Saturday, December 12, 2009

Final Days

A friend is losing her husband. It really sucks because she was in a very unhappy marriage that took her years and much pain to get out of. She went it alone for a few years with her two boys who are now grown men. She became involved in local politics and met a man who was a long-term bachelor. They became friends and then they became lovers and were married. She was happier than I've ever known her to be. Not very long after their marriage, he was diagnosed with Stage IV esophageal cancer.

Last Sunday, I went over to her house to watch him while she went Christmas shopping. Hospice had provided them with nursing visits, a feeding tube and a hospital bed. At that point, he was sleeping most of the time. About every hour, he woke up and tried to sit up and asked for his wife. Like a child, he was comforted by the news that she would be home in a few hours, each time asking me what time it was now and how long until she was expected home. When she got home, she gently woke him and told him she was home.

That night he was admitted to Hospice. I was not able to go visit her until Friday night. I spent several hours with them Friday night. He was not able to speak anymore; experienced quite a bit of what they call terminal restlessness; and needed to have her in his sight most of the time. It is hard to know what he is thinking as he is not able to talk. He seemed to recognize voices and he certainly tracked his wife with his eyes.

Saturday morning, I went over again. She tried to lay with him in his bed, but because of the way he was laying, it upset him too much. He could hear her voice, but could not see her. So she moved to the chair to hold his hand. Watching her with him these last week has been very moving. She speaks to him in a firm quiet voice, telling him that everything is ok, he shouldn't be upset, he should stop fighting, she has taken care of everything. It is hard to know how much he understands of what is going on around him, but today he smiled at her and lifted his head off the pillow so that she would kiss him. After she kissed him, he smiled again.

Friends come in and out to visit him. Some are not able to visit - it upsets them too much. This morning, his former neighbors came to see him. A young couple with a teenage daughter: The wife was able to visit with him but her husband began crying as soon as he came into the room. He fled quickly for the hallway and did not return. The teenage daughter was awkward and nervous in the face of death. She said hello and then also began to cry.

Hospice here is a wonderful place. The facility is beautiful and the nurses are so kind and helpful. But as my friend said today, no one should have to go thru this process.


grace said...

oh Cathy. I am sorry for your friend, but at last she found someone who loved her dearly, and treated her the way she should be treated. That is special, that some of us will never know.
I took care of my Mom while she slipped away from life with cancer, my Brother and I stayed with her at home with Hospice. The nurse we had was amazing, the whole organization. It is a tough one to witness and go through, but I looked at it with a positiveness, that I was able to help my Mom leave this world in peace and comfort and with great care and love. In fact, I did my Mom's hair at the funeral home for her service, now that was bizarre and fulfilling at the same time, because I know she would have been proud that 'I' did her hair! I remember letting my last Brittany go at a vet hospital because she was overtaken by cancer, and made the grave decision to let her go, I was with friends and they too, could not handle it, I embraced it with the fact that, I will be the last person she looks at and I will send her off and be there with her, just like my Mom. I recently at Thanksgiving lost a dear Aunt I went and visited at her home, just before she left, unable to move anymore from Bone Cancer. It is very difficult to see a loved one in this undignified manner of cancer. NO-one should ever have to end their life this way. As like my Mom, my Aunt Mary Ellen was just a shell of her former self. But I know our loved ones need and appreciate the love given to them in their last moments here, and that is why I considered doing some type of help with Hospice, I am not a nurse, but wanted to volunteer in some way. But unfortunatley, I am in a position where I need to work for money in order to support myself. Maybe I will get to do that sometime in my life.
We should not look at the face of death with being scared but that we should look at it with, let's let this person know they are loved here so that they can leave with all that love and take it with them.
I ll shall keep you, and your friend in my thoughts and prayers. much love, xo

Georg said...

i like this words "We should not look at the face of death with being scared but that we should look at it with,"

thank you for sheering this feelings ,

Alex said...

i can't even begin to imagine how your friend must be feeling at this point....

grace said...

Happy Thanksgiving Cathy. I hope you are well, and that your friend is doing well.


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