It’s a message you never want to hear…….”We just came back from the Doctors office. Tato (dad in Ukrainian) has Lymphoma and it’s too far gone for treatment. He might have 1 year”. Hearing this news made me numb. I am the daughter-in-law. I’m not supposed to feel this twist in my gut and the pain in my heart. I’m just supposed to be there for support. I loved this man too as I love my own father. I see and feel the pain of his 4 children. There’s nothing I can do for them but offer my support in any way I can. He stayed with us shortly after his prognosis for a few weeks and for the first time, spent Christmas in our home with his eldest son and grandchildren. I witnessed a softness happening in the previously strained relationship between him and his son. Though the words weren’t spoken, the actions spoke volumes and a wonderful peace surrounded them. Physically Tato was changing quite rapidly. Walking was a struggle even with a walker. He was rapidly becoming frail. Breathing was becoming more of a struggle.
After a few weeks we brought him back home. His eldest daughter moved in with him and was his primary caregiver. She also had a family she visited with on weekends and worked full time. Though she remained strong on the outside and managed this giant juggle in her life, I watched her spirit as it was breaking. We came and stayed with Tato on weekends so his daughter could go home to try to feel “normal” for a few days.
We soon hired a caregiver to stay with him during the week days as each day brought more and more difficulties for Tato. We managed this for a few months until palliative care was inevitable.
This move was another journey altogether for both Tato and his children. You see, he still did not know he was dying. His children struggled with this topic themselves. The sudden death of their mother a year previously was still fresh in their hearts. If they told him his time was coming to an end, would it make it happen sooner? If they made him believe he was in the hospital to get better, would it make him fight hard to get better and perhaps a miracle would happen?
I was only the daughter-in-law. I knew my place. I couldn’t vocalize how I felt about the situation. I saw a little more from the outside looking in. I could only care for him the best way I could and that was to try to keep him as comfortable as possible, both physically and emotionally. To help support his children who each we’re dealing with it in their own way. And to show him he was loved.
From the outside looking in, this was a journey that was difficult. It was also healing. It had many bumps in the road. It was a journey that only lasted 5 months but changed us for a lifetime. It healed old pains. It brought some closer to the roots of their family, and others in a different direction. It offered closure. And that is a gift.