Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Impending grief

A close family friend, someone I've known since birth, is in the cardiac ICU in Gainesville, Florida. I actually have no idea how old he is, but the range of possibilities is somewhere from 65 to 75. I think. They (he and his wife, another lifelong family friend) live in Port Saint Lucie. He played 18 holes of golf Wednesday morning, then came home, had lunch, and took a nap. He was playing in a 9-hole tournament that afternoon, but he had a sharp pain in his chest and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The hospital did CT scans and found some difficult kind of aortal something and had to call around to the area hospitals to find someone who could do the necessary surgery.

Shands Medical Center in Gainesville was the closest they found, and they took him by helicopter, a 200 mile flight. They did an "ascending aortic arch repair, type I," and although the folks at the hospital in PSL were quite concerned about his prognosis, the surgeons at Shands were hopeful. Or that was what I heard on Friday. This morning, I find an email from his wife that says that "surgeon told [her] today that [her husband] was in very bad shape when he arrived at the OR." But whatever they think after surgery is better than what they say before surgery, right? He'll be in the hospital for at least a month, and it will probably be a week before he makes it out of the ICU.

I didn't feel like this when my grandfather got sick. My grandfather was an asshole, so that may have something to do with it. What men in my life have I lost? Bob, my swim coach, died in a car accident when I was 16 and he 33. Jon, a fellow camp counselor, died from a recurrence of his brain tumor when we were 19. Later that summer, I lost Ben and Kevin, high school classmates in the same car accident. A few years later, Brad, another classmate, died at the World Trade Center. A year before Mom died, her father died, but his death had little emotional impact on me. Last year, my uncle George died suddenly while traveling in Switzerland. I was pained for his wife, my aunt, but his death was quick and he was old. Just a few months ago, my recently discovered great uncle Don died after a long illness. While sad, his death was almost a relief.

But this family friend... I don't know. I don't know what to think or feel, just that I'm scared and sad and try to be hopeful. I'm afraid that my hope hasn't yet returned.


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