Any Other Way

I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses and those close to me would agree I can turn nearly everything into a fight. I’d probably wrestle with the Devil if he appeared on my doorstep. And I view this a strength.

The flipside of being so feisty is that I’ve a terrible Achilles’ heel. I don’t know how to quit. I hate giving up, or giving in.

Which is why my former mother-in-law is breaking my heart. She’s dying and there’s nothing I can do and there’s nothing anyone can do and I’m really struggling with this. I’m struggling to accept that the cancer has progressed too far–only weeks ago they held out hope that chemo would slow it down–and now we’re preparing for goodbyes. She was moved into a hospice facility today. They say two weeks maybe.

Two weeks?

This is my boys’ grandmother, and one of the best grandmothers on the planet. She loved them so dearly and she played with them so much. She was a fighter, too. And maybe that’s what I loved best.

I wish you knew Jackie. I wish everyone knew Jackie. Those of you who’ve read Flirting with Forty know the heroine is named Jackie and I named the character after my mother-in-law. When I wrote ‘Jack’ in the book it’s because that was my nickname for Jackie.

My Jackie Gaskins has had breast cancer twice before and she beat it both times. She went through unbelievable treatments to make it out the other side and during her second battle I sent her a fun shirt or outfit every week to add to her suitcase for the cruise we’d all take together once the cancer was in remission. I loved picking out colorful tops and festive skirts and beautiful jewelry for our cruise. She’d never been on a cruise and she wanted to go. I just wanted her to live.

I still do.

And this time I can’t buy her anything. I can’t promise anything. I can’t dangle a cruise or trip to Hawaii in front of her.

Two weeks they say. At the most.

No. No. I don’t accept it. I don’t. And she can’t either. My Jackie’s a fighter and she wants to keep fighting. She’s not ready for this and none of us are. There are people who don’t seem to live in life and not to be cruel, but those are the ones that should check out, not the ones that smile big, laugh hard, love a great joke, a cold beer and the grandkids.

I wish I knew how to let go better. I wish I knew how to help her say goodbye. But all I can do is say, Jack, I love you. Jack, we’ll always love you. And Jack, you might not be my official mother-in-law anymore, but I’ll always be your daughter.

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