I haven’t written for months as I found it too difficult…
Ernie passed away on February 18th and, as I look back, it seems a lifetime ago. I have felt a strong need to finish my story over these last few months not only to help others but to get a personal perspective on things that I had trouble facing during and after my husband’s last days of life. I find now is the time to recap and share the story…
As I watched my husband’s fast decline in the last few months of his life, I felt the best answer was for his life to end. It made sense — Ernie had lost the ability to connect and lived inside of himself. I received an occasional smile and, at one surprising moment, a kiss. I also received many a bruise as he became extremely restless and would take my hand or arm and try to bite me. He did the same with the staff. This was a terrible time for me as I did not know what to expect with each visit. It was also sad knowing that the proud Ernie (as the man he used to be) would be humiliated if he could see himself in such a state.
His appetite lessened and he continued to lose weight to the point of weighing less than my 124 lbs. In the last two weeks, Ernie found it difficult to swallow and within one week of no solids and little liquid, he moaned with his pain — perhaps from his organs starting to shut down. There was no question that Ernie’s time was approaching and, as I watched a brave man, who had never complained, whimper and groan, I knew it would be a blessing for him to move on.
Four days before he finally took his last breath, I was kneeling over his bed, crying and asking for someone to help him in his agony and, out of total surprise, he reached up and pulled my head into his chest, holding me as tightly as he could — his upper body shaking with all of his strength. The staff and I were shocked and we cried together. Ernie was aware of my pleading for help and knew I was there. Despite all of us feeling he was beyond normal communication, he connected with me. I will cherish that bonding moment between us for the rest of my life. Shortly after that moment, Ernie began his pain medication and drifted off into a deep sleep.
Ernie passed away peacefully on that Tuesday night. I was with him most of the day and whispered in his ear that I was ready when he was ready. I went home for dinner and it was then that he chose to leave. We had our good-byes and his time had come. The next few weeks became a blur with family plans, service arrangements, and a stack of paperwork beyond what I had ever known!
But after all quieted down, it hit me like a ton of bricks! He was truly GONE. As much as I felt I was prepared and ready, I wasn’t. My adrenaline got me through all the planning, his Celebration of Life, the moving out of his room, and the good-byes to the Sunrise family of staff and residents. Suddenly, I was alone — really alone.
My advice for anyone going through this, have your plans made ahead of time with the funeral home, research and write the obit and have important paperwork and contact phone numbers organized for when the emotional time comes of your loved one’s passing; Then life, although in a state of confusion, will be less over-whelming.
It is my conclusion that we are never ready for the passing of our loved ones — no matter how long they have suffered. Despite how prepared we feel we are, when the actual event occurs, the loss only brings confusion and feelings of emptiness as we try to find clarity in the engulfing fog that surrounds us due to their physical void.
I now know that the lessons we can learn through this are unrivaled. Through the days, months, years of Ernie’s disease, I am a stronger, wiser, and more complete person. I have no regrets and I feel indebted. The blessings of having served such a fine man through it all, was an honor.
Life will move on as it should and I now take a deep breath, give thanks, trust, and continue valuing the moment – because that is really all we have.
To be continued…