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At the end of February, Marv asked me to organize a “last hug” tour to family and friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Chicago. I worked up a schedule for the following week and sent it on to the folks he wanted to see and said I hoped it would work for them. We are now home from that whirlwind six-day, 1600-mile trip.

Along the way, some people asked if we’d heard of Driving Miss Norma. We hadn’t, so I looked up the Facebook page her children started when their 90-year-old mother was diagnosed with cancer and she’d refused treatment, saying she “wanted to hit the road” and then traveled with her kids the final year of her life.

Marv wanted to “hit the road” too; he wanted to say farewell and give hugs to several siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, and employees. He drove all but the last 250 miles of the trip. Our son from Seattle flew in to O’Hare on our final day and, after we’d stopped for dinner in St. Charles, MN, he drove the final way home. I was relieved because it was then dark and time for Marv to have a break.

father and son

And here’s the thing: it’s not nice getting a cancer diagnosis. It’s not nice wondering what day it will be that Marv will tell me he’s noticed a new symptom. It’s not nice not knowing when the cancer will kill you. We’ve been told Marv will be going full tilt, and then he won’t. There will not be a slow demise.

But here’s the nice side: we have been given some time and being able to make this farewell hug tour was a huge gift. We know of Marv’s cancer only because he had chest pain on January 3, and tests done in the hospital showed his heart to be in good shape, but something awry in his left lung. So, we found out by default. Had he not had the chest pain, I would not have taken him to ER, and we still would not know he has lung cancer. And we would not know his days are limited. So, we would not have had the opportunity to become so intentional about our day-to-day lives, taking time out to take a farewell hug tour.

We are grateful.

leaving Hampton Inn, Chicago

Marv would like to take more hug tours yet–there are more siblings and friends to see, but we will decide that as we go along. Now we look forward to a visit from our adult grandchildren; they will be flying in from the west coast later this week.

Meanwhile we are having several hospice visits. I am super relieved to have their phone numbers on my phone, to know I have immediate backup for when it becomes necessary, and, as a nurse, to feel like I’ll never have to face whatever happens without professional support.

home again–Marv’s handcrafted bookshelf as backdrop