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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

I remember talking with a friend who lost her father suddenly, about how devastating it was for her.  I remember her talking about how she never got the chance to say goodbye.  I remember her asking which would be worse, watching the person you love the most slowly slip away, or losing them suddenly?  This question stuck with me for a long time.  Well into my wife's long battle with cancer.  I lost mine slowly.  I lost mine painfully.

This question came up with my counselor a year or so before my wife passed.  My counselor asked if I would believe that people who had lost theirs suddenly ask the same question.  This very thought surprised me.  It also stuck with me.  I find it hard to understand a pain that I haven't experienced.  I think a lot of us do.

For a long time I couldn't answer this question.  I spent more time thinking about it than it deserved.

My wife breathed her last on February 17th of this year.  She battled cancer twice in her life.  Endometrial in 2009, and Rectal in 2013.  At 47 it was all way too soon. Both were traumatic.  Both shook us to the core.  Both also allowed us to realize what was important in life.  Our Children.  Our Families.  Traveling.  Music.  Sports. 

These are the things we focused on.  We made a bucket list.  There were the kids sports (3 boys  ages 17,18 and 23).  There were the concerts.  There were the Bruins games.  The trips to lighthouses in Maine.  We even made a quick trip to Disney for one night, then rented a Camaro and drove up the coast.  Stopping at Cape Hatteras (she was a lighthouse fanatic).  These trips required wheelchairs, medical supplies and careful planning.

But all this was possible through her willpower.  She never gave up.  She never complained.  She would do anything for her family.

Years of surgeries.  Years of chemo and radiation.  So many trips to the ER.  So many nights trying to find some sleep in a plastic chair in the ER.  I find it hard to remember how we got through it.

She lost energy.  She lost organs (more than I can count).  She lost the ability to walk, even the bathroom became very complicated. 

Slowly and painfully.

Every person will have their own answer to the question.  After all I've been through there is no longer any hesitation for me. 

For me,  I'm thankful for the time we had.  Helping her through the most difficult and painful time was worth everything for me.

I never left her side for a second.  And she'll never leave mine.

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Comment by Steve on March 13, 2017 at 8:14am
I have pondered this question, many times in my life. I happen to have had several occassions to have faced this challemge, decision in life. When i was 11 yrs old, i met Glenn in School. He had just moved into our neighborhood, and he sat right next to me in the 5th grade. We became best friends very fast. We spent most days together, all through school, did everything together. He was naturally hysterically funny. When we were 15, we assisted each other in coming out of closet together. His parents, very loving, supportive, my parents, NOT! In 1982 when we were 20, his partner of 2 years got very sick, ended up in hospital, and passed very quickly. At that same time, the media was starting to talk about AIDS, and it turned out that is what his partner had passed from, we both went and got tested, he was positive, i was negative. There was a tremendous amount of fear and hate back then, doctors refusing to treat patients, nurses afraid to give shots, many, many medical facilities refused service. I became his steadfast caregiver and advocate. Glenn fought very hard, and lived his life to the fullest. We travelled together, sometime by ourselves, sometimes with my partner too. In 1993 glenn was tired, his body was tired and glenn told me he was ready to give up. He passed July 3rd, 1993 at 31 years of age. We had become so close, had fought this fight together, i was so angry and devestated when he passed, but i got thru it with the love and support of my wonderful long time partner Mike and Glenns family, who were such wonderful loving people. We were all together with him, that night he passed.
Mikes grandmother was a wonderful charactor. She lived such a wonderful hard life till she was 96 yrs old. She had flaming red hair piled high on her head, she was very irish, drank whisky every day of her life from 9 yrs old, always had a cigarette dangling from her mouth, cussed like a sailor, but nobody loved her family and everyone like she did. I loved her so much. When she turned 88 she became ill, physically, started to go down hill with demensia, the entire family all thought it best to put her in a facility, but, Mike and i refused and fought to have her live with us, and i would stay home to care for her. We would sit for hours together talking of her young life, she was born in 1909, had to quit school and work at 9 years old, to help feed her family. Mike and i would take her on trips, cruises, always making sure she had everything she needed, including her kesslers and pall malls! We cared for her up until the last 6 months, when she became completely mentally gone and i couldnt handle her anymore. She passed in 2005.
2 years later, in 2007 Mike, was diagnosed with colon cancer at 48 years old. I stayed by his side, 24-7 through this really tough journey. It was just horrible to watch how he suffered, thru chemo, and radiation. It was found early, at stage one, however his cancer was very aggressive, went to state 4 in 3 months, despite treatment, he passed in March of 2009, we were together, madly in love for almost 31 years. In late 2009, we discovered that my father had dimensia, and my mother has been an MS patient, since i was 12 yrs old. After a year or so of assisting my parents in their home, 100 miles away, mom and i made decision, we had to move them down closer to me. I have cared for my parents now, since 2010, my father just passed in Feb 16 , so my new partner and i now care for my mom, in our home. She has onset of slight demensia, is an MS patient, so it isnt easy, but once again, i couldnt leave her to a facility to be cared for, she is my mother. I am now turning 55 yrs old in April. I have cared for many terminally ill loves in my life.
For me, im so gratefull that these tremendous loves of my life, didnt pass suddenly. Even though the horrors i faced with each one at times, i treasure the love, compassion, time we spent, everyone, just us two, holding hands looking at the stars, or sitting by the pool with grandma, getting drunk on whiskey and laughing till i peed. Sharing the journey with them, as they faced there end, listening to their thoughts, as they came to terms, Being there to escort my loves to the other side, in their time, is so precious to me. My job is not done yet, i still have mom with me and will be here for her, loving her until it is her time to go. Sadly my mom and i were separated when i was 16, and werent in each others life till i was 47, when Mike passed, a bunch of years to miss, but im grateful for this time we have now to get to know each orher again, and i get to love her now, like i wanted to all those years i couldn't.
Comment by kellygreenstrat (Colin) on March 8, 2017 at 8:16am

Thanks for responding.  It gives me some peace to hear other peoples feeling about it.  There is no easy way to get through this, and I can't imagine what it would have been like if I lost her suddenly.  I am grateful for the time we had, and it wasn't all bad.  It was different, and it was exhausting for so long.  I've heard too many times that God only gives you what you can handle.  Bullshit.  You don't have a choice in this.  I've never heard someone go through this and say that.  I will admit that I cried when I read your "refuse certain treatment" line.  That may be the most painful moment for me, when she decided it was time.  I had been so torn about whether she would or should, it was always her decision and I never tried to sway her in either direction.  There is relief in that decision, but it is pure hell.  And you're right, it helps to focus on all you shared and not all you'll miss.

Comment by Callie2 on March 8, 2017 at 5:02am
I've wondered that same question myself. I lost my husband suddenly without the chance to say goodby. I definitely experienced shock, I could not function for months. I know grief was part of it but I was afraid I would never be able to think straight again. My brain was scrambled. I mean totally.

My neighbor lost his wife about a year ago after being ill for a year. He watched her slip away, much like you describe. I don't know how he survived that--what a tremendous amount of energy, no sleep and all the sadness. I'm sure that time was precious to them too. However, maybe I was fortunate in a way as I did not have to be a caretaker. I am also glad he didn't have prolonged suffering. You have to come to the conclusion that either way, the results are the same and losing your spouse is extremely painful whether or not they are sick and it is anticipated or if it is quite sudden. We come here without choice and leave the same way--in between we are able to make decisions and choices but we never know what that exit plan will be. Still, if I really had to answer your question, I would have to say the long goodby is more difficult physically and emotionally. Often there are times when a decision must be made to refuse certain treatment and that is one of the most difficult things ever!

I used to ask myself the same question but it kind of falls into the same category as the ifs, wouldas and shouldas. Better to just be thankful for the love you found and shared together as that was a true gift.

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