The Things They Don’t Tell You About Dying

We shove it down like it doesn’t exist. Nobody wants to talk about that kind of darkness, even though we all get there one day.

So we act like it’s not coming. We create euphemisms to soften the descriptions.

But then you hit this point where it can’t be denied. Maybe it’s a loved one. Maybe it’s even you. And the weight of it is unbearable.

I’ve seen my mom struggle for weeks as my dad was tortured by her torture. It’s still happening as I write this by their side. The nightmares. The up days and seemingly endless down days. The sleep deprivation and delusions. When is enough? And how many pricks and pokes and prods are the right amount when the bad moments outweigh the good.

She could have been dead by now. Palliative care medicates without further medical intervention. She would be dead now had we chosen that route. But alive sometimes isn’t really alive.

There are moments that resemble life. A wink of an eye to the man she’s been married to for 67 years. They hold hands for a moment. Then the hallucinations. And hateful things spoken out of the drug induced, twisted state that dying produces. His eyes fill with tears. An entire life together, punctuated by a protracted nightmare of circumstances.

We all get here. Sure, the details are different. But whether it’s quick or drawn out, the agony is the same in different clothing.

He holds her hand pleading, negotiating. She struggles through fractured consciousness to reach him.

The endless procession of feelings is tortuous. Hope and despair, taking turns driving. All you can do is sit in the back seat and pray. Or beg. Or both.

It’s the stuff they don’t tell us about the end. And maybe it’s better that way. After all, it’s really just a bit much. So many questions I’d ask God. The beautiful things in life suggest purpose and planning and goodness. But what an end. Why should it be so hard?

The room is quiet now. 4:10 a.m. The scrambled ramblings have stopped. The welcome silence allows them both to rest up for the next rounds. If there are next rounds. You can see the pain in his face. Negotiating the end as a caretaker has few clear decisions. Everything is gray. Everything.

The peace of this moment harmonizes with the pumping of the oxygen machine. I never thought I’d appreciate stillness like I do right now.

I am an admitted agnostic who prays to Christ with apology. I mostly ask for resolution and peace for them. The struggle seems unnecessarily torturous. If it has purpose or meaning, I am blinded to it. I truly never imagined this is how it would all be.

Maybe none of us can.