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Long-term Illness & Messy Grief


Stumbling across Greg's pulse oximeter tonight didn't bring the torrent of sadness that it would've months ago. It did, however, surface dormant anger and many difficult memories.


We purchased Greg's "pulse-ox" a few years ago when his lung function deteriorated rapidly and words like "lung transplant" began to be thrown around by doctors. It was one more worry to add to the list and one more stat to record each day. It might be a normal thing to track in your 80s, but it's a horrible reminder that your body is failing when you are in your 30s.


We used that little device faithfully for years and I probably should be grateful for it. After all, it prompted me to get help multiple times. Surely without it, we wouldn't have known when the "normal-bad" became "scary-bad".


Instead, I hate it and everything it represents. It reminds me of how helpless we were in the end and how all of our efforts to extend Greg's life failed. It reminds me of some really hard moments and how much suffering he endured.


When someone has been suffering for a long time, grief can feel extra messy. Some days I see things like the pulse oximeter and feel so relieved that it's no longer a part of our life. Greg's suffering is finally over. The anxiety and stress of caring for someone whose life is so fragile is finally over. Greg is free of pain, medicine, medical devices, ER visits, and all the other things that he hated so much but endured to be here for me and P as long as possible. I no longer have to watch as his failing organs steal more and more life from him.


Other days, I wish so much that he was here - even if it meant more suffering for him. I would take him back in a heart beat. His heart gave out long before we were ready to say goodbye. We miss him so much.


Tonight, I put the pulse-ox back in the box of bandaids. I'm not ready to let it go even though we have no use for it now. It represents a lot of pain, but it also represents our life with Greg. That tension of love and loss is something we have to live with every day.

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