Last night I went to write a quick entry here but fell asleep lying on my bed next to my laptop trying to find the words to explain the current state of affairs. I woke up at 1:30 in the morning and realized that my mother-in-law, Rose left in the middle of the night to go over and assist Chris, my husband’s brother. At this point I don’t know what is going on, we never received a call letting us know the status.
My sister-in-law, JP is dying from cancer and it is in her liver. This weekend she began to turn jaundice. With a five minute internet search I found this meant her time is almost up. Matt and I went over to see her yesterday. It is feels like an awkward thing to go over and say a final goodbye. People are flying out from all over the country to see her one last time. My father-in-law is here from Oregon and her sister is here helping to nurse and take care of the children. This past weekend we could not get into see here because she was bombarded by members of her church. She is dying, she barely can stay awake for a moment to smile and say hello before she falls back into restless slumber.
Matt and I sat by JP’s bedside to say our hello and goodbye. I looked my sister-in-law over as her chested heaved up and down and her legs twitched seeming to fight against stillness even when JP would like this final process to get wrapped up. I began to get frustrated with myself as I sat next to her feeling sad and empty. I know JP well, she is a fiery Irish-Catholic matriarch that has pissed me off more than once. She is opinionated and stubborn, controlling and sarcastic. She is also loving, funny, and welcoming with an unbelievable faith. She loves her family with the deepest fibers of her being. I guarantee, she lasted so long and lived so well with cancer because of her stubborn nature, her love for her family and her faith. So as I sat watching this strong woman’s body fail in front of me I tried to separate her body from her soul. JP would not want me sitting here in front of her feeling sad and depressed over the situation. She would want me to do something productive to help. I wracked my brain, trying to think of something I could do to help her, to make this moment better. I came up with nothing.
Matt and I went downstairs to see the kids, to find that most of them had left the house to run errands with their other Aunt. Rose left to pickup LP from school, Matt and his dad were taking measurements to create shelves for Chris in the garage, and PP and JP’s youngest were playing in opposite corners in the living room. It all seemed so still but bustling, everyone trying to find something to do to help but no one knowing quite what to do to make things better.
JP’s friend came in and went directly upstairs to see her with Chris. Her friend carried a brown paper bag under her arm. It was a thick, crinkled paper bag, one that was used many times before but it did not have a tear or rip. It was made from quality paper, not pretty but useful. I knew just from seeing that bag it held the answers I was looking for. It held items that JP would want. Perhaps, it had a bible, maybe a tween trash-novel that she could read to her (JP and I have seen most of the Twilight movies together). Maybe she had a brush, make-up or some funky colored nail-poish, JP loves to get dolled up in a funky Portland Punk inspired style. Maybe that bag held some knitting needles so her friend could knit while she waited for JP to wake-up and need her. This bag held all the answers and I would never know exactly what it held; just guesses or insights of what my bag should have had.
I looked down at my legs, I was wearing my soccer shorts as I was leaving to head out to practice. My legs were still tan from the summer and spending time out on the field. I looked at the little veins running up my leg being pushed out from the muscle that is starting to return from sprinting around with 16 year old athletes. My legs looked full and strong. I thought of how this contrast the yellowing emaciated figure that was lying up in the hospital bed. In front of JP’s bed, sat her cane draped over her walker, a symbol of her recent progression. The orchid paintings running alongside of her and the live orchid next to her. I looked around her house to see pictures of her and the family covering every wall and table across the house. The rosaries and crosses decorating private nooks throughout the home. I looked forward to see my youngest niece standing behind a shear curtain backlit from the sunlight coming in. She is three and terribly shy. She looks so much like JP, so pretty, pale and frail. I wonder if her spirit will be as fiery and strong as her mom. I gave kisses, taps on the head and stepped out into the fall sun. Now we are waiting.