A Tipping Point, and Living Multiple Stories...
2010 July 15 - 16
Created by Tom on 08/05/2010
Friday, July 16, 2010 (to the full list)
After a hard night Weds-Thurs and me holding and helping Karen on her bed for three hours yesterday morning while she sipped soda and threw up, it is now clear that she is in her last days. The new nausea-relief drug regime she tried that night decidedly did not work. Karen was sufficiently miserable she wanted something that would work even if it makes her chronically sleepy. So our hospice nurse Roxanne got a prescription for a much more powerful mixture -- ABH suppositories, with Ativan, Benadryl and Haldol -- and upped Karen's morphine patch a notch (up to the normal starting dose; Karen has been at half of that for the last six weeks).
After a few false starts (wanting juice and discovering it made her nauseous), Karen has gone off all food and will get very little liquid. She will probably be sleeping the majority of the time now. Roxanne advised me to start making most of the decisions, to be the pilot with Karen as co-pilot as she can manage, as she will probably have a hard time thinking about and holding responsibility for such choices. After a few days, she will (according to Roxanne) start to feel some of the good feelings that people experience when they fast. The chances are extremely high she will die within the next couple of weeks, but we don't know when. Hopefully it will be easy for her, easier than it was yesterday.
Please don't call her; she won't be answering her phone. You can, however, call me and leave a message for her (if I answer, you can call again and leave the message) and I can look for an opportune time to play your message to her on speakerphone. Or you can simply send an email that I will read to her.
I am now living multiple stories simultaneously: I am trying to be instantly available to address Karen's needs (e.g., ice chips to suck) and advocate for her here at the nursing home. I am trying to be simply present for her, especially when she is thinking, feeling and moving her way through things with a slowness and nonlinearity extreme even for Karen, and to take more time just to sit or cuddle with her. I am thinking of the logistics of her death, of the paperwork, of all her stuff and her friends and relations, of her finances. I think of traveling to take her ashes to the various nature spots she has loved and spreading them, as she requested. I am wondering how I will respond to her no longer being an embodied presence in my life and the ending of this particularly intense period; there are ways I accept death and can easily let Karen go and even rejoice in an end to the many troubles that plagued this era of her life, and yet I know what a central figure she has been in my life-space and story, and there is so much that goes on within us beneath our consciousness and outside of our control. I know how many people loved her, and I don't know what they will want to do with and from that love in the coming days and months, what they will need from me. I have no idea how I will be hours, days, months after Karen's passing, both because of her absence and because of the sudden change in the intensity and texture of my daily life. (In Grace and Grit, Wilber and Treya write about the phenomenon of sudden collapse after intense, heroic efforts. And someone once said that when you lose someone important, it isn't the loss of them that impacts you; it is the loss of the story you were both part of.) And perhaps most odd and intriguing of all after more than three months of virtually no world-work, for the last two mornings I have experienced a strong inner calling to write a book this year on "wholeness" -- the most fundamental idea underlying my entire work, about which I have a nuanced sense I haven't seen elsewhere. I am sensing an immediate period of increasingly intense focus on Karen's world for another week or two, then a week or two of focusing on her stuff and affairs, and then an opening into a mystery that feels very pregnant and poised on something, I don't know exactly what. Right now, though, I am developing a more intensive support network for the next week or so, as the intensity of ongoing attention required now may easily burn me out (as it did in April even with Anna and Les' considerable support). Please keep Karen and I in your thoughts and prayers and, if you are local, let me know if and when you are available to help out in various ways.
Right now (7:50 am Friday) Karen is still asleep, sprawled on her bed with more abandon than I've seen in weeks, which I hope means she is more comfortable than she's been in weeks. She has had two doses of the new meds so far. Our friend Liza Robbins will be arriving soon with Karen's laundry. Roxanne will be here around ten. A friend I haven't seen in about 15 years is passing through town tonight and tomorrow, and I'll be trying to finagle at least and hour or two with him. And I could sure use a bath... I'll know more about today as it happens, moment to moment.... And tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow...
I'm not sure what I will do with the ten movies I got out of the library especially with Karen in mind, for Karen and me to watch together. And I know that this is probably only the first of hundreds of poignant loose ends, memories, and possibilities in the Karen/Tom story that I will stumble into/over during the next weeks and months...
Blessings on the Journey, which unfolds in all directions always, moving all of us and each of us into wherever we are headed...