Life and death, not life OR death

When I started this blog and named it Maybe There’s More because of my growing belief that our experiences only give us each a small slice of knowledge, I had no idea about the range of topics to which that belief would apply. 

It’s unlikely to surprise any of you who have survived a terminal illness or accident — or anyone that has supported someone in that situation — but the last two weeks have taught me that there is a blurrier line between life and death than I previously understood. I’ve also learned that questions like “is he conscious” don’t always have a yes or no answer. I’ve learned that when people say “I’m praying for your family,” it’s possible to have no idea what outcome they might be praying for. 

So, while it’s rather depressing and morbid, I thought I’d share this learning with any of you who may be fortunate enough to not already know it. And for those who were ahead of me…well…wow. I’m sorry I didn’t adequately see you or support you. I’m sorry that adequate support may not exist. And I promise to remember that “what do you need?” and “is there anything I can do?” now rank pretty highly on my list of Questions I Have No Idea How to Answer.

My dad has spent much of the last two weeks on life support, and will next be transferred to a “regular” unit in the hospital once a bed is available. 

For me, ongoing visits will further increase my expertise at the hospital parkade (would you believe I now look like enough of a pro that people ask me for help when they’ve lost their car? Me!). On the other hand, I’ve so far managed to resist buying clothes in the gift shop. They look increasingly attractive as I become increasingly worn out, and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to hold back. Then again, considering my grandma recently told me “you look haggard, but I love you anyway,” perhaps any makeover is better than no makeover.

You never know who you’re going to run into here. I saw someone in the lobby the other day that I hadn’t seen since pre-pandemic drinks! Unlike meeting at a bar though, small talk in this place starts with a “for whatever reason you’re here, I’m sorry” type of vibe. As we chatted about the vacations we had each planned to take last week, we agreed that while the hospital staff are excellent, this place still gets zero stars as a vacation destination.  

There are some curiosities to pass the time though. For example, every time I use the closest bathroom to where I’m currently sitting, I wonder what goes on in there that someone keeps a spare pair of rubber boots under the sink. And while I can imagine some answers, I’m still not sure why the boots need to be camo print. 

I’m sure the nurses and doctors have some questions for us too. As various family members come and go, I’ve wondered if we should draw a diagram on the room’s whiteboard — that way, the staff could figure out which ex-wife they’re speaking to, which child, and so on. All that said, I’m pleased we’ve all upheld the promise my mom offered: “Hi. I’m his ex-wife, her ex-daughter-in-law, their mother, and I’m not going to cause any problems.”

Speaking of problems, the quasi-pandemic-status is interesting. Masks are a must (which is fine), and hand sanitizer must be used twice at the front door…but it’s anyone’s guess after that. Multiple visitors are allowed, but seating for them remains closed off behind “danger” tape. 

In all seriousness, I don’t know what happens from here onward. But I think I must be more hopeful inside than I can summon the energy for externally, because the day after a doctor remarked, “we didn’t think he’d live this long!”, I bought a 7-day parking pass. (Then again, it was also a better deal and hospital parking costs are extortionate.)

do know that I have huge gratitude for those who have offered support. From walks, to food, to flexible work hours, to mindless reading material and smile-worthy memes…to all the offers I haven’t been in a position to accept, I am extremely grateful. At the same time, I’m learning that just because a dozen people ask how things are going, it doesn’t mean that I must use my limited spare time to answer them all immediately. 

I’m also reminded that while I can function pretty well in this role — asking questions, learning new medical info, sharing key updates — my brain eventually stops functioning in other areas. I need extra focus while driving to go the right direction home (seriously, can you believe people ask me for directions?!). Listening to the radio, it takes a minute to comprehend that the newscaster isn’t talking about a fairy strike, but rather a ferry strike. 

It’s a long road, for my dad and all of us. In the meantime, I write because writing helps me process things. I share my writing with hope that it can provide some amusement and/or perspective. I hold back on the gory details because those aren’t mine to tell.

Ultimately, I hope this post can shed a tiny bit of light for some (again, I know others of you already have your own torch) that maybe we should stop hiding behind norms that prevent us from talking about death, almost-death, and all the long “wait and see” days in between. 

And lastly, as I’ve suggested before – please go donate blood if you can.

17 thoughts on “Life and death, not life OR death

  1. Ashley

    My dear friend,
    There is nothing more morbid and depressing than NOT recognizing the fragility of life; the fine line between life and death that we dance around, well, until we die.
    We are ALL one breath, one moment, one second away. From our own fate. A fate that we all share. The one of few things that seem to unite us all these days. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can start living because the denial of death, the fear, is no different than our fear to chase a dream, a person, a beach. It prevents us from being fully alive.
    And so… write away. Share away. This is your story. Your truth. And if someone chooses to find it morbid that is for them. As for you – you have enough in your mind. Don’t worry about us.
    All my love to you and your family,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barb Henault

    Oh Keli – the stars are in alignment – I cannot believe you posted this today. I am in awe at the workings of the universe. My little brother died this morning. We are beginning our journey down the grief highway. And it’s hard. More difficult than any death that has come before because he was my “heart brother”. I understand perfectly where you have been, where you are, and where the path is taking you. Hugs Young One.


      1. Barb Henault

        Thanks Kelli – still in the disbelieving stage – he was diagnosed only on July 14 so it has been tough to take in. Take care of yourself as you travel your grief path.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. In the last year my brother-in-law died of cancer, I was terminated days after disclosing my struggle with depression and three days after another brother-in-law died by suicide. On August 15th my oldest sister died from lung cancer and my sister closest to me is battling the same disease. I am aching from inside out. And yet I keep looking for hope, learning to live each day in moments and minutes. I send you peace and comfort. I wish you joy in the little things. And I ask for healing for your Father.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barb Henault

      I admire your strength and resiliency. A close friend of mine said to me to focus just on today – get through today – you can do anything for one day, tomorrow will take care of itself.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Brenda Boyko

    Oh, Kelli, I am so sorry that you have to go through this, but it was beautifully written and so true!! Take care, my friend, and never hesitate to reach out, especially because we don’t know what or how to offer help.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. bwkyyc

    I am sorry that you (and your family) are going through this. Reading the post took me back to when my father was very ill. My wish for you is that your father receives the very best in care from kind experts, and that you can sleep at night so that you can cope during the days.



    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kelly Malacko

    I’m so sorry you’re facing this. You’ve got a heavy emotional load to carry and I wish I could help you shoulder it. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Cathy Glover

    Kelli- You have made me laugh and you have made me cry! You have expressed so much of what I have thought and felt as I sit by my father’s bedside during the past two and half months (by the way, the nurses and aides use the boots when they roll the patient into the bathroom, in a potty chair, to give them a shower). I came home so exhausted last night I left the garage door open, only discovering it hours later as I put the wine bottle in the recycling bin. I echo your thoughts about offers of help and also wish that I had understood what this journey feels like so I would have been more supportive and empathic to those that have gone through this already. I unfortunately don’t have the extra energy to offer you my support, but I do completely understand what you and your family are going through and my thoughts will be with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Brad

    Powerful post!

    Never hesitate or give a second thought if there is anything I can do to be a distraction, help or support.

    Lots of positive thoughts and energy being sent your direction in hopes it helps in building the strength you need during these tough times.

    Liked by 1 person

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