to let them fester unspoken.
Secondly, it’s okay, even important, to feel gratitude in the face of tragedy. To live and die with grace and gratefulness. Susan’s body is wasted and her mind worn, but her unselfish nature and luminous spirit are still very much alive. We should all feel lucky.