Louise knew. Long before the rest of us understood, she knew. She knew something was wrong when she couldn’t remember the names of her grandchildren. She knew as she left the casual nonchalant voice mail which said she had a tumor and would be having surgery “day after tomorrow.” She knew two years ago before her surgery, when she semi-jokingly told the doctor that if it was bad she wanted him to snip something and let her go be with her mom. She knew when she was rolling towards the OR and she squeezed my hand and seriously said, “This is the first day of the rest of my life, I’ll never be the same again.” She kissed us all. She has known all along, even though we didn’t grasp the full implications of her illness. Don’t get me wrong, we knew what the word terminal meant, but I guess we hoped it would go differently somehow. But she knew, because she walked this very same journey with her mom. She has feared this possibility for a lifetime, and has faced it as bravely as anyone I know could have.
The first reality punch to my gut was when I was filling out school forms, came to the emergency contact blank and had to put down a different name. Louise’s name has been in that blank for all four of my kids since they were in preschool. Next, was when we were at my house for a holiday dinner instead of hers. There were no angel biscuits. I don’t know how to make angel biscuits. Over the past two years, one by one, the punches have come. The dawning of a new reality has set in slowly, like waking from a fog of denial. She is not coming back. She is leaving us. I think it takes us a long time to grasp reality sometimes, because we put up our defenses. It is a reflex action to guard our hearts from pain. We don’t even know we are doing it. Some of us have more defenses than others, but the whole point of them is to protect the core.
In this situation, where death is near, the closer you are to the person leaving the harder it is to realize what is happening. Allowing hospice to come in makes a statement to our heart to get ready to feel. We think we are waiting on her, but in reality, she is waiting on us. She is leading the way by allowing us our time to deal. When we are ready, we will know what she knew all along, that the time is right for her to go and for us to live without her.
Then Louise will know fully the joy that is awaiting her. Then she will feel no more pain, and cry no more tears. She will know only the love of her savior embracing her and holding her so that she is complete. She will belong to him, and he to her. There will be dancing and celebrating in heaven as she is swept up in the kind of love we can only dream about. It will be a glorious day, and Louise will know.