After

by krstaten

“My father-in-law is dying.”

It took me a long time to actually say those words. I don’t think I did before this past weekend. Before that it was, “He’s sick.” “He’s fighting.” “I’m worried about him.” (I didn’t want to actually say the words “Cancer” or “Lymphoma” either.) Then it was, “He’s not doing well.” “Things don’t look good.” “We don’t know how much time he has left.”

It all amounts to the same thing, and has since his diagnosis at the beginning of December: He’s dying.

I don’t know how to face that. My biggest fear is the one that I know will be coming true over and over for the rest of my life: That things will never be the way they were again. It’s always happened, it always will happen, and yet I’m terrified of it happening. And death is the most permanent way it happens. How can the world continue when someone has left it? It’s not the same world anymore. It’s a different one, and everything in it will be a little bit emptier, a little bit tinged with loss. How does one cope with that knowledge?

I can’t decide if it’s easier or harder when you know it’s coming in advance. It’s less of a shock, but then, you’re waiting. You’re in this in-between place where the world is changing and and it has change and it will change, and something has happened and nothing has happened, and you’re just waiting. You know what’s coming. It’s like mourning someone before they’re really dead.

“Dead” is another word I’ve been avoiding. “Dying” is a process. It’s a thing that’s happening. “Dead” is a product. It’s the end. It’s over. Time’s up. My father-in-law will probably be dead by the end of the summer. Probably sooner.

And what do I do with that?

I guess I’m thinking now about the way we use words, and what they mean to us, and the way we lie to ourselves with them. I lie to myself by saying “Sick” instead of “Cancer,” by saying “Fighting” instead of “Dying.” Words are funny little things. Maybe using the right words is the first step to acceptance. Maybe the five stages of grief can be summed up by which words you use when you talk about a thing that’s happening. Maybe the fact that my instinct was to write “a thing that’s happening” rather than “someone who’s dying” is a little lie to myself, too.

I’m still not ready for the “Art from Pain” post. I’m working towards it. This is the closest I can come right now to creating something from my pain. I don’t think I’ll be really ready to write that post until after.

And now I’m fully aware of the fact that “after” means so much more than I want to really say.

**

If anyone wants to help me and my husband make the 900-mile trek to Ohio for a final visit to see his father, we’d appreciate it. We’ve set up a GoFundMe campaign, which you can find here.

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