Tag Archives: death

The Long Journey and The Destination

31 Jan

I just talked with the staff at the facility and we feel Ernie’s long journey is slowly coming to an end in this life.  He seems to be sleeping most of the time this week and not as interested in food or anything around him.  Last week was a challenging one for me and the staff as we saw him going through a new agitated phase with being restless, anxious, biting us, and simply not at ease.  It was then that I wondered if this wasn’t his own way of trying to “separate” himself from us. 

No, none of us are God and none us  knows when his time is over in this life — but our prayers have been for Ernie’s peace, dignity and for his greatest good all along.  With God’s help, I feel the time is near.  

Interestingly, last night I had a dream about my husband and he was the man we used to know…fully alive and happy and I felt safe being with him as we laughed together on a ride in one of his favorite cars. I awoke smiling as I realized that it had been a long time since I dreamed of Ernie as he WAS.    

Then, I opened a book in my bed stand and found some personal items that Ernie cherished about which I had forgotten:

  1.    A couple of personal notes he had written to me (and to himself) about how much he loved me.
  2.    A Valentine’s card to him from me with a lovely note written, from my heart, about my being by his side for a lifetime.
  3.    A beautiful letter from his oldest son, Dave, who wrote before he passed away, thanking Ernie for being such a good dad and for always being there for him.

After my chat with the caregiver today, I would not be surprised that those precious, personal findings were not an accident.

There is so little we know about this life and beyond but my belief is that we have the power to communicate at all levels in many ways.  I feel blessed that I got these messages.

A good friend, who has walked this road with her husband’s dementia, called me after reading my email/blog and set my mind at ease with her wisdom:  His agitation is his telling you that he is ready to move on.

It’s been a long journey.  And yes, I feel a bit frightened about his next step but I also feel more prepared.   Most importantly, though, I feel at peace that Ernie, himself, is now ready to move on.  My prayer is that he transitions bravely, peacefully, painlessly and feels the love surrounding him.

Learning to Let Go

6 Dec

We all know that learning to let go is a part of life.   There are so many occasions where we are faced with the reality that we must let go in order to move on.   When we go from one phase of life into another, it involves letting go.  We know the feeling of leaving a home, a job, a marriage, and even an old habit behind.  And those of us who have experienced losing a parent, loved one or dear friend, know the pain of letting go of their presence in our every day lives.

Since Ernie’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, both of us were forced to let go of  life as it had been in our normal married relationship.  I had to let go of my business opportunities and my every day activities in order to take care of his health and to stay on top of the new responsibilities of running a household and managing the finances.  Ernie had to learn to let go of the control of finances, driving a car, business dealings, and his love of playing golf, to just name a few.   As most of these let go’s were challenging for us both, we had no choice and found little time to mourn over these losses in order to keep proceeding forward.

When the disease advanced, Ernie had to move into a senior facility.   Both of us, again, faced letting go.  I was faced with letting go of married life as a full-time caregiver to a life of single living.  And despite it being somewhat of a relief from worry and exhaustion from being his caregiver, it was an emotional and extremely lonely time for me.  Ernie, on the other hand, had to let go of  the familiar comforts of his home and make the senior facility his new residence.  He had to learn to say good-bye to me each day/night I had to leave him.  Looking back, despite the emotional ups and downs, we handled these as well as to be expected.

Life now– as it has been for a year and a half — has become the norm with my visits to and from the senior facility which has become my home away from home.  The staff and other residents have become both his family and my family.  I know, deep down, that this is about to change.  Ernie is declining fast and I feel his time in this life is limited.

Over the last six months, he has lost 50+ lbs and is growing weaker by the day.  He is having frequent falls, now has a wheel chair, and seems distant and lost in how he spends his days.  Hospice visits him daily.  When not napping, he seems preoccupied with imaginary things in front of him at which he bats away or picks.  His conversation is  hushed with words that only he understands.  Occasionally, however,  a smile, a kiss or a touch of my hand surprises me as he comes into our “world” for a split second.  For that second, I give thanks.

Now, I am facing a bigger letting go…

I am not God, and don’t know the “when,” but I do feel the end of his life is approaching with each day.  I value our time together and, at the same time, am trying to prepare myself for the reality of his passing which seems imminent.  I know that the absence of Ernie from my life will be devastating and with it, will come the loss of Sunrise, “my home-away-from-home,”  its  residents with whom I have developed relationships, and the staff who I have fully trusted, and loved.

As we see it, we feel the best for Ernie now is to move on.  My prayers are for him to feel safe, unafraid, and loved whenever the time comes.  Still, I take in each day, and appreciate every moment I have with his physical presence and the visits with my family at Sunrise.   Am I ready to let go?  I’m not sure but I am certainly trying to move ahead the best way I can.  After all, letting go allows us all to move forward.

The Clock is Running Down

6 Jul

Oh, how I wish I could wind the clock and help it to keep ticking.  Unfortunately, this clock does not come with a key, weights to pull, pendulum to swing, or a battery to replace to bring it back to life.  This particular clock is running down fast.

I feel Ernie’s time is coming sooner than later.  Yesterday, I felt it more than I ever did.  The change in his health is significant and has come on so rapidly — just as the Care Managers warned.  I didn’t want to believe that this day would come, but it is upon us.  I saw it with my own eyes, felt it in my heart, and heard it from my inner voice.  I saw it in Ernie’s eyes and felt it in his actions, as well.  Now, more than ever, I realize that each ticking moment counts.

My Ernie looked much like a little wounded bird when I arrived.  I saw him standing with a hunched posture, looking extremely thin and  leaning against a door — gazing into the family room of the Memory Care unit.  It was as if he wasn’t sure where he was going, why he was standing there or how he got there.  But, blessed as we are, he knew me when I walked up and put my arm through his arm and lead him to a quiet place for the two of us to sit and be together.   He sat down in a comfortable chair as I sat facing him on the ottoman.   Ernie suddenly surprised me when he pulled my face into his hands and gave me a tender kiss. We held hands and he quietly mumbled some words to me.  He didn’t giggle or smile like he always did but he knew I was there with him.  He focused on me for short moments and then looked off into an unknown space.

I realized, at that moment, that my Ernie is tired — I don’t mean from his lack of sleep, either.  He is tired of fighting the terrible monster of Alzheimer’s Disease.   This was the first time I felt his readiness to give up the fight.  My courageous, strong, wise, yet Gentle Giant looked so frail, exhausted and lost.  I laid my head down on his knees and gently squeezed his hands while he drifted off to sleep. I was afraid to let go.   I quietly but deeply began to weep  with my head in his lap.  This cry was the deepest cry I have had in a long time. Although terribly sad,  I felt safe being next to him and I knew that he felt safe with me.  Ernie was always the rock of strength in our relationship.  Now, I am his rock.  These are our precious moments together and I feel blessed that, in this space of time, the chime is weaker but the clock is still ticking.

 It is so challenging  for me to see such a proud, dignified gentleman wind down.  And I know it is the way of things ahead — for as long as it is meant to be. I keep saying my prayer thanking God for yesterday and today and knowing that, together, He and I will deal with tomorrow when it comes.  I am not sure when Ernie’s pendulum will stop and his last chime will ring but I know I’ll be there the best I can for every last stroke.