Facing Mortality

Facing Mortality

Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Bad things. You can face them, try to deal with them, or you can hide in denial.

My wife, Anne, has a number of illnesses and has been finding things increasingly difficult since the end of last year. We haven’t been out socially since New Year. In fact the only times she has left our home since then have been medical appointments.

She has always been strong-willed: that is what has gotten her through this far. Through traumatic events, through heart attacks, through cancer treatment. Through all of that she has kept going. When she suffered necrotizing fasciitis in her spine resulting in major surgery and it was not certain if she would ever walk again she never gave up, pushed herself and regained her mobility.

But there are limits. She saw her doctor earlier this week, and he was in tears as he told her that, basically, there was nothing that could be done beyond adjustments to her medications. She has emphysema and cancer, either of which can be fatal. But it is her heart that is the weakest link. It is most unlikely that she will see me complete my gender transition to fully become the person I am inside.

She who has always handled fear face-on, fighting with all her strength, has little strength left. She is truly afraid, not of dying, but of losing what independence she has. She copes with her pain very well, rarely becoming angry or upset. She hates to be an object of pity and hates to think that she will have to rely on others, primarily me, to care for her when she is unable to care for herself.

She has become afraid at the thought of going out socially. Afraid that people will show pity or treat her differently. That they will see that she looks ill.

These past few days since she saw her doctor she has been trying to face the fact that her illnesses are getting the better of her. Her years of denial have come crashing down and she is finding it so hard to accept the stark reality of her situation. To face the overwhelming probability that she will never feel better, that she will deteriorate over time. To face the fact that she is mortal, that the clock is ticking, and that her best days are all behind her.

She draws strength from her faith — she is Catholic — and that is a great comfort to her. She also finds comfort in my presence. I can’t make her better. I can’t take away the pain or ease her suffering. I can only be here so that she is not alone.