Ever since December, when Mark was hospitalized and diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, my parents really wanted to take him to their house under hospice care. Mark is very comfortable when he goes to their house, and he's spent a lot of time there over the years. Mark and my dad have been very good friends for 35 years, and when my dad mentioned to Mark about going home with him, Mark was thrilled.
Unfortunately, because Mark has a nephew, we don't have guardianship or durable power of attorney, so we can't make any medical decisions for Mark. When the hospice nurse evaluated Mark, we were hoping that she would find him competent enough to sign himself into hospice, and sign over durable power of attorney (decisions for medical care) to my dad. It was really hard having to explain to Mark that the treatments didn't work, and that he wasn't going to get better. When the nurse asked him where he wanted to go for the rest of his life, he told her several times that he wanted to go to my dad's house; but when she asked him what the date was, he thought it was 2007. She said he wasn't competent to sign, and because there was a living blood relative, Mark's nephew had to sign the papers.
They contacted Mark's nephew, and he did sign Mark into hospice (which we were grateful for), but he decided to take Mark to his house instead of letting us take care of him. Since we aren't blood relatives with Mark, there was nothing we could do to change it. So today at noon, Mark will be going to his nephew's house. His nephew said we can visit if we call first, but I didn't want to assume that would happen, so I acted as if yesterday was the last day I would see Mark.
Mark was very tired, and could hardly open his eyes all day. My mom and I sat with him for about eight hours, and he just wasn't very lucid when we tried to talk to him. He did sip some of the strawberry shake I brought him, and he took a few bites of broccoli cheddar soup (from Panera!). But mostly, he slept.
When it came time for us to leave, I had a heavy pit in my stomach, knowing it was likely the last time I'd see him. My mom asked if I wanted to spend a few minutes alone with him, and I said yes. It was the strangest thing--once we were alone, Mark opened his eyes, and really SAW me. He kept his eyes open while I told him everything I wanted to say. I could see that he actually heard me and understood. Those couple of minutes were the most lucid I've seen him recently, and I felt really good about leaving like that. The last thing he told me was, "I'll be okay". I needed to hear that, and I think he knew how much I needed to hear that.
I turned on his favorite Jackson Browne CD for him, and he kept his eyes open long enough for a picture :)
It's my hope, more than anything, that Mark's nephew really wants to take good care of Mark, and make his last days the best they can be. I want Mark to feel loved during the time he has left, and I hate feeling so powerless. I really hope that the hospice nurses make sure that he's getting the best care, too.
I'm just so sad right now. I've never felt this much grief before. I'm very lucky that nobody really close to me has ever died; but this is the first time I've ever really experienced this, and it's awful. I've spent the last four months seeing Mark a few times a week, and trying to make him as happy as possible, despite the cancer. He has made an enormous impact on my life, and I just wish that I could do more for him.
Again, I am sorry for such a downer of a post. I feel bad, because with the Runner's World and Woman's World articles out right now, I've gotten some new readers, but all I've written about this month is death and dying! On the bright side, I did manage to get out for a run yesterday evening. I ran six miles, even though I was completely drained, and I'm glad I did it. Mark was excited for me to go to San Diego and run with my Ragnar team, although I was prepared to cancel my trip to stay and take care of Mark; but now, I plan to go run because he would want me to.
I'm not sure how consistently I'll be posting for the next few days, but I want to say thank you all so much for your kind comments and emails. My mom and I were both very touched by how supportive you've been, now and for the last few months!