Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Death of Thomas Johnson ~ Two Years Later

Today Marks the 2 year anniversary of my Brother-in-Law Tom's Death. It also marks the 1 year anniversary of the day my Husband Johnnie was diagnosed with Melanoma. The irony being that Tom died of stage IV Melanoma.

Johnnie discovered his tumor while being treated for a pit bull attack. I guess life is just full of irony. Tom waited 17 years to see a doctor about the lump in his neck and eventually died. Johnnie started treatment ASAP and is still with us. A year and multiple outpatient surgeries later, Johnnie remains cancer free.

I'm fat, which to a lot of people is the same as being worthless and ugly. Doesn't matter I'm smart and talented ... they can't hear me, and when these people look at me ... all they see is FAT. My brother-in-law Tom was one of those people.

The day my future brother-in-law Tom learned I was going to marry his brother he took it upon himself to drive to my home. He didn't want me to marry his then 46-year-old brother.

He came with a basket full of reasons why I should leave Johnnie. Tom said (1) it was too soon after the death of his Mother, (2) Johnnie hadn't yet dated enough women, Johnnie needed another type of woman (translation: NOT FAT LIKE YOU), and that there's no way Johnnie would have thought of marrying had "I" not put the idea in his head. (For the record Johnnie asked me, not the other way around).

I told Tom I loved Johnnie but I wasn't desperate, if Johnnie told me he didn't want to get married I'd leave him alone. The thing is, Johnnie wanted to get married and was righteously pissed off at his Brother for suggesting otherwise.

When we got past Tom's polite BS, the simple truth was he didn't think me good enough, successful enough or attractive enough to be in HIS family. He refused to come to our wedding. And for the entire time we were married, until the time he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, he took every opportunity to make my life a living hell.

I'm not going to write about the things Tom did to hurt me, or drive Johnnie and I apart, other than to say he very nearly succeeded. In 2003 I moved out for six months, and returned only after Mel developed health problems. Johnnie and I cared for Mel - unassisted by Tom - until his death five years later.

Three months after Mel died, Tom moved in to do hospice in our home. We cared for him until his death, three months later.

Tom and I talked a lot during his last days. We talked about the weather, about movies, cooking, about the crazy things he'd done over the years, and how sad it was that we'd never been friends. Ever the opinionated bitch, I told him that was his fault. He looked at me with sad eyes and answered, "I know I know".

I'm not sure if it was the all pain medication making him chatty, or what. He apologized to me and begged Johnnie's forgiveness for a lot of bad stuff he'd done. It was a heartbreaking time for the everyone.

Tom died a slow, agonizing and painful death. Prior to his passing, I wondered if I had it in me to comfort and/or hold him when he died. Some of the wounds were still to raw and painful ... the past too close.

When told he was dying, Tom's beloved x-girlfriend Kris came and stayed at the house. Amazingly Tom rallied and came back to life. After a week of no food, Tom ate everything Kris gave him, drank fluids, and seemed to rally. She called her family and all their friends who also came and sat with Tom. Our home was filled with Tom's friends. Kris took amazing and loving care of Tom. After two weeks she needed to take care of a few work related things.

I'll never forget the day Tom died. Kris had to leave. I'm a respiratory therapist. As such I worked in the medical field for the better part of two decades, so I knew the signs. I told her I thought Tom only had a few hours. But then I'd told her Tom was dying two weeks ago ... and he kept coming back.

About a half hour after Kris left the house, Tom's breathing became labored and rapid. I talked with Tom and held his hand, the fear in his eyes filled me with a type of sadness I've never known.

Over the years I've stood vigil to hundreds of deaths ... just part of my job. I also did CPR on both my Dad and Uncle when they each succumb to heart disease. But I've never seen a death like Tom's. As ordered, I put a Ativan under his tongue and told Tom to try and relax. I called Johnnie into the room and told him it was time. I left a message on Kris' phone.

As Tom lay dying, Johnnie scooped him up in his arms and talked to him. He kept talking with Tom until his breathing stopped. I was telling Tom to relax and not be afraid ... to let go. He was looking at me and crying. When it was over I was amazed to find myself laying on the bed beside Tom, cradling his hand in mine. Something I hadn't thought myself capable of.

I don't know if my presence gave Tom any sort of comfort during his death, I only know I'm glad I was able to try.

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    I really enjoy your blogs.. I saw you first over at Rick Ross Forum...I post as Wondering Why on Salty's site..Keep up the good work!