What do you do when a family member, dying of cancer, has been told by their doctor that their chemotherapy is being stopped because it’s no longer doing any good but who, despite all the evidence, tells you they’re going to recover?
My father in law is just such a person; I have had family members of my own die before, many of them from cancer – but I’ve never before had anyone have this much denial.
Of course this puts us in a huge quandary; my mother in law doesn’t wish to stay in their large bungalow (single story house to those outside the UK), there are heavy debts to be paid off and many things to be dealt with, all of which would be useful to have my father in law’s input into.
However, with his current frame of mind, it’s impossible to broach the subjects and so we all remain in a state of morbid anxiety; not wanting him to die, but also needing to deal with all the issues his imminent death will throw at us.
What confuses many people he knows is a few years ago, when he was hale and hearty and in good health, he would happily wax lyrical about his death at length. Yet now, when we need him to articulate what he wants and where things are, so that we can help my mother in law at time when she will be unable to bear any of it, he changes the subject when anything he doesn't want to hear is mentioned.
Of course I know why this is; he’s afraid of death – a few years ago, when he was fine and well, it seemed light years away; but now it’s impending, it’s something he doesn’t want to face. Naturally I understand it and I completely sympathise with it; but it does make it difficult for the rest of us – most of all my mother in law.
It’s not just financial; the biggest part is the enormous loft, double garage, large shed and workshop that is filled to the rafters with ‘stuff’ that he’s always been adamant he can’t possibly part with. Needless to say that if my mother in law moves closer to us, and into a much smaller house, his ‘stuff’ will not be coming with her because there just won’t be room. But how will we know what's actually worth money and can be sold (thereby adding to my mother in law's funds to see her through her final years) and what's only fit for the tip?
So, basically, he must face up to his approaching death; he must face his fear and move forward, if for no other reason than to help his wife be able to do the same after he’s gone.
That sounds so easy doesn’t it? As I wrote it, I found it took me seconds to put it down – but to carry it out is not so easy. I completely see the logic of what I’m saying; I understand the necessity of what needs to be done but, like the rest of the family, I baulk at telling a person with such a positive mental attitude that it’s wasted, he’s dying and to just get over it.
Put bluntly, I can’t. I'm sure that, deep down, he’s fully aware that he’s dying. He just doesn’t want to accept it; he wishes to wear the blindfold and so, like everyone else, I’ll let him. Yes, it will make life hell for the rest of us when he’s gone – but at least a man will die in peace; you can’t ask for more than that, can you?
This is Simi, thanks for reading...