Friday, December 03, 2010

Even in death, Craig has dignity and grace

I've been crying pretty much non-stop since I found out Craig couldn't eat any more and his death was imminent. It's funny... no matter how much we think we're prepared for a death, when it's actually about to happen, we feel panicked...desperate to stop that death from happening.

I've known for over two years that Craig was going to die. I've seen him lose the ability to move or talk due to ALS, a most horrific disease. I've helped him eat, seeing his food get progressively less appealing and more difficult to eat...pureed stuff like baby food. I'd pick up his prepared meal and sniff it trying to guess what it was. He'd make funny faces to my guesses and to the tastes and sometimes even he didn't know what he was eating!

But when all else failed, there was ice cream. One of my fun memories was the time we couldn't get into the church and instead went to get ice cream... I felt bad that he didn't make it to church, because I knew that was important to him, but I think going to get ice cream was much more fun. It almost felt like we were a couple of kids playing hookey. One time, all he had for lunch was three servings of ice cream!

But now, he can't even eat ice cream. He can't swallow.

It's interesting how much you can communicate if your face can still move. Even though Craig can't talk, every time I visit him I feel like we have an intimate conversation. I always see the love in his eyes. And just like the guessing game with the food, I guess what he's trying to tell me, and we have this fun conversation -- almost like playing charades with your eyes. Of course, I was always the guesser, but we'd both enjoy a look of satisfaction when I'd get it right. Kind of like high-fiving with your eyes at success.

Sometimes I'd make a joke and he'd always smile, but also roll his eyes to tease me. Sometimes he just would listen as I read or we'd watch TV or I'd show him some latest cool thing on the computer. I know he's been frustrated by not being able to talk, but we have been able to communicate.

And today was probably our last conversation.

I told him I'd heard he was no longer eating.
"Is it because you want to die?" I asked him
Emphatic shake of the head. Eyes determined to tell me he was not depressed or suicidal. He did not want to die.
"Then how about a feeding tube?"
Sympathetic shake of the head. Eyes telling me he was sorry, but he would not get a feeding tube.
"You're ready to die?"
Nodding. Eyes telling me I got it right this time. He had lived a full life. He had not let this disease stop him from living as fully as he could. But now it was time.
"But I'll miss you."
Sympathetic nod. Eyes telling me he knows. Telling me that I must let him go.

So we read a chapter from The Purpose-Driven Life.. the one about our life on earth being temporary and that our real home is with Christ. He nodded and smiled, so serene... but I saw the grimaces of pain, too. I told him how sorry I was for his pain.. even while dying, I could see he was telling me not to worry. "I'm fine" he mouthed.

And when it was time for me to go, I hugged and kissed him and cried openly telling him I loved him more than he could ever imagine. He's been the most inspirational person in my life -- the one who has taught me the most about love in this ongoing quest of mine to understand what exactly love is.

Then I told him I wasn't sure when I'd see him again... maybe in heaven... or maybe next week when we'd have to go through this whole tear-filled ordeal all over again and he smiled and nodded.

And then he ended our conversation the way he always does... looking at me with his beautiful eyes and mouthing the words 'I love you.'


Anonymous said...

"Where, o Death, is thy victory? Where, o Death, is thy sting?" 1 co. 15:55 Yvette, thank you for giving us all front row seats seats to see Love trump even the worst of things. Mark

rebecca @ altared spaces said...

It's so tempting to run away from death because it's frightening. When someone is dying we can't help but face that reality in our own lives. But leaning in rather than away is the key to chasing that fear away. As you have shown by being REAL with Craig and continuing to do the normal things of life like playing with your ipad. Thank you. It means so much. For all of us who face this kind of thing. Love is courageous and courage does not look away, even when we don't like what we see.

rebecca @ altared spaces said...

Thanks for posting this here, today, as I talk about the aloha in death. Your conversations with me about Craig were so spot on about the way I felt with my bedside experiences.