A final answer

Today my mother-in-law called me with the autopsy report on her husband. There was no sign of a return of cancer. It wasn’t the liver function. It wasn’t the morphine. It wasn’t the pancreatitis. It wasn’t the staph infection he’d fought off. It wasn’t depressed vitals. None of the things he’d fought against for years was his undoing.

My father-in-law died of a massive, systemic bacterial infection that affected all his major internal organs except his lungs. It was a very unusual infection, and a sample has been sent to the CDC for analysis.

“That’s great!” I told my mother-in-law.

In the aftermath of death, you find yourself placed in the oddest circumstances, saying things that are just bizarre when you step back and look at it. That said, this is just about the best news we could’ve had without getting him back. Here’s why:

1) No one missed anything. It wasn’t that his doctors were careless. It wasn’t that my MIL should have fought to get him ventilated after the morphine. That wouldn’t have done anything. There weren’t signs that should’ve been heeded and weren’t. This likely had only been going on for a day or two prior to his death, and there really wasn’t any way anyone could have known.
2) Even if we had known it wouldn’t have changed much. Mike had vowed that he would never take antibiotics again. He had a terrible, painful reaction to them — and the amount of antibiotics this would have required might have killed him in their own right. I’m glad he didn’t have to choose not to fight it, but it would’ve been an awful fight. If there was any way for us to have known. Which there wasn’t.
3) It’s not genetic. There is no warning in this to Mike’s sons.
4) This particular infection might have killed a healthy person. I’m not entirely sure that’s *good* news, per se, but once this infection got started, even being healthy wouldn’t have helped him much. This helps remove any guilt about “if only we’d gotten him a little stronger”, etc. It wouldn’t have mattered.
5) It was quick at the end.
6) We KNOW. There isn’t a lingering mystery. That’s actually quite a relief.
7) There is absolutely no cause for guilt. This one was just bad fortune.
8 ) Mike went down a fighter. He must have really had amazing strength and constitution to fight not only all the things that were wrong with him from day to day, but this additional massive infection. It makes me feel like he went down throwing punches to the last.

Now that we know this, it really feels like we can start healing. The last of the mysteries are resolved. With that resolution comes the laying down of all the might have beens and would have dones that linger at the edges. It doesn’t make it hurt any less, or make us miss him any less, but it puts our mind at rest.

He went down fighting
He went down fighting

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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