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Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Great Loss

Dan and his mom, Cathy

Peter, Cathy, Dan and Me

Friday around 7 o'clock I got the call. The call I have been dreading since the day I married my husband. For the past 3 years every time the phone rang and it was my father-in-law I was afraid it would be "the call." His wife has passed away.

Dan's mom (Cathy) had Huntington's Disease. She started to show symptoms around 39 and for the past 14 years slowly progressed in the disease. My father-in-law (Peter) quit working about 13 years ago to be her main caregiver. He lived and breathed for her. His life revolved around her comfort and her happiness. Everything he did he thought of her first and how it would affect her. Sadly, over the years, Dan and Peter had to watch Cathy fade away from the person she used to be.

Even so, she still had quite the personality. I have only known her for about 3 1/2 years but I remember how lively she was when I first met her. She smiled, she laughed and she would turn her head towards you to listen. She couldn't talk and she couldn't make simple movements (like a gesture to shake your hand) but she was very much aware of everything that was going on. I remember one time my mom and I were looking through a photo album of Dan when he was a baby and she was just glowing! She had a huge beaming smile on her face as we showed her pictures and commented on them. That is a good memory I have of her. She used to like to watch romantic movies and she always responded to them. She liked to watch soap operas and I'm pretty sure she was a Toronto Maple Leafs fan (or so Peter!)

Over the past year, especially, she seemed to fade more quickly. She lost a lot of weight (despite eating the same amount of food) and came down with a couple lung infections. One of those was just last weekend. Peter had a couple scares with her in the last week but was able to keep her alive without having to take her all the way to emergency. She was on antibiotics and things were starting to look up. She was still having trouble swallowing but the nurse said that once she is done the antibiotics that should subside.

Friday night while Peter was feeding her he noticed her face change color. He gave her a form of the Heimlich but it didn't work. He said it all happened in about 3 minutes. She just stopped breathing. I have a feeling her heart just gave out. She was only about 50 pounds at the time of her death and I think her heart was just to weak. So, Peter called us right away and we went over. We got to spend the last couple hours with her as a family and it was so special. The grieving process is hard but so essential. I am glad I didn't go to Ottawa this weekend so I could be there for my husband and father-in-law.

We are sad that she is gone but we are thankful that she is no longer suffering. Her body is renewed and she is no longer sick. Sometimes the "healing" process comes in a form we don't like to think of: death. Life will be different and we will get used to it. It will take time but we are a family and we have each other. We also have LBW to look forward to! The day before her passing Dan and I were talking about how excited we were going to be to take LBW over to see his mom and get pictures of him on her lap. Unfortunately we won't have that now. But we have her memory and lots of stories to tell. She got to feel my stomach at a time when LBW was moving around. I'm thankful for that!

There is this song that is now reminding me of Peter and Cathy. I know how it is to love someone whole-heartedly but I do not know that feeling of losing them. So this song is dedicated to my father-in-law.

by Amy Grant

I'm looking for a way to feel you hold me
Feel your heartbeat just one more time
Reaching back, trying to touch the moment
Each precious minute that you were mine

How do you prepare
When you love someone this way
To let them go a little more each day?

The stars we put in place
The dreams we didn't waste
The sorrows we embraced
The world belonged to you and me
The oceans that we crossed
The innocence we lost
The hurting at the end
I'd go there again
'Cause it was beautiful
It was beautiful

Some days, missing you is overwhelming
When it hits me you're not coming back
And in my darkest hours, I have wondered
Was it worth it for the time we had?

My thoughts get kind of scattered
But one thing I know is true
I blessed the day that I found you

The rules we stepped aside
The fear that we defied
The thrill of the ride
The fire in our hearts that burned
The oceans that we crossed
The innocence we lost
The hurting at the end
I'd go there again
'Cause it was beautiful
It was beautiful


mommo4.5 said...

Beautifully said, Morgan. You are very thoughtful and caring and I'm sure Cathy knew that about you. Dan and Peter are blessed to have you in their family (as are we). Having you and LBW will go a long way towards their healing.