Hello, dear blog friends! I have missed you and feel the need to get you caught up with all the happenings. Chances are you have much to relate as well, for 2022, the Chinese Year of the Water Tiger, was a busy year for many of us. If you are reading this, you made it through, perhaps with a few bruises, shattered emotions, or even physical scars. I know my own being has been through the wringer. Knowing other folks were likely suffering helped me sustain solidarity.
My 89-year-old mother-in-law, Jo, began having heart arrhythmia issues in late 2021, but it wasn’t until early 2022 that we discovered her problems. This started a concerted effort to visit more often and be present when she went to physicians. She wasn’t fond of what she thought of as interference, but we prevailed in our attempts to give care.
We enlisted local family members unaware of Jo’s needs, and they willingly agreed to help. Jon and I readied ourselves to go on our annual April beach vacation and were prepared to leave the next day when a call from Jo’s neighbor changed our plans. Jo was in the hospital. We unpacked our bathing suits & shorts, replacing them with long pants & sweaters, trekking across the mountain to Western North Carolina.
After a series of tests, examinations, procedures, grumbles, and worries, Jo was on the mend. We spent all of April through early June with her while Jon took leave from work. Jon and I cared for his mother, fixed many a broken item, updated several household issues, and leaned on each other for comfort. It was stressful and, at times, terribly uncomfortable for us. All of us had been used to living our lives in our own spaces, and now we were thrown together, compromising and disagreeing in equal parts.
I began staying with Jo for a day or two nearly every week from June onward while Jon went back to work. This put stress on our marriage and our finances. Somehow, Jon and I managed time together less often than we desired. I noticed our interactions were becoming less like husband and wife and morphing into the roommate zone. It wasn’t reassuring, to say the least. We had always enjoyed a close relationship. I had friends and a grief support group to process my emotions through, but Jon had always been reluctant to share his thoughts with anyone but me. Now he was quiet with signs of depression coming back.
We spent a hectic Thanksgiving with various family members over the days Jon was off work. Our 32nd anniversary was December 1st, but we could not celebrate properly with work and stress interfering. Over the weekend, we managed time together, but I could tell we were both somewhere else in our minds. I left home Sunday afternoon to take Jo to a doctor’s appointment on Monday morning, so I was out of town until that evening. Jon got home from his 2nd shift job at 11pm that night. I had to get blood work at my doctor’s early the following day. Jon was still in bed when I got home. This was not his usual routine.
When I tried to check on him, he said his head and body ached, and he just wanted to sleep. I assumed he had the flu and treated his symptoms as such, allowing him to sleep all day. Thursday morning, he got up and sat at the dining table, as he always did. That morning he didn’t have any cereal or coffee. He didn’t scroll through his phone or check on the birds and squirrels at their feeder on the porch. He spoke only one or two-word sentences and looked disoriented. I was getting alarmed as lunchtime approached.
By the early afternoon, his confusion and disoriented behavior had increased. So much so that I checked him for symptoms of a stroke. He passed with flying colors. Finally, I sent a text to my son explaining his symptoms, and as I typed out the words, I knew I had to call the ambulance. At that realization, I also felt this would be the last time he was home. It’s odd now to think of that moment. I felt my life-changing course and longed to tell him what I felt, but I knew that was impossible.
My neighbor, Sherry, came over as the ambulance people got him on a gurney to be loaded into the vehicle. Sherry kept a steady chatter and put her arm around me as the first responders did their work. My son was meeting us at the hospital. The ER attendants were prompt in their care and allowed us to be with him. After the doctor checked him out, he recommended a CT Scan. The results were a significant brain bleed.
Jon was transferred to the closest Tier One Trauma hospital, ensconced on the Critical Care floor. We spent twenty days where Jon’s roller-coaster ride of issues kept us all on our toes. After an initial outlook of recovery, he had a seizure. When the seizure effects got better, he developed several infections. He went into septic shock when they thought they had a handle on the infections. Christmas night, his heart stopped for 8 minutes. They used 4 rounds of CPR to revive him. At 4am, I was called to let me know what happened.
When I got to the hospital the following day, the room was filled with treatment paraphernalia- IV machines, a respirator, more nurses, and lines injected into various body parts. One thing I found missing was his comforting presence. His body was hooked up to all that equipment, but the man I knew wasn’t there anymore. The doctors wanted to do some tests to see what damage occurred from the lack of oxygen and CPR. It was starting to snow, so I left them to it & I would return tomorrow.
Where I live, I usually enjoy a sweet spot of weather and rarely have severe snow that wasn’t anticipated. This was one of those times. I had to park my car on the side of the road at the bottom of our neighborhood and walk to my home 1/4 mile uphill in shoes not meant for anything other than indoors. I thought it was fitting that my new life should begin with the utter stillness of that snow. I had called my son and daughter, discussing with them the near certainty of removing their dad from life support. They were greatly saddened but in agreement.
The next day, there was nothing to do but stay home, for I couldn’t get out of my driveway even if I had the car with me. No one was on our neighborhood roads until the afternoon. A friend drove me to my car, and I carefully moved it back home until the following morning. Though at home, I was not idle. I had nurse calls from the hospital and made calls to family and friends who had been supporting us with prayers and anything else needed.
My son and his family lived nearby and had been near constant support for me. They wanted to be there for Jon, whatever we decided. My daughter was 8 hrs away at school and taking finals. She opted to come later on when arrangements were to be made. I heartily agreed with this decision though it pained me not to have her there. My son and I had slowly seen the changes and additions of treatment. Suddenly entering all that was in the room would be too much trauma to bear.
Jon’s body was still fighting a losing battle with the infections raging everywhere. The EEG showed that essential brainwave activity was absent, and they projected that his quality of life would be near zero due to needing so much care and life support systems. Jon and I agreed long ago that this scenario was out of the question. I asked for the protocol to remove life support, and they acknowledged my request.
With the family that could be there on such short notice- his mother Jo, our son and his family, and some of Jon’s cousins and friends- we all said our goodbyes to Jon. Three of us were there when they removed the respirator. Jon took 3-4 easy breaths and then was gone. My husband of 32 years had transitioned from this life into the next at 4:19pm on December 28th, 2022. Thus began my new life as a widow. Those who have read my book know that a similar thing happened a bit over 30 years ago. My first husband left, and I began a new life that led to meeting Jon. As I start again, I wonder where this next leg of the journey will lead me. Rest assured, dear reader, I will write those stories and let you know.
*I was born in August of 1962, The Year of the Water Tiger
~ Tiger in Repose, Antoine-Louis Barye French ca. 1850-65
3 thoughts on “The Year of the Water Tiger- 2022”
I am so sorry for your loss. I was with my dad when he passed away in 1996, the day after my 40th birthday. I was holding his left hand and Mum was holding his right. I was glad I was there for both of them.
Thank you for your kind words. Loss is never easy no matter our age.