I'm dealing with some sad news right now.
My aunt M, who has lived in the local nursing home for many years, has been diagnosed with a dilated bowel. This is a life-threatening condition, and without surgical intervention the prognosis is pretty grim. On the other hand, intestinal surgery on a frail, bedbound elder doesn't have a very promising best outcome either. And my aunt -- always independent -- has made it quite clear that she wants no surgery or other heroic life-saving measures.
When we visited her yesterday, she was pale and quiet, curled up in her bed like a sick little bird. When she talked to me she looked past me in that way that those of us with sickbed experience find ominous; the thousand-mile stare. I mentally contrasted that picture with the aunt I remember from my childhood, a robust farm woman slinging hay bales onto a wagon and walking the perimeter of her property with me every day.
I visited her this morning during lunch. I had steeled myself for whatever I might encounter there today -- and found her in the cafeteria with her lunchmates, sipping coffee, looking fine, in a cheerful mood.
She may be well for a day, or two weeks, or a month or more. I may get "the call" tonight. It's one of those things.
Because I'm Aunt M's guardian, and because I've been through more than one health scare with her before, I've rehearsed funeral arrangements in my mind countless times. My mother's family has dwindled to almost no one, just a few octogenarian second cousins downstate, so when the time comes it's going to be pretty much just a few old family friends, Fellow Traveler, our pastor and me, at the funeral home. I'm pretty sure of the "what" and the "how"; it's the "when" that's unnerving.
Pray for us.