We brushed remnants of sand off our feet and shuffled into the family room of the rented beach house. My parents, siblings, and our spouses squeezed onto the worn couches, while a few nieces and nephews sat on the floor. This family vacation wasn’t one any of us really wanted to take—or at least under these circumstances. It’d be the last time we’d be together while my mom was still alive. She sat next to my dad, and the two of them updated us on her cancer prognosis. My mom’s t-shirt sagged over her thin frame. Every once in awhile, her eyes closed mid-conversation, her body grasping for whatever rest it could find.
We talked about what hospice would look like, their financial picture, and when my dad would take a leave of absence from work. We asked if he could adequately care for her in the wake of his own cancer diagnosis a year earlier. It’s a conversation I wish I’d never had, but I’m grateful for it. Not many people get to ask such blunt questions and be given honest answers.
I stared at the carpet, shifting my weight in my seat every few minutes and mentally cursing the old sofa for my discomfort. The tears fell and we passed tissues around. I tried to listen and be present in the conversation, but I could think only about the gaping hole in my own future.
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