Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Five Months Later

Today is my sister Mary Claire’s birthday. She would have been 56 years old today.

I wish beyond all things that she was here, so that I could bake her a cake like I did last year and celebrate with her. I would give anything to see her sitting on my couch in the den and holding her newest great niece, Ellen.

But she is not here. Instead I have spent the last five months mourning my little sister and coming to grips with everything that has happened since she told me about the lump near her collarbone.

I miss her every single day. I think about her every single day.

I have second-guessed every single decision we made about her treatment. And come to the conclusion again and again that we did do everything we could.

And I have relived the week and half while we cared for her in hospice over and over.

Ultimately, I have had to make my peace with not only what we did, but with what how it all ended.

This experience has changed me in ways I never expected. I am no stranger to losing those I love to death. I watched my father die in front of me when I was just seven years old. I lost five relatives between the ages of six and fifteen. And because of the experience of watching my father die suddenly of a heart attack, I developed a deep-seated fear of death that has haunted me my entire life. Until now.

Watching Mary Claire fight the inevitable those last weeks changed my perspective forever. She fought so hard for every moment, even though at the end the moments she was fighting for were moments where she was incapable of truly living. When I think back over what happened, the only thing I would change is that I would no longer deny the truth of what was happening to her.

By this, I do not mean that I would not have fought for her as hard as I did over those two years after we got her into M.D. Anderson. I would. Absolutely. But once we had no further options, I wish beyond everything that I had had the courage that my sisters Julia and Jane had to face the truth and the courage they had to tell Mary Claire the truth about what was going to happen. And if I am ever in Mary Claire’s situation, I hope that I have Julia and Jane there to tell me the truth. I promise I will believe you two.

I love you forever Mary Claire.

And I love you forever Julia and Jane.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


The eleventh post in my series on my sister, Mary Claire.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
At 9:30 tonight, my little sister, Mary Claire Chesnutt Luce, died. 

Only memories remain. Along with anger. Sadness. And relief. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Prayer for the Dying.

The tenth installment in my series on taking care of Mary Claire while she was in hospice care. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another day and Mary Claire still hangs on to life.

She has not eaten anything since last Thursday night.

For the past three days, the only thing she has taken by mouth is liquid morphine and an anti-anxiety med which we dissolve in the morphine.

Watching my beloved sister die a fraction of an inch at a time has been a nightmare.

When this all started, my only goal was to save my sister. Having now faced the reality that there will be no miracle for her, no cure for her, no way for her to live a full and loving life, I only want her to go and to be at peace. It is the most painful realization I have ever had to deal with. But it is the truth.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Every Day

The ninth installment in my series about my sister Mary Claire.

Monday, March 24, 2014
The first thing we do in the morning, when Jane, Julia and I wake up, is head to MC’s room to see how the night went and if there were any changes. At this point, there really aren't any changes and the few changes we see are very subtle.

Mary Claire is still hanging on to life. The hospice people say this could be because she is waiting for someone. Our mom perhaps, since everyone else has already been here. But we cannot bring Mom in to see MC with the way that MC is now. Perhaps she is simply scared to die. We don’t know. What we do know is that it hurts to see her this way. Even Mike, who we thought would never feel this way, seems to have reached that point.

And so we wait. Julia has all the funeral arrangements made. She’s picked out a plot at the local cemetery in Rockport and bought it for Mary Claire. She’s talked to the funeral home. She’s also made arrangements with a local restaurant that was a favorite of MC and Mike for a reception after the funeral Mass. Jane is writing her obituary. I am picking out the music and I have my children working on picking out the readings for the funeral Mass.

Jane and I have our system down now. Since we are giving Mary Claire the maximum dose of morphine every hour now, we are taking alternate days to be in charge of giving her medicine. Which is essential, as I’ve discovered it really is difficult emotionally giving her this much morphine every hour. One side fact: when we open a new bottle of morphine, we tint it with blue food coloring so that we can tell if the dose begins to run out of her mouth when we give it to her.