My brother-in-law has terminal cancer and is living five minutes from his home in a reportedly beautiful and gracious hospice center. Nevertheless, he fights for the chance to go home, preferably not to die, but rather to live.
He is a trooper and a man of conviction. While cancer has overtaken his body, he is oh-so-alive in his mind. And, in his mind, he will continue that state as long as humanly possible. Why, you ask? I had that same question.
I can’t help but credit that, at least partially, to the love of his own brothers and sisters, my sister, and his mom and stepdad. For the past several months, my sister and his mom have tag-teamed 12-hour vigils—never leaving his side. His brother and sisters have also stayed overnight to help with shifting his position in bed, replacing ice packs, or whatever was needed.
He was diagnosed seven months ago. Young and (we thought) healthy and strong, we didn’t think his body would be ravaged so quickly. While visiting my family last summer, I remember watching his mom (who battled lung cancer and had surgery soon after his diagnosis) lovingly make his favorite meals—while she still could, and he could still enjoy them—even though she was tired and it must have been hard. When we offered to help, she would have none of it. Happy to recreate family memories through meals and give my sister a well-needed break, there was seemingly nothing she would not do for her son.
I can’t help but wonder, without the love of family, where he would be. My talk with him by phone a couple of weeks ago spoke volumes with the points he didn’t mention. Having been a hospice volunteer myself, I asked him if he was ready (to go). He vehemently said, “No! No! I am most definitely not ready to go.” He is fighting to extend his life as long as possible to be with those he loves and who love him.
He is someone who is all about family. And, clearly, his family is all about him.
As of Christmas, there is no cap on meds to make him feel comfortable. He is now at the point that he pushes a button to receive higher and higher doses of pain medication about every 10-15 minutes. But the love of this son for his wife, his mom and dad, and the rest of his family is stalwart. What is obvious: he wants to stay—for them! Giving love back to them as long as he can for the gifts of love he receives now and has his entire life.
Death – transitioning – is best done in love, with one’s loved ones. It is not something one associates with adoption. But, in perspective, it has a role.
I cannot help but think about the thousands of children and teens waiting to be adopted. If they age out of the system, while they could certainly marry and have their own families, were they faced with such a situation, parental love—perhaps in the form of meals made from scratch and heart or 12 hour vigils and bedpan duty—would be missing.
Come to think of it, life is best done in love, with one’s loved ones, too. It is the small moments of being together—in fun times or bittersweet moments—that comprise the not-thought-of parts of reasons to adopt and build a family through love.
Our (adopted) daughter said she talked with her uncle recently and told him how happy she is to know him, and thanked him for the sparkle and the genuine love and laughter he brought to our family. She recounted how blessed she felt that we shared our lives. In saying good-bye, she wanted him to know the fabric of family certainly extends beyond his nuclear one.
But having a nuclear one is important.
Adoption, in its purpose and greatness, does change lives. I can’t help but wonder if relating this would get others to think about the small, subtle and perhaps unspoken and unimagined ways that adoption—the building of family—for life and even for death—is the gift of a lifetime/ultimate gift.