October 12, 2007

Ever notice how much life sucks?

Yeah, I know. Real blunt. I'm feeling blunt tonight. See, here's the thing. I'm trying real hard to be optimistic and upbeat and all that crap, but it ain't workin' so well.

My youngest child turned 4 last week. Not a bad thing, per se. But, as happy an occasion as it is, it's also slightly depressing for the mother. The sudden and yet not so sudden realization that my baby is growing up is not a fun one to come to. I look at my child, and see how different from the baby that was he is now, and although it's wonderful in some aspects, it's also saddening in some. I see hints of the man he will be one day, side by side with leftover tidbits of that chubby little baby I brought home from the hospital. The two different life periods intertwined make for a very bittersweet moment in time. This, in itself, is not the reason for my bad mood, though.

My great-grandmother is still alive at the age of 97. She's the only great grandmother I have left, along with one set of grandparents. I feel very fortunate to be 28 years old and still be able to say that I have grandparents, and a great-grandmother that are still alive. This gratitude is being rapidly worn away, however. My great-grandmother suffers from dementia and is now in a nursing home. This alone is depressing. She doesn't want to be there. She cries and begs for various family members to take her home when they visit. This is heartbreaking, even if you don't witness it first hand.

That's not the worst part. At 97, she's now been diagnosed with breast cancer. It started with a lump the size of a dime, and within 3 months was the size of a lime. They will not do anything to treat it. Logically, the 28 year old part of me, my mind, understands this. At her age, she might not survive the surgery, or might and then not survive chemo, or might survive all of it only to be pronounced in remission and die of old age the next day.

But my heart, that little girl inside of me, doesn't understand any of this at all. Why won't they try to save her? Why won't they do something, anything, to help her? Why did this happen at all? She's 97! Isn't it enough that she would die soon anyway? Plus she has dementia. She's already lost to us in mind, living in some world in her head, built by her own design, populated with her own little family and friends. Is it really necessary to force her to live in pain and agony for her last days?

I realize some of what I'm saying sounds like I'm being selfish and not wanting my great-grandma to die. That's not the case. I've long ago made peace with the fact that she will die, as will my grandparents, parents, even myself and my children, someday. This abstract concept is not a problem for me. The reality of my great-grandma's more imminent death is a little harder to accept, but I've made great progress in the acceptance of this. It's the way she will go that bothers me.

I don't want her to die a painful death. It just doesn't seem right. Almost a hundred years on this planet, giving birth to several children, seeing the births of many grandchildren, and even more great-grandchildren, seeing the world go from outhouses, no indoor plumbing, no phone, not being able to afford electricity, no cars, to a world full of CDs, DVDs, hybrid cars, MP3 players. She's lived through wars taking place on foriegn soil, and watched as terrorists attacked on our own soil. She's watched the world change from mothers staying at home with their children while the men worked, to single mothers having children, occasionally without a father. She's lived so long, seen so much, and it just doesn't seem right that her death should be one filled with pain. She should be able to die with dignity, in a way that is calm, peaceful, and uneventful. Is that really so much to ask?

People will tell you that things happen for a reason. No matter their faith, no matter yours, they all say that. I just don't see the reason for this. What possible reason could be served by giving a 97 year old woman a painful illness that, at her age, is incurable, and forcing her to live out her last days either in pain or in a drug-induced, but pain-free, haze. Neither one seems to be the option I'd want if I were her.

I've mostly come to terms with her death. I know one day, my phone will ring, and it will be my mother or father to tell me she's gone. And when that happens, I will cry. I will feel that ache deep inside that tells me that she's no longer here, and I will find the way to sit down with my children and find the words to tell them of her passing. Whether or not they will understand is another story, especially considering that I don't much understand myself.

So, I repeat my question: Ever notice how much life sucks?

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