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Saying Goodbye

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We think about people our lives dying I think the we see all the time and TV and movie images for instance you know. This sort of the worst nightmare is just receiving. Phone call And you know this is to inform you. I have some bad news for you and you think. Oh my God how Calamitous. You know not even a chance to to say anything. This person's gone But actually this week. We're going to look at what. I think is a far more common scenario and certainly if our inbox is any indication we get dozens of letters of people grappling with what? We're calling the long goodbye when you know that a loved one especially apparent which is what we'll talk about for this episode but anybody who's terminally ill there weeks months sometimes years that you know that you have to say goodbye to this person and they're all sorts of very complicated feelings that come up when you're facing a long goodbye and this is something listeners of the show will now this close to our own hearts because we both have long goodbyes of of varying lengths. Mine was very brief. Yours was many years and we had to say goodbye to our mothers and I frankly feel lucky that I didn't get that phone call with the sudden news that my mom died but also having that long goodbye. How is its own form of sorrow and torture? You have to see somebody. You love very much suffer. So we're actually going to hear one letter that is from a young woman who is facing a long goodbye and the second letter that will here is the aftermath of a long goodbye and I should mention that you know when we recorded. This first letter was several months ago and I was in the situation a letter writer thinking about my mom who was still alive and when we recorded the second letter sadly My mom had died so I was right. There in the middle of that aftermath grappling with some of the same feelings is the letter writer. So let's listen to that letter. Now Steve Stewart dear sugar three years ago. My father was diagnosed with stage. Four cancer when he was diagnosed twenty five and in graduate school out of state. Seventeen hours away. It was hard but as the years have gone by I have graduated and fallen in love in my new state. I'm in a serious relationship and have moved my younger brother out here as well. My Dad says to live my life and he would rather me stay where I am than move closer to home. If it makes me happy. Some days I don't know I have guilt. The type of guilt were all be sitting thinking about how? I'm a terrible daughter and my father is home with my mother. Dying without me. He could die a year from now or ten years from now. Am I being selfish? How do children cope with us? I feel responsible for my parents. Even though I know they only want the best for me and my crappy daughter. I took their son away as well. I feel like I have abandoned them but I don't know what to do. I don't want to move home but I don't want them to feel like I don't want to be there sincerely. Daddy's girl who daddy's girl when I read those words really my my heart hurts because you know I was that girl in my twenties whose mom did die of cancer. My Mom died when I was twenty. Two and she was forty five. And you know the question for me. It wasn't is my mom going to die in a year or ten years. You know I knew that my mom was going to die quickly and she died seven weeks to the day after her diagnosis. And one of the things I want to say to you. Daddy's girl is that the most important thing for you to do in this period of time. It's just a love the people you love with abandon and truth because you know we all could die anytime we all die tomorrow. You know we don't know when that will be but I really do feel so lucky you know that I had that opportunity to know. My mom had that diagnosis. I could say to her how important she was to me. It wasn't about being there every minute. It was about being present emotionally and it sounds to me like Daddy's girl you know certainly does that with her father and her parents well the other thing just to pause a moment and say what a beautiful guy to say to his daughter. Live your life. The problem is daddy's girl. You feel guilty anyway. And that's part of the problem when it's a long goodbye when it's acute and sudden okay. Be there. They're very simple in a way. It simplifies it. She says it could be ten years and it could be a year from now and in a way that really puts the sort of Damocles mostly loaded with guilt overhead which is perfectly understandable and Daddy's girl. You have to recognize the only thing you can do at this. Point is affect your love in the world as well as you can the emphasis when death is there is always On death and what I love. There's this wonderful quote from Joan diddy in that. WanNa read because it seems to me to put the emphasis on the living. What is left of life? She writes. I'm not telling you to make the world better. I'm just telling you to live in it not just to endure it not just to suffer it not just a pass through it but to live in it to look at it to try to get the picture to live recklessly to take chances to make your own work and take pride in it to seize the moment and if you ask me why you should bother to do that. I could tell you the graves of fine and private place but none. I think do there embrace. Nor did they sing their or right or argue or see the tidal bore on the Amazon or touch their children. And that's where there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it which I think in in his own way is what the father is trying to say to you. Daddy Screw Your Dad is trying to say live your life and the other side of that is being as involved with your dad as you can. Right now lacks connection. You don't have to live in the same town as someone if you just because you love them dearly and I do think too that you know with a long-term Cancer Diagnosis. What you have are very different stages of that kind of dying and there will come a time when it will be appropriate. That she goes to him and maybe stays with him for months. That's a very different prospect than picking up your life and living in a town near father just because he might ten years parish from cancer right and then there's this line I took their son away as well and this is I think what happens when we feel just so much guilt because somebody we love is ill you know. She's taking on her brother's decision making. He's an adult. He decided to this state right. You we take on extra baggage in a certain way. You have an opportunity now that you know there's a limited time horizon where it's much more real to you to talk with your dad about what his life of and what your relationship has been and what he thinks of what you're making your life and the things that you're involved in trying to seize the day after all. I think that's what parents want. Yeah when we were really didn't This letter and talking about having it on the show. I really my mind went immediately to my friend Robin Romm. Who's a beautiful writer? She's written two books mother garden and the mercy papers. Both the deeply grapple with Her own experience with her mother who died of cancer and we have her in the studio today and we should mention mother. Gordon is a collection of stories. And mercy papers is a memoir that I think grapples with that moment. Which is the acute phase after a long illness and what in a very intense beautiful sort of searingly honest way what that is like at the very end but anyway we are so delighted? Robin that you're here and thank you for joining us. I wrong so much for having me. Hi Guys so. Can you tell us first? Your story so. My mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was nineteen. I had just finished my first year of college and I was living on the East Coast and she was in Oregon and it was a pretty serious diagnosis. She got a whole bunch of treatment. It's been a long time now. I don't remember every single piece of the initial few years but she went into remission for about a year and a half an after that was sick for about. Oh I don't know maybe eight more years so she was sick a total of probably nine years all your twentieth all through my twenty S. I was nineteen when she got sick and I was twenty eight when she died and I really related to the Daddy's girl ladder because that question of four. How long am I supposed to put everything on? Hold to deal with this crisis and it's at such a difficult time when you're in your twenties and you're trying to figure out like how you're going to be in the world and you're going to graduate school or you're having children are getting married or you're in relationships or you're moving or whatever it's a very. It's a time of life that I think in this country in our sort of current culture is you're allowed to be a little selfish and to set those things up for yourself and so it's very difficult to figure out how to put all those needs aside and still be. Come the person that you want to be in the midst of being pulled back into the family and pull back into this role that you're now a daughter again. You're back in the family home dealing with family and also your apparent to apparent before you've even parented your own kids or anything like forced to be a parent and it. I found it just deeply difficult to figure all that out. I went home several times. I had gone from working full-time to graduate school and during summer like before Graduate School Semester. I had gone home and my mom was pretty sick. Everybody thought she was going to die and then she took an experimental drug and she got better for a while and so I had to make the decision. Do I stay. I don't know how long she'll be better for or go and do a semester so I went back to graduate. School started my coursework about three weeks in. I got this phone call from my mother's friends hate heard if your fingers turn blue. You've got three days to live and they'd my mother's fingers. They said we're turning blue so through stuff in a bag and drove from Berkeley. Where I lived to Eugene or my mom was and wound up withdrawing from school and staying. I had no idea how long I would be home. But it wasn't the end. It was another you know prolonged period of time. And it's just you can't plan around those things either. Which makes them so difficult. You don't know in a death like that often when it's coming and when it's going to come in three months and when it's GonNa come in six months or two weeks and it makes it so impossible to make like a quote unquote good decisions. And so I think that feeling of like I'm a crappy daughter I can't make the right decision is the only feeling available first of all. I don't think you're gonNA feel like yes now. I've landed on the right thing it's crappy to go home and sit around it's crappy to feel far

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