Its easier to get angry than to be sad. I have been dealing with the impending death of my co-worker/staff and good friend for most of the past year. At first avoidance of the emotional aspect was easy as I had to go through the hiring process to get an intern that we can train to take over her position.
When she called me in the spring to tell me, as I knew was coming, that her cancer had spread and was now medically confirmed as untreatable, we both sobbed into the phone (she lives in a small town in the BC interior). But being the strong, worldly women that we are the rest of our conversations on the subject have been rather matter-of-fact and taking-care-of-business.
Our first intern, hired in June, quit after three months. I guess he realized the job was opposite of glamourous! It was just surprising that it would take him that long to figure it out, I guess he just truly wanted to give it the old college try. I embarked on another round of job postings and interviews, and since September the new intern has been job-shadowing and doing his best to learn the intricacies of the lumber business. Which is very complicated and complex. Not glamourous, but quite fascinating to someone interested in that kind of thing.
During all this time my departing analyst and I have been very practical, discussing and preparing for her eventual exit realistically. Of course at times I have felt a pang, "I'm going to miss you SO MUCH." but not said anything because . . . well, I'm not the one whose dying, am I?? It is for me to be strong. If I want to weep to someone it won't be her. If anything it should be the other way around.
Hence this post.
Her frailty is increasing with every passing week, both physically and mentally. As the weeks go by I can see her mind fading, she fails at simple tasks like answering an unexpected phone call or remembering a change to the work schedule. It is becoming impossible to pretend that she won't be with us much longer.
As she prepares for the end of her life, she has moved from her remote acreage to an apartment in her town. Last week she messed up her internet connection, cancelling it too early and having to do her weekly job from a friend's house. By 7:30pm, only half-way through her editorial, she had to lie down on her friend's bed for a bit as the pain was intense and she had already taken her dose of daily meds.
On Saturday she moved into the new place but messed up, also, the phone service so is doing her market survey calls from her cel today. But she didn't call me until quite late yesterday evening to let me know, and I wasn't home because I have been sitting for a friend's cat while they are away.
This meant that our intern, the poor fellow, was vainly trying to get in touch with her since 7:30 this morning. He emailed me just before 9:00am saying he hadn't reached her.
My anger at this small hiccough far outweighed the oversight. For the better part of an hour I could not stop the rant from repeating in my head; my chastising her for not being organized enough to let us know early on Wednesday so I could have warned the intern to not bother trying to call in today.
Just now I realized its not that I am angry, I am incredibly sad. Its just easier to get mad, to rage, to use a small error as an excuse to blow off some emotion. Given that this type of reaction is usual in my dysfunctional family, I suppose I have learned by (bad) example and just continue the behaviour as a coping mechanism.
Its hard, its hard to face. The ending of a life is such a serious thing and when it is a person close to us we don't necessarily have the skill to handle it in a healthy way.
There are times when I am gripped by a feeling that can best be described as close to panic, "What am I going to do without her to talk to every week?!" and I want to explode in shrill wails. I have to hold it together though because her fate is inevitable and my losing it completely is not going to help anything.
Feeling bad is awful. I guess deflecting the real issue is a normal reaction to try to avoid the sadness. I know I am going to feel only worse about this as time goes by and her health deteriorates. Sometimes I feel stronger; I put my focus on getting the new person trained and on looking to the future, moving the company forward. But most of the time I am just filled with a terrible feeling of foreboding and impending loss. This gaping chasm is accompanied by a looming darkness in the pit of my stomach, the worst sense of dread. The last time when she went to hospital twice in the space of a week and half due to the pain it lasted most of a day. How is it going to feel when she goes into palliative care and then when she actually leaves us??
I don't want to think about that but I know it is coming.