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A Mad Dash for Michigan

Posted May 07 2009 9:23pm
My husband's older brother, John, (not the one who comes home now and then), was recently diagnosed with some sort of rare, fatal type of cancer. About the same time as his little brother was undergoing open heart surgery awhile back. John has been pretty sick for the past few months, and even though they didn't give him very good odds from undergoing chemo, he still chose to go that route.

John's original plan was to come out to visit with us this coming June, because he wanted to see his brother before he died. They haven't seen each other in 25 or 30 years. Talked on the phone, yes, talked through the verbal capacities of the internet, yes. But to John, that wasn't the same. It wasn't good enough.

The tests they ran a couple of weeks ago said that wasn't going to happen. Chemo wasn't doing a thing for the tumor, it was growing still, and interfering severely with lung function. So at that time, they gave him 2 to 6 months to live. Since we've just went through a very bad financial winter, and just hooked ourselves into a couple of contracts, we were hoping at the time that it would be closer to mid summer.

But it didn't work out that way.

Saturday afternoon we got a frantic call from his relatives saying John had been placed in a Hospice, the doc was giving him only a couple of days to a week to live, and he was asking to see us. At the time, we were up north, a good 2 hours from home. So we had a bit of time to think things through a bit.

The obvious answer of course, would be to fly my husband to Michigan, but we didn't know if that was the right answer. Air fairs are said to be down right now, yes, but with my husband's inability to read, and our finances demanding a "non" straight through flight, his disability could create serious issues that might not get him to his brother in time.

Half-way home, he turned to me and said he felt I needed to be there too. Even though he didn't know how we were going to swing that.

So we ran through the front door, looked up the distance from our home to Michigan, calculated the cost, and at an average of $2 a gallon for gas, it was only going to cost us about $300 round trip. So we quickly washed a load of clothes, baked up some chicken, through fresh fruit, raisins, corn tortillas, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies into a large plastic bag -- and took off for Mt. Pleasant Michigan.

My husband drove all night, and I drove all day, then my husband drove all night again. So we arrived at the hospice sometime that morning. When we walked into the room, it was like walking into the room of a concentration camp survivor. It wasn't quite what we expected. However, at that time he was still coherent, and still able to talk.

He recognized us right off, and tried to climb out of the bed, because he wanted to give my husband a big hug, but he was too weak to do that. He then asked us how we'd managed to swing it. Meaning get the money to come. I told him that we were maxing out my credit card, and my husband added that we were going to just hope for the best. Afterwhich John just shook his head in acknowledgement.

John's sister-in-law was there at his side, and she wanted to talk to us about his situation, so we went outside the room. That upset John quite a bit, and he began yelling "Where are you going?" "Where are they going?" My husband's sister-in-law told him she was going to show us where the bathroom was.

To which John replied: "It sounds like a cigarette break to me."

By the time my husband's little brother arrived a couple of hours later, John was able to recognize him, but couldn't talk. He was going downhill fast. And lasted about 5 or 6 hours before he died.

The Hospice was wonderful. They had beds set up for us to crash a bit, (we did take a 2 hour nap after seeing John and while he was sleeping), they had showers, and food, so we wouldn't have to leave. Course, the food wasn't anything I could eat, but that wasn't a surprise.

I survived on fresh oranges for breakfast, and we did have to go out and find an Arby's later that day for dinner since they were serving Colonel Sander's fried chicken and trimmings. In my "just" low carb days, I could have removed the skin/breading from the chicken and been fine, but I was afraid to do that with my gluten intolerance. I knew we were going to spend a couple of days with the family, visiting, and didn't want to be sick for it.

We didn't stay for the funeral, as it was planned for quite late in the week, and my husband doesn't particularly like funerals. He'd rather remember his brother as he was, living. Besides, we don't believe that death is final, so he doesn't really see a point to funerals anyways.

We did go out to see the gravesite, where he's going to be buried, but in Michigan, there is no service at the grave site. Plus with expenses as high as they are these days, ($1,000 per day for a viewing room), there wasn't going to be a pre-viewing either. Just the same day as, and just before the funeral.

So we left Michigan on Wednesday morning, having to be back to work by Monday. And arrived home Sunday afternoon. Dead tired. Broke. But glad we made the effort. And despite the concesquences, very glad that we went.
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