Exactly one year ago. To the day. After nearly a month of hospice care in our home, my mother-in-law slipped into a deep sleep. When we could no longer wake her, a hospice nurse came to sit at Jeanne’s bedside and administer medications to keep her pain free. Three days later, on November 9, 2008, Jeanne took one last, deep breath and was gone.
This blog is my public writing life, week to week. I blog quickly, following an image or idea for a few paragraphs before a quick spit polish and photo selection. Click and publish.
You know, I’m sure, that there’s private writing, too. The pretty thoughts go to the blog, but I get to know my own heart by smearing the ugly bits onto the page and then sorting through.
In my private writing, the process is slower. It takes me at least a month to write a single essay. Eventually the essays become chapters and the chapters become a book.
I’ve been writing about the seven years we shared a household with my mother-in-law, and especially about the final years when Jeanne’s health grew poor and then poorer. One of those essays, titled “Autumn Sage,” was published this month in Ascent.
I’m stunned at how much has changed since Jeanne’s death a year ago. From an extended-family household back to a nuclear family. From North Texas to small town Oregon. No more wheelchairs or oxygen tanks. No more home health nurses or changing her wound dressings or watching for new signs of infection. My domestic life now is about raking leaves and composting and listening for Canada Geese and watching the seasons change.
I miss Jeanne. I do. We’ve started a new life in a beautiful place because Jeanne said “enough” and stopped medical treatments. She died and released me from caregiving. Now instead of learning side effects to her medications, I am memorizing the names of the trees and mountain ranges and planets in a night sky far from city lights. I’m grateful to Jeanne for making that last, hard decision. This life in Oregon came to us through Jeanne’s death. I watch the geese fly overhead because Jeanne was willing not to see them any more.
Last night we saw a glow to the northeast, at the apex of the hills.
“What’s that light?” I asked Todd.
“It’s the moon rising,” he said.
I looked harder. How is it that I am forty-five years old and have never seen the moon rise? After a few moments the clouds parted like curtains, and we watched the rising of that full and luminous lady.