Chasing Inspiration

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When It's Almost Too Much to Bare

My father-in-law is dying.

This is the first time I have put these words in print. It's one of the few times I have allowed myself to think these words. There's this sense of relief that comes with the admission, as well as a sense of dread.

We're not close, my father-in-law and I. I respect him and the person he has become over the 20 years I've known him. I admire the positivity he displays with his children regarding the cancer that is doing its best to eat away his life from the inside. I grieve for the pain he is experiencing and I wish he was closer so his family could be with him.

Even more than my feelings for my father-in-law, I hurt for my husband. He is not a stranger to loss. He lost a dear friend a few weeks after our wedding. We lost our first dog about five years ago (he was a special dog and we both mourned his passing deeply). He lost his sense of family when his parents divorced but learned to redefine family as people started to heal and move forward. Other family members have been lost - grandparents, his step-father. In all of these situations he has grieved.

He is preparing for a loss unlike any other. The loss of a parent. I do believe the loss of a child can eclipse the loss of a parent, but let's not split hairs. Loss is loss and when someone you love and have relationship with is suddenly missing form your life, you feel the pain. It can be as though someone severed a limb from your body and your told you must continue on, living life the way you did before. Only now, ha ha, without that limb. But don't complain. Don't argue. Don't give the appearance that you even notice the limb is missing.

Loss in our society is a sucky business. But I digress. This post isn't about my opinions on grief and how to handle loss. It's about the fact my father-in-law is dying and I can do nothing for him or for my husband or his family during this time. Except be. And pray.

I am learning once again how important it is to be and to give space when someone is either in the grieving process or preparing to be. He does not grieve in the same way I do. He's an introvert and internal processor. This means he likes his alone time and is more apt to think about things than talk about them. I'm an introvert and a verbal processor. While I like my alone time, I need to talk things through in order to truly understand them. The best thing I can do for my husband as he prepares to say good-bye to his father in little, painful steps is to give him his space, to let him experience this process in his way, and to be there for him to remind him that he's not alone.

I can also pray for him. And with him. We both believe in a kind and loving God. I am not a theological expert, but I can say I believe that God has given all of man free will and with free will choices. He has allowed life on this planet to progress naturally. Yes, I do belive in evolution. I don't necessarily buy into the fact we come from apes or something that climbed out the sea. That smacks of fantasy to me.

But I believe that this earth is progressing under the natural consequences of choices every living thing makes. And that with the evolution of all good things, there are what we consider the not so good things. I don't believe God will just wipe everything out and make it so bad things don't happen. To do that, he would have to revoke free will. Anyway, this is my long way of saying, I believe there can be horrible things like cancer and death and a kind and loving God. I believe there are mysteries that I am not meant to solve and questions bigger than I can answer. That sometimes have no answer.

I believe God wants to share in our grief. He wants to be present in our day-to-day. He wants to be invited in. So I pray. I do pray for healing, that by a miracle my father-in-law would be cured of cancer. I also pray for peace and joy. Yes, joy. Joy in a life well lived. Joy in knowing we are blessed to be a part of each other's lives. Joy in knowing death is not the end but another transition in our journey.

I also pray that my husband allows himself to grieve. That his family allows themselves to go through the emotions and stages of loss. Yes, even being angry at the cancer, at their father. At God. I pray for reconciliation. God has laid that on my heart since last year and while I'm not sure what I'm praying for here, I still pray it. God is good. He has a reason.

My father-in-law is dying. There is nothing humanly possible I can do to spare him the journey he is on. I wish I could. So I pray. And I grieve. And I give my husband the space and love and understanding he needs to play his part in my father-in-law's journey.


  1. Sorry to hear the husband's father isn't doing well. I'm lucky enough to have both my parents, but I know it's hard to lose one (or both). Even if the relationship isn't strong, knowing family is out there has a certain comfort.

    I also believe there are questions bigger than myself and to which there may not be clear answers. I pray that you both will find some peace with everything today and with whatever tomorrow brings.

  2. Amen to all that as we go through the same thing. Will be praying for Andy and his family. So hard. The process of dying is hard. Waiting to begin the grieving process is hard, strange, undefined. I think we will go visit my Father in Law today. Thanks for sharing.