Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Monday, February 14, 2011

July 25, 1970-February 14, 2011

Mat died today. On Valentine's Day, of all the days.

We're all in shock despite knowing this would happen, but wanted you to know.

The funeral will be Saturday.

Saturday, February 05, 2011


It's been a good week.

I'm not kidding. These are not at all the despair-filled days I have imagined over the nearly six years of the course of this disease.

Peace has descended on our home. Mat is far more zen-like than I am, and he has long accepted that his life will be short. I didn't think this was possible, but I have too.

I can't explain exactly how this happened. Mat's frame of mind certainly helps, and his latest prognosis has brought clarity. No longer split between hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, my energy is focused on acceptance. Some inspired conversations have also helped.

Klara, the tall, blonde hospice nurse, said to Mat, "You know, one of the reasons you are doing so well is that you understand that you are not your body. You are not declining, only your body is declining. Your spirit is growing stronger all the time and is beginning to shine through. You're like a house whose panels are falling off and light is coming out. Soon the house will be gone but that light will still be there."

Mostly, though, I think this acceptance is a gift from God. I know that God's plan for Mat and our family is for him to die soon. I don't like it, and I don't understand it, but I accept it.

This week Mat has been purposeful and mentally, if not physically, energetic. There has been a steady stream of visitors at our house, some of whom have flown across the country to be here, and Mat clearly loves it. He wants to see as many people as possible (before 6 p.m. please, to preserve some time with the kids), and has talked on the phone to say goodbye to many others. Mat has also spent time with the kids, sat with them in front of a fire roasting marshmallows, and given them father's blessings. And today Mat and I spent some time in the celestial room of the Boston temple. It was a piece of heaven on earth.

It's not all spiritual depth at our house. Mat has been watching episodes of his new favorite TV show, Bizarre Foods. He finds it soothing to watch the host travel to exotic places and eat things like guinea pigs and wild boar testicles, and Ian loves watching it with him. I also join him, but only for a dying man would I watch someone sucking on an eyeball. (Sorry! That was gross!)

And for the last book he will read Mat has chosen not War and Peace or Dr. Zhivago but ... Princess Stories. It's a favorite of mine from childhood, and we read a chapter together every night before bed.

Of course it's also been a difficult week. Mat is increasingly in pain, and changes in his pain medication help but can't seem to quite keep up with the spread of his cancer. His port -- that crucial device implanted in his chest that delivers pain medication -- is regularly threatening to malfunction. I flush it three times a day and pray that it will work as long as he needs it. Mat is also now unable to walk without assistance, and then only a few steps.

Life has become painful, tiring, and difficult for Mat, and he is ready for it to be over. And I am ready to let him go.

At least for today, I am not afraid.