I was her husband for 32 years, fulltime caregiver for her last 2 years, fierce patient advocate in the hospital and then a hospice facility for her last 2 months and now am a profoundly grieving widower 6 months after her death.
Missionary, social worker, preschool director, teacher, rural village project director in Africa and Brazil, bank vice president and business owner were all part of my wife’s remarkable life. She was always physically fit and full of life and energy until that day a CT scan, seeking answers for some minor GI issues, revealed a 21 month nightmare was about to begin.
Lela knew, the moment she received a stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis, that she was going to die sooner rather than later. She received the best care, at UCSF and Stanford, that medical science could provide. She fought valiantly doing all they recommended yet knowing it was a battle she would not win. She accepted what was to come with unending grace and courage.
It was I, her caregiver, who was unwilling to accept the fact that what I cared about most in my life was going to leave me. It was not out of any fear of death I had, for in my heart I begged to trade places with her. She was my hero and I simply could not accept the fact that try as I might, and oh, how I did try, I couldn’t prevent it from happening.
My reflection and struggle 6 months later are what more could I have done to help Lela die well, rather than just trying so very hard to compel her to live?