Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Goodbye Party for Poppa

With life comes the inevitable death. The time In between can be long or all too short. What we make of that time varies greatly from individual to individual. Comedy, drama, tragedy, melancholy, the possibilities are endless. As an adult, we come to accept all this. We accept that life is-what-it-is and it brings with it things we can control and many things we can't. Moreover, we accept that life will eventually end. But how do you explain this to a 4, nearly 5-year-old?

Several months ago, Poppa, my father-in-law, Mike B.'s stepfather was diagnosed with the worst form of Pancreatic cancer, survival rate 1%. This coupled with the litany of other medical complications he has been suffering with for the past 7+ years, the diagnosis was pretty much an announcement that the end of the journey was imminent. The hospital pushed to get him into a clinical trial, as the cancer had not metastasized, he was an ideal candidate. I had very little faith it would result in anything more the just delaying the inevitable, but you never know. Poppa wanted to participate, so with various tests performed to make sure he was a viable candidate, he began the program.

It was rough and he did see an improvement. But, as we all feared, it was not enough and the cancer metastasized. This meant he could no longer be part of the program and went on regular chemo therapy. Eventually he switched to a new Oncologist and after additional tests, she gave him 3 options to consider:

  1. Continue an aggressive chemo treatment which would be painful and exhausting that may give him another 3 months
  2. Pursue a less aggressive chemo treatment which would be less painful, less exhausting, and may give him another month
  3. Stop the chemo altogether and live as pain-free and comfortable as he can with the time he has left. 
He chose 3 and my mother-in-law promised him she would do everything she could to make him comfortable and pain-free until the end.

It has been rough for my MIL and those living in the household. From the time he began the clinical trial program to the present there have been highs and lows, humor and pain, frustration and coping. Our girls had started to have sleep overs at Granny's just about every other week which provided 2 rays of sunshine for Granny and Poppa. The past 3 weeks, however, Poppa has declined considerably and sleep overs are on hold until Poppa goes to Heaven.

The girls know Poppa is sick. They have seen his decline from their sleep overs and we have not shied away from answering their questions. At nearly 5, however, their understanding is still limited. 

This weekend, as we were shopping for Spring and Summer clothes, Eva kept talking about the goodbye party for Poppa and the dress she wants to where. She explained to me that when people go to Heaven you have to have a Goodbye party for them. But then they would come back and that you had to die before you could come back and be born again so we could see them again. We're not sure where she AND Rose got this from, probably school. While a bit unprepared for this response, both Mike and I don't have an issue with it as we both believe in reincarnation. 

She was getting very excited about the party! I tried to explain to her that it would be a sad party. I told her that when Poppa goes to Heaven it will be sad because we won't see him again. I told her that Granny and all of us will be sad and that Granny especially will need lots of hugs and kisses to help her not feel so sad. She then wanted to know who was taking Poppa to Heaven. I replied, probably God. This led down another discussion of whether God took everyone to Heaven..."Even in India?" Asked my daughter. 

Throughout this exchange, Rose just listened.

As I was getting Rose dressed after nap so we could go over to Granny's, she became very upset. She told me she didn't want Poppa to go to Heaven and began to cry. Someone, at that moment, punched a hole through my chest and yanked out my heart. As I struggled to hold back my tears, I asked her "Honey, what are you talking about?" Through tears she said she didn't want Poppa to go cause he wouldn't come back and she didn't want to lose her Poppa. At that point I lost it. I just grabbed her in a big hug and tried to calm her down through my own tears.

As I hugged her, I told her it would be okay. I told her that Poppa would come back, but he would be different and we may not know it's even him. I told her she has to be strong so she can help make Granny not sad. Then she asked why I was crying and I told he because she made me sad because she was so sad. She then said sorry for making me sad and wanted to make sure I wasn't going to Heaven for a really, really, really long time. For that matter, Eva informed me I was not allowed to go to Heaven for 100 years. We dressed Rose in her tutu and her tiara so she could be a princess ballerina for Poppa.

Downstairs Eva had chosen a book she wanted Daddy to wrap and give to Poppa to make him feel better.

This weekend I am to go to San Francisco to be a part of a one day surrogacy conference organized by Families Through Surrogacy. I was asked a while back to help out. There is a poetic irony in my going to be a part of talking about the possibilities of bringing new life into this world while Mike and I talk to our children about its culmination. Mike B. Was to have come with me, but with Poppa declining so fast, I will travel alone.

The coming days and weeks will be tough for the family as we all wait. We all hope when it's time, it will be quiet and peaceful. We don't know how the girls will react when it's finally "over." All we know is that there will be a Goodbye Party for Poppa and Eva wants to wear a pretty black dress for him and Rose will be looking for the new Poppa.


About Bernadette & Duane said...

Dear Mike, I am truly sorry that your family is anticipating such a great loss. In response to your question regarding explanation to the girls, I love the book "The Invisible String." It talks about how everyone we love is connected by an invisible string, even those we can't see. I love it and read it to Scarlett all the time i anticipation of the questions she will have regarding loss in our own family. Big hugs to you all and sad that you will be traveling alone this weekend. Fortunately, I am sure you will find much support in the surro-community as seems always to be the case during difficult times. x

Anonymous said...

Such a sorrow and loss. And so much love and caring amongst all of you. What wonderful daughters and people you are raising.
My 7 year old granddaughter just lost her father suddenly. Talking about death openly and honestly and about people who are now here just in our hearts and memories is good. Your girls will be a wonderful help to their granny and both their daddies.
I love when you post and appreciate your taking the time to not only post but also to go to the surrogate talk in SF. May the city wrap you in her magic and give you strength.

JohnQPublic said...

Very sad and touching. Best wishes for your journey.

Anonymous said...

Re the conference:
Under the circumstances you may not be able to attend. But thank you for supporting so well the growth of families for loving parents. You two and Edward's family were the first blogs I encountered on the subject of gay dads and surrogacy and you 4 men with your wonderful children have lifted my spirits so many times when hate seemed to be winning. Many many thank yous! Old Ca grandmother