I had planned to do a funny bit about bad metaphors and redundant terms in fiction writing today, but the phone rang at five-thirty a.m. and it was my wife's sister:
My mother-in-law died this morning.
This was both completely unexpected -- and not at all a surprise: My mother-in-law was a Christian Scientist, and since they don't talk about things like illness, much less the possibility of death, she hadn't let on that she was anything but fine.
From twenty-five-hundred miles away, it was hard to tell otherwise. My sister-in-law, who lived a few blocks away, didn't keep us apprised, being a Christian Scientist herself.
This is a large can of worms in our house, cause for much anger and grief, since my wife's middle sister died almost a dozen years ago, and she was also a Christian Scientist. Nobody bothered to tell us she had breast cancer -- nobody ever actually told us that at all -- and by the time we found out, it had spread beyond any hope of medical treatment.
She found a small lump in her breast a year before she died. A year. And she prayed instead of seeing a doctor. She never told my wife about it. She came to see her mother a few weeks before she died, and we all took turns sitting with her when she finally passed away.
There is no way of knowing if she would have died anyhow, western medicine can't cure everything, but the odds would have been in her favor. She left behind a grieving husband, two not-quite-grown sons, and a sister who mourned her beyond my ability to put down here. I thought it was a terrible, terrible, waste, and, more horribly, that she was blamed for dying because her faith wasn't strong enough -- that put me into a murderous rage.
If you have ever sat up half the night with somebody hallucinating monsters because of what was probably metastatic brain cancer who wouldn't take medication to help, you might have some idea of how angry I was when it was all done.
Yesterday, my sister-in-law called to tell my wife that their mother had not been eating, and that they had driven her to Dallas, Texas, from Baton Rouge, to put her into a CS nursing home.
How bad is she? my wife asked.
My sister-in-law was vague. She doesn't really know much about illness.
Should I fly down? Call? My wife asked.
Maybe not yet. She probably doesn't feel like talking.
So before my wife could do anything -- Less than twenty four hours later -- her mother was gone.
She never told us, but the ME in Dallas knew by looking at her:
Two weeks ago when my wife talked to her, her mother allowed as how she had lost some weight, but that she was fine. And from our experience, we now realize that this was something less than truthful disclosure. She had probably been ill for months, at least. Maybe years.
I am perfectly willing to allow that people should be allowed to believe whatever they wish, as long as it doesn't involve making me believe it, or hurting others. But I have to say, straight up, that my experience with Christian Science causes me to despise it. It has given my wife no end of unhappy times, and I have no use for it whatsoever. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law were deeply committed to it, and it didn't work for them.
If you disagree with my opinion, don't bother to tell me. I don't care to hear what anybody thinks about this particular subject from the other side.
My mother-in-law and I seldom saw eye-to-eye on much of anything, but I knew the woman for more than forty years, and I am sorry that she is gone -- and sorry for the path she chose to leave.