It was a Sunday. My husband, the kids, and my father in law had left to go swimming and my mother in law and I sat at their dining room table drinking coffee and doing a jigsaw puzzle together. It was our “Thing”. My MIL had emphysema and was on oxygen 24/7 and didn’t leave the house much. So when we went to visit, her and I would do puzzles together and chat. About the kids, politics, her love of antiques, the weather, you name it.
But this Sunday was different. I can’t remember what started the conversation. I am just glad we had it. We were doing a puzzle of Times Square. It was lively and fun and showed people happy and excited. I couldn’t help but notice the contrast, and it made me sad. And somehow, we started talking. REALLY talking. And my story came out. She knew parts of it, the bits and pieces that I shared with the world. She knew, obviously, about my surgeries, and how sick I had gotten, etc. But she had no idea about my depression, suicidal thoughts, and how DONE I had been. So I told her everything. Every syllable of pain I had lived in for 5 years came spewing out in between tears and sips of coffee. When I was done, she looked at me, her eyes misty, and said, “I get it.”
Three words spoke VOLUMES to my heart and to my soul. I KNEW she got it. She was DONE. She was tired of being attached to her “leash” (oxygen tube), she was tired of fighting for each breath, she was tired of being sick all the time. And *I* got it.
That conversation was a turning point for us. From that moment forward, I felt an intense bond to her that I cannot explain. The saying “misery loves company” is true in a sense. It isn’t that I loved that she was miserable, I just loved that she understood what most had not. And I know she felt the same. Unless you have dealt with horrific chronic pain/illness, you just cannot understand. And we knew that we both “got it”. She looked at me that day and said, “Living and being alive are two different things.” And she was so right. For so many years I had been alive, but I had not been living. But I had a second chance that she would not be getting. She knew there was no getting better for her.
So then it was her turn to open up to me. She told me her wishes. Told me all about her living will and how she just couldn’t deal with one more thing. She lacked quality of life and she was exhausted. It may have been the saddest, and most memorable conversation of my life.
I may not still have my mother in law, as she died a few short weeks later, but I have that puzzle. And I have the memory of that day so etched into my heart that I will never forget it.