So much has happened in the last several hours that it seems like a lifetime ago that I wrote yesterday's entry.
But it wasn't a lifetime ago.
It was two lifetimes ago.
Something I have kept from this journal for a very long time now, because it wasn't my news to share, is that Char's sister, Flo, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and for the last couple of months has been on Hospice care. Char knew that there was a good chance she would die while we were on our trip, but her primary caregivers, other than Hospice, has been Char's absolutely terrific kids and she knew that she was leaving Flo in good hands. She was comfortable knowing that "the call" might well come during the trip.
Walt and I returned from Jenny's...whatever night that was (it seems like 6 weeks ago). In the morning Jenny and I shared the latest bits of information we had about Mike's condition:
Basically he has aggresive pancreatic cancer that has metasticized to the stomach, liver, and probably the lungs, with a tumor surrounding his aorta and other major blood vessels (making it inoperable) and another one perforating his stomach causing the leaking of acids and gasses into the abdominal cavity and likely causing lesions on his lungs. His kidneys and gall bladder may also be affected. There really doesn´t seem to be anything they can do except provide for his breathing and fluids, and relieve pain and discomfort.
That left little room for anything but awaiting the inevitable.
That was followed by another message:
Dad is only doing worse. His kidneys are failing and his heart is having issues. There is nothing they can do to make him better and they have tried to ease him back to consciousness with no success. So now we are basically waiting for him to pass. A priest has given him last rights. The doctor says it could be days or hours.
They found a priest and he received the last rites.
We asked about a priest. They said it might be difficult. This is not a religious area - former East Germany. Priest did come, very nice guy with fairly good English....It was nice, prayers and anointing. Mike would have been pleased.
Jenny had received the messages while she was at Flo's to check on her. Her message to me was short and sweet: "I'm at Flo's and it is not good here either."
Shortly after that message came, the phone rang and it was Jenny. Flo had just died. She was going to be dealing with hospice, with the undertakers, with lawyers and with the dog walker and she wanted to know if I could go to her house to be with her girls. Walt and I were on the road within 15 minutes. This time I packed to stay overnight. Walt couldn't stay because he had to get back for a meeting in Davis.
The girls and I had more pizza for dinner and Jenny finally got home after 9, drained from her day dealing with the after-death affairs of Flo. We watched the end of the World Series Game 1 and then went to sleep. There were plans to Skype with the Germany group and people here in California at 7 in the morning.
In the morning we eventually got on the Skype call, 4 computers -- the two daughters in Germany, the two sons-in-law at two different computers in California, and Jenny and me on the fourth computers. It was essentially the same information. We learned that in Germany you can't choose to remove a patient from life support, but the doctor could reduce the oxygen level and up his meds so he was not in pain. The doctor couldn't say how long it would be, possibly days, but maybe just hours.
Jenny's husband, who had been halfway across the country trying to settle the estate of his mother, who died 3 months ago, was flying into San Francisco and Jenny set off to pick him up. She was gone a couple of hours and when she walked in I could tell by her face that it was bad. She had just received word that Mike was gone. We cried together and then set about letting people know.
This is pretty much how Jenny and I spent the afternoon.
We both had our cell phones; she had her laptop, I had my iPad and with text, and e-mail and FaceBook messaging and any other social media form we could use, we managed to contact lots and lots of people. And we were both getting back messages of sympathy. At one point I realized that I was getting sympathy messages to ME from Char's relatives, who have followed our travels on Funny the World over the years! And occasionally Jenny would get calls from friends of Flo. It was just Death Central all afternoon.
But I've learned that after a death, the busy work of making arrangements and spreading the word is very therapeutic. I remember during my times of deepest grief, after Gilbert's death, after David's and after Paul's I always said that I never cried so much...but I also never laughed so much either. The body can't sustain deep grief. There has to be a break to laugh...or just talk about something else.
In spite of all the trauma and emotion, somehow Niki seemed to take it all in stride.
Around 4, we Skyped with Germany again. This time it was everyone, including Char, and it was more a nuts and bolts kind of chat. Tomorrow they have a list of English-speaking mortuaries to contact to find out about cremation and shipping Mike home and then, as soon as they can, they will be heading back to California. Char says she is thinking about writing a book called "The Taxis of Magdeburg" because she has become an expert this week.
And then there are not one, but two funerals to plan.
This was the day I planned to be having chocolate croissants in Paris. Walt, bless him, picked up frozen croissants at Trader Joe's, and we will have our croissants anyway.