Ella, the elephant we all live with

I hate flying.

Even driving past an airport causes my stomach to tighten and my palms to sweat.

Is it fear of a crash, experiencing the worst kind of panic for less than a minute? Distress from my lack of control? The TSA, the dogs, the crowds — all of the above?

I don’t know. I just know that I’m scared to death.

Death … no one has come back and illuminated the process in excruciating detail for us. Would that even make us less afraid? Maybe, as Kierkegaard posited, a leap of faith is required or maybe because the process of dying was treated much differently culturally centuries ago?

Death may have no sting, but he sure does have a presence.

In Before I Go, Jane Duncan Rogers personifies death as an elephant: Ella the elephant. I like that. It’s so awkward and clumsy and takes up so much room. Plus everyone hates talking about death.

In the west, we have not done a good job of preparing ourselves for this unwanted end to our journeys.

A few weeks ago, someone from hospice came over to our house to describe the process and the benefits of Sam going on hospice. It’s a difficult step to take, and, fortunately, we have discovered that we are not ready to take it. Coming from the spokeswoman of this company, this lifts some serious weight off of my chest.

Despite how much I may share about our life, none of this is easy for me. There is so much that I don’t share. But fear and pain shouldn’t stop me from acknowledging and doing what is best for Sam and for me. Preparation has always helped us — even if it has made everyone around us uncomfortable.

Still, being with Sam every minute can blind me to when that next step should be taken, and it only gets worse the more Lou tightens his grip.

For the last four years, I’ve tried to walk the line between wife and caregiver. Sam’s caregiver sees the need and wants to do everything necessary to make Sam comfortable and to be prepared for everything. Sam’s wife wants to bury her head in the sand and believe that everything will stay exactly as it is. Sometimes split down the middle, sometimes a soupy mess, I am both.

This anxiety of losing my best friend and husband, my Sam, creates a certain amount of existential dread in my head, my chest, my heart for Sam and for our future.

Yet learning to live with this anxiety turns my dread into power. We can always use our friend, fear, to our advantage. The very thing that threatens to de-ceiling your world can huff and puff and just waste its breath.

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