Dying


People around me are dying; actively, slowly dying.  It’s a hard thing to watch.  Mom-in-law is 83 and has COPD.  She had her first heart attack more than 20 years ago.  She has an implanted defibrillator, but we don’t know if it’s ever gone on/off.

Mother-in-law’s husband just went through his third bout with bladder cancer.  He’s 80, but they say they got it all this time.  Of course, that’s what they said the last two times.  Luckily he doesn’t experience all the bad chemo side effects.

Sister-in-law has COPD, had a mild stroke, just had a heart attack, and they discovered a mass in her lung.  It is assumed to be a malignant tumor.  She’s been in ICU about 7 days now, and is still too ill for them to biopsy the mass.  She’s heavily sedated and has breathing and feeding tubes.  If I were taking care of her as a nurse, I would feel something.  But as an inlaw, we are not close.  In fact, I haven’t seen or talked to her since they moved to Texas about 15 years ago.  She’d call or email asking only for her brother to call her back.  She had nothing to say to me.  No questions as to how we were doing.

Luckily, I haven’t experienced all that much death and dying in my life.  My grandma in 1976, another grandma in 1984, neither of whom I was close to.  I lost a couple of uncles I hadn’t seen in 30 years.  Then there’s my grandad and dad in 2007 and 2010.  No one I felt close to.

I don’t know how the death of his mother and sister, very likely this year, will hit husband.  I’m worried about the expenses of burial for Mom and Sis.  Mom probably has some funds available, but Sis does not, though her husband is responsible, they have had no money for decades.  Certainly they have made no burial plans, though she has been ill for five years.

Am I wrong to feel only a small amount of sympathy for Sis and her H?  She was still smoking up until a week ago when they put her in ICU.  She’s on frigging oxygen, yet still smokes.  So does her H.  Not that anyone deserves an illness.  I’d never wish an illness on someone, but if you invite it into your body, don’t you have some responsibility for yourself?  How sympathetic can I be if you throw yourself off a cliff without a bungee cord?

I wonder why after knowing these individuals more than 30 years I feel so little.  Is there something wrong with me?  How do I keep people at a distance?  Not that my sis in law has ever tried to be my friend.  She’s not a bad person, but I don’t really care for her.  She has no interests other than her cats which sadly she can no longer have (too much dander for her condition).

I know people would think me cold-hearted, but I’m not.  I love animals and people in genera, I feel pain for the family of the guy that killed himself on the freeway.  I’m just not terribly fond of some of the people I know and therefore should be “close” to.   I’ve tried very much not to be the cold, distant German American Midwesterner I was raised to be, but I haven’t been entirely successful.  Apparently it is difficult to overcome genetics.  Perhaps it’s time to read another book by the Dalai Lama and contemplate my cold-heartedness.

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6 thoughts on “Dying

  1. I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself…We should try as best we can to get along with people especially family…but if there is no caring or interest shown as is evident by you…from your in-laws that are now very ill….you can’t conjure up phony emotions which is what they would be. I know of course you are concerned about your husband’s feelings and that’s where your effort of course will likely be…in comforting him..I think that’s the most you can expect from yourself..and I don’t think you’re cold- hearted at all…Diane

  2. I learned at a young age to shower love on the people that love you in return. I have to much love to give on someone who isn’t interested in me.

    You aren’t obligated to love or care about a person becasue you marry into a family. I agree with above,..you should be there for your husband in his time of grief.

  3. I don’t think you are cold-hearted at all. If you were you wouldn’t care at all. Also it is impossible to feel affection for people who you aren’t naturally drawn to – particularly of the in-law variety. I have a couple of in-laws who are the worst people I have ever met in my life.

    • It’s nice to know I’m not cold hearted (as that seems the opinion). It’s amazing to me that I can feel more a part of the lives of my fellow bloggers, nameless, faceless and anonymous. Yet my sister in law is just a face.

  4. I don’t think you’re cold hearted, I ask myself this all the time, granted only two family members have dies of old age but I hardly knew them but then my sister would be devastated. I have had 3 friends I used to know but lost touch die, one of heroin, another suicide and another of liver problems form excessive alcoholism. 10 years ahd passed since I knew them but I was suprised how little I felt, we’d grown apart that much I guess or maybe we weren’t friends but just acquaintences in the pub.

    But I do care a lot for people I am close to know and a couple have HIV now, nothing life threatening yet but I do wonder how I will react if it got worse for them, but it’s never made me panic or worry. Maybe it has to actually happen before it hits me, or maybe death is not to be feared.

    • Maybe that’s part of it; not being afraid of death. Though it has not touched my heart, I have experienced it. I have been dealing with the dying through work for a number of years. Once I even gave a dead woman her last bath. There was always reverence I felt to be in the presence of those few dying people who let me into their lives at such a time. I’ve seen it in it’s dignified form. Clean, quiet and accepted.

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