This was a surprise, and yet wasn’t. About three years ago, out of nowhere she was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to quit her job as a nurse, a dream job of hers she earned, to undergo very painful chemotherapy. During that time, my parents, sister and I weren’t able to see her for a solid year. Then after she was cured, I was sure she would be able to return to work. Then she was diagnosed again, and I began to lose hope. Last Friday, my mom was picking me up from college for the weekend, and at the time, I heard Meg was diagnosed a third time and that the doctors were struggling to cure her. Then Mom laid it on me that she was now in the hospital under morphine, her cancer was overtaking her, and that she was going to die in a matter of days. In that instant, whatever I wanted to do that weekend fell into a black hole. I couldn’t believe it.
Meg was the partner of my Uncle Grant. They both owned two houses, one in Guelph and the other in St. Marie’s, plus an apartment there above a store. It turned out that Meg was now at the Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario, a thirty-minute drive from St. Marie’s, and Mom told me we were going to St. Marie’s to see her. My fear and grief coursing through me prevented me from sleeping that night.
I’d refrained from telling you till now because my dad and sister had planned a trip for the two of them months prior, to go to a concert festival in New Orleans. My mom said she didn’t want to ruin their trip with the bad news, so I didn’t say anything on social media for fear it would get back to them. Please don’t judge anyone.
When we arrived there the next day, we arrived in Zone C of the hospital and took the elevator up to the top floor. And there was my grandpa Bop, and Grant, and I’d never seen Grant the way he was. He was pink, sweating, sobbing, and shaking as we hugged. I never thought I would’ve ever seen him as sad as he was. Every time we were with him, he’d always be the most cheerful guy in the room. Seeing him this way snapped my heart in two.
I’ll never forget the state Grant was in, nor will I ever forget the code number C7-313, the room I walked into to see her facing me. Meg was once again bald with only a few specks of her golden brown hair, wearing a blue hospital gown, and wearing a face mask that was covering her nose, two black Velcro straps holding it on her to keep her breathing properly. I was sad and crying before, but I was now staring at the woman who I knew I would never EVER see again and the both of us knowing it was only a matter of time before she died, and I fell apart in her arms. I’ve never cried that hard.
I mumbled as much as I could while my forehead was resting against her sensitive neck…”I love you so much” “I’m so so sorry” “I can’t believe this is happening” “I’ll always be with you…” and my mom, grandparents, uncle and I stayed in that hospital with her the rest of the day.
This reminded me exactly of the time my bulldog Duncan died. It was ten years ago, and the little sweetheart was first adopted before I was born so my parents could practice raising someone. My family and I took a three-day trip to a Hilton hotel that had a pool on the top floor. I don’t remember why. But I told Duncan, who was sitting up on his bed rug in my parents’ bedroom at the door, that I would be back soon, and he disappeared from my right view as I walked away. And two days into the trip, my Grandma told Mom and Dad he’d died and my sister and I found out when we returned…We’d never gotten another dog because the grief and pain we felt at losing him was too much for us.
That Saturday afternoon, I was told it would be time to go home, and as I stared at Meg again, I felt like I was being sucked up a vacuum cleaner. I pulled myself tight to Meg one last time, shaking like Grant was that morning, relishing her touch. I felt like after I’d let go of Meg for the last time, it would be like she was already dead, or even worse, that I’d killed her. I burst into tears I’d say seven times that day, and forever had deep fear of the phone, not wanting to know when she was truly gone. I didn’t feel like I could take it.
But here’s something that really broke me like a cracked egg. During that day, Grant told me that Meg was miserable, and didn’t light up much when he showed up to see her. Then apparently I walked into the room and her face lit up with a very bright smile. Grant told me that by showing up, I made Meg’s last days on Earth better, that I made her a little happier, and that Mom and I showing up to comfort Grant meant the world to him and he will never forget what we did for him and Meg. I will never forget either. People say real magic comes from love. They’re exactly right. I never thought I would be able to do something so important for someone who loves me and has been through hell.
Losing someone you love is something you might have experienced too, and I can’t think of anything more painful. Whenever I think about how everyone in my family gets older every year and some of them are in declining health, I want to curl up in bed and sleep for 100 years hugging my pillow.
That’s why I personally believe in the afterlife. It gives me hope that nothing is ever truly goodbye, but we still should relish every moment with our families.
Meg went through so much torture to keep herself healthy, something I don’t think I would be able to do. And like Grant, she was never angry, and even when she was tired from the medicine she had to take and tired of her necessary diet she was always happy and fun to be with, and I’m so lucky to be her nephew.