Junior Member (female)
Join Date: Jun 2005
Honoring my husband
It has been a while since I have posted, or visited. Mid August I think, which is a really long time ago if your home is New Orleans.
My husband Jarrett had been dx with small cell lung ca last spring. He fought, prayed, hoped and strategized with all his heart to stay alive, to love me and love his boys, on earth as long as possibile.
I don't think this was a waste, all his efforts in body and spirit. First, I do believe the chemo and radiation really did give him the gift of months, an entire summer to play with his boys, 7 & 11. And it gave us nearly a year rather than six months to be married. While his cancer/tumor never did shrink, it stabilized in such a way to leave him him nearly pain and symptom free for a season, literally.
His back pain returned in mid August as we were receiving reports that the cancer was shifting from sitting still to growing again. In the liver, bones and lung. None of that seemed to clip even a bit of his spirit's inclination to fight for his life, to seek whatever foods or medication were out there...
We were in the middle of learning about clinical trials and third line therapies when Katrina came along. While our boys evacuated to another state with their mom (I am a step mom), my husband, myself and even our dog, went to the hospital where my husband received care and where I work. In the midst of rather difficult conditions, I ran around as best I could, caring for staff, families and patients in my hospital--one I am very very proud of, first for Jarrett's care and now for its Katrina courage--and caring for my husband, who was living mostly on a couch in a fellow chaplain's office (he was not an inpatient at that time).
In the middle of all this chaos, a rather different kind of miracle occurred.
Due to one dry street and exit passage, all staff evacuated to Baton Rouge after first evacuating all patients. Baton Rouge marked our arrival to safety from raging floodwaters, etc, yet also marked the complete disappearance of Jarrett's oncology care. As he was getting to be so tired, we went to the emergency room of Our Lady of the Lake.
Our miracle looked like hospitality, mercy, respect, and honor. Jarrett had begun to go into liver and kidney failure from rapid tumor growth. we soon had a new oncology practice and unit to call our own. They gave him all the pain and comfort measures and kindesses he so needed, while honoring his will to live, getting consults for a kidney specialist and whatnot.
I had been scared that his will to live would somehow keep him from mercy.
Even though such end of life care is central to my own vocation, I never quite saw so much mercy and dignity extended so fully, in a way that could so match my husband's needs and hopes alike. Fresh out of hurricanes and levee breaks, no less.
Jarrett was moderately confused for only the last day or two, whether due to brain mets at the very end, or simply because the as the liver broke down, he could no longer process medicines. grace includes how unexpectedly himself and present my husband was able to be for the whole of his life journey...
he could still give me kisses in the last hours, and I read to him Psalm 121 with response from him that told me he was present and listening, just another morning to awaken with morning prayer...Jarrett himself those same verses in a weak but clear enough voice the night before the hurricane to over a hundred people, as I had coordinated as best I could an All Faith service, that really was about a religiously diverse people seeking faith and courage together. After hearing together again this reminder of God's care and help as the Maker of heaven and earth, Jarrett slipped away from this earth toward the mystery called eternity...it was Labor Day. And having worked his butt off for so long to get well, it was indeed the day he could begin resting from all that labor.
His funeral is still ahead. while I have recently returned to New Orleans, much of the diaspora continues, to get our family and friends collected to continue this ongoing task, of honoring my husband.
thank you for reading/listening. I think I worked out much of my pain and fear here more than anywhere during the fighting months, in this cyber support group. and I hope telling this story here is one you might find more encouraging than agonizing to hear somehow.
where ever each of you are on your own journeys, blessings. and, I would be glad to receive not only a response but an update from you as well.