I noticed John’s skin was different. It was shiny and his legs were getting irritated from the socks. His nails were red in the middle with some white on the edge. He was groaning in pain and couldn’t open his eyes anymore. I wondered how he would get through the next day. It seemed like this was the pattern though-friends would visit and it would tire him out so I didn’t think this was unusual.
I arrived back at the hospice at around 8PM. He had a busy day. There were visitors as well as his mom, sisters, and our children . We were in and out because his friends wouldn’t leave. I watched as his mother waited to spend time with him and one of his sisters had to leave a short while after she came. Our girls were in and out of the room asking to spend time with their father. If I could change that, I would. I would have kicked out his friends had I known this was his last day. The thing with someone getting sick is that people come out of the woodwork and you have to micromanage it. I tried but I needed to be stronger. I will never forgive myself for that.
His sisters were there and they didn’t leave until midnight which was a relief because he was so sick. All three of us were so busy taking care of him. He was in pain, nauseated and throwing up. I would push the call button for the nurse every 20 minutes. They would come and I would ask what meds he was on, if there was a doctor I could talk to and what are they doing for the pain. He needed more pain meds or a bigger dose. His eyes were goopy. I thought it was conjunctivitis. He was drooling but not regular drool and I didn’t realize this was what the body does when it’s dying. We kept telling him to open his mouth, stick his tongue out so we could clean it. Even dying, he could comprehend what we were asking him to do and he would do it. Come to think of it, I really wonder if the staff knew these were his final hours and just didn’t say anything. I wish they would have. I really wish I knew…
When his sisters left, I was putting in his TPN and the nurse asked me if I was in the medical field. I was surprised and when I said I wasn’t-he relaxed a bit. I guess I was too much in their faces but I just can’t get over the pain he was in.
At five in the morning, I finally went to sleep. It took several minutes but I was out. I woke once because it was so quiet. I looked up at John and he was still breathing but sleep took over again. I should have gone over to him and sat with him. At 7:29AM (yikes, I slept that long?) the morning nurse woke me and introduced herself to me. When she walked over to John, she realized he had passed away. She told me and I ran over to him. No. No. No. No. He was a bit warm. The nurse said it just happened (my guess was 6:30AM). They let me be with him for awhile. I held his hand. I felt his arm. I felt his heart. His heart. Oh my god, his heart. I felt his stomach. I cursed his tumor. I touched his cheek, stroked his forehead and watched him. I sang to him. It was a song he wrote. I always said that he wrote it for me and he would tell me it wasn’t but with a smile. Some of the words are “I want to be like you, doing always what you want me to. Take my hands and make them like yours. Take my heart and make them just like yours”. I would sing it to our girls because it sounds like a lullaby. I was there but I wasn’t there for him. Why? Why wasn’t I up all night by his side, holding his hand? I should have been there watching him take his last breath. I should have known that these were his last hours. Why didn’t I know? How didn’t I know?
The nurses came in and said they wanted to clean him up. I went to the living room and called his oldest sister.
I walked back into the room. This was hard. It’s not at all like the movies or what people tell you. I could not feel my legs. He was lying there. Still. I sat with him and told him I loved him over and over. When his sister came, we sat together and talked about the hours before. In between conversations with her, I would talk to John. Crazy, right? I noticed blue jays were busy swooping and chatting. We used to love to watch them in Northborough. They would tell us when a storm was coming or tell each other when I left bread crumbs out. So I asked John if the blue jays were telling us it was going to rain.
The rest of his family came to say their good-byes which was good timing because the hospice needed to contact the funeral home to come pick John up. We would have a few more hours with him.
My last moments with him were hard. He didn’t look like himself anymore and his skin was yellow, was this the cancer?. That alone would have made me turn around but when I held his hand for the last time, it was still John’s hand. I thanked John for our life together. I thanked him for loving me. I thanked him for loving all the dinners I cooked. I thanked him for being so patient with me. I thanked him for being my GPS and always getting me home. I thanked him for forgiving me in my darkest times and loving me still. I thanked him for New York. I thanked him for Indian food and tofu noodle soup. I thanked him for Izzy. I thanked him for KitKat. I got up and walked out but I went in again because I needed to feel him one more time. I took his hand and held it, turned and didn’t let it go until we were fingertip to fingertip. I am so glad I did that because at night or my saddest moments, I feel it.
It’s true what they say-it doesn’t matter what car you drive, what house you own, what clothes you wear-death takes only you. Death has no fear and I honestly believe now that death shouldn’t be feared. Death takes you calmly and death is quiet.
By the way, it rained that night…