End of Life Trauma #9 – The Final Week.

I’m sure most people think of hospice as that short period that ends the suffering of terminal patients. This post will try to explain that this description is simplified at best, and actually somewhat misguided.

As my wife continued her final eight days in hospice at our new home at the best senior community in our region, she was without pain because of the regular doses of morphine that the day staff nurses and I were giving her. She was also getting an anxiety med that calmed her somewhat. But, she still remained scared to death, thinking that she was dying. Also, being the stubborn independent that she was, she hated the fact that she couldn’t even go to the bathroom without help! Toward the end, she couldn’t even turn over in her bed without assistance. These things hurt her tremendously.

As the week progressed, her hands and feet began to turn blue due to low blood flow. On the fourth day, she pretty much lost contact with reality. In some ways that was a relief in that she at least didn’t suffer mentally. By the sixth day, I had pretty much given up hope of being able to even tell her that I loved her or to really say goodbye.

And then, what seemed impossible suddenly happened!

I walked into her room on the seventh day, and it became very obvious that she was back! Her eyes were once again able to focus, and she even managed to carry on a conversion with me via sign language. That had been shut down days before. I had so much to tell her and I didn’t have a hint as to how long she would remain lucid. I found out later that this phenomenon of a sudden burst of energy before death is somewhat common and is called. “Terminal Lucidity”.

I told her that I loved her more than anything I could express, and that I just didn’t know if I could manage without all the help she provided with the hearing world. As a response to these words, she gave me two pieces of advice that I will remember forever.

Chill Out

Be Patient

I seem to constantly get upset about things that I can’t do anything about. Politics is the main antagonizer in this area, but there are many others. I just have to learn to either ignore those things or quickly brush them off.

Plainly speaking, patience has never been a strong suit for me. Amazon, with its one or two-day delivery, has caused this to go Uber with almost every other business I deal with. Of course, I am also impatient with myself, thinking I have to get everything done now. No eating, no sleeping until it is done. That’s part of my Aspie traits that I may not be able to conquer! 😎

Getting back to the terminal lucidity story, it lasted for about a half hour before she went back into oblivion. It was after this talk when Jessica told me she will likely die in the next two days. Sure, enough, she took her last struggling breath about twenty hours later.

When she died, it seemed like the world had also ended for me. But, Jessica was there to hold me and let me babble on. Just being there meant the world to me. In the following days, she repeatedly searched me out to make sure I was OK. She still, even after two months, checks on me via text messages.

To end this unusually long post, I want to summarize the whole end-of-life experience with as few words as possible. It was 78 days from the love of my life’s heart attack until she took her last breath. Looking back, due to the severity of the heart damage, it was a foregone conclusion from the beginning that she would die from it. Most of the doctors during this drama would not relay that info, they continued to hold out hope, even though it would never likely come. To me, that unnecessarily stretched out the dying process. Even hospice had it cruel moments. The “She is not dying fast enough” was the epitome for me. But, for my wife, it was probably the mental torture of those final days.

But, I don’t want to leave this series on such a dreary note. There were those who went way beyond their job description to help both of us through this painful process. I will always remember them and ask God to bless them for their acts of mercy.

This is the final post of my “End Of Life Trauma” series. Please forgive me for this unusually long one. I just didn’t see how to break it into two posts. I’m not sure what the next series for Wednesdays will be. I will likely take a few weeks off before I bring that one up. I hope you gleaned just a little insight from my story to maybe prepare you for your version of it some day? I know I learned a lot for when my time comes.

11 thoughts on “End of Life Trauma #9 – The Final Week.

  1. May she Rest In Peace. Similar story when I lost my good friend and business partner of 40 years to cancer six years ago. All I can offer is that the pain of loss softens with time. Cherish the good memories.


  2. Thank you for sharing the term “Terminal Lucitidy”. As I sat with my nephew for the last two weeks of his life, his days were much like you wife’s. Two days before he passed he “woke up” and asked to talk to his brother (whom he had not spoken to for many years). His parents got them on the phone- he was fully present for about fthree minutes and then it slipped away. I had never heard what it was until today.
    I am so sorry for your loss. I am so glad you had those last few minutes with her.


    1. Thank you, Janette. Your words brought me to tears… But, I seem to be doing that a lot lately. 😥

      I will clue you, and anyone who reads this reply, that my next series for Wednesdays is about “emotions”, that is, my personal journey through them. I have always had problems with the very idea of emotions, as I have lived a very Spock-like life up till now. Dealing with them now has brought them to the surface, so I want to learn more about these strange new things I am feeling.

      Never stop learning…


  3. How wonderful that you used that time of lucidity to let your wife know how much she’d meant to you. Jaye’s entrance into yours and your wife’s life was fortuitous for your wife’s comfort and your experience of her last days, too.


  4. Words escape me. I have no words to really soften the pain and anguish you feel. I truly wish I did. Having only know her for a short time I could tell that she was right with the Lord and all was right with her soul. Now knowing how much she loved you and was part of your life and support systems I feel she is embraced in the loving arms of our Savior – and while she will forever be in you mind and heart – she would not trade place to come back into this fallen world.


    1. Thank you, Jim, for your kind words. Please forgive me for parsing out some of the more personal text that I just didn’t want to share with my readers. In the future, please use the “Contact Me” button near the top of the post for personal messages. 😉

      (Jim is my older brother, who I basically lost contact with in the mid-1950s. We have made some correspondence over the years, but just not enough)


  5. Thank you for sharing your experience, RJ. I’m so glad you were able to share those moments with your wife when she was lucid.
    My brother died from cancer and, in the days leading up to his death, he was in a coma. On that last day, he gently opened his eyes and smiled at us all as we sat round the bed . . . moment later he was gone. I treasure that special time when he was able to smile in recognition at us.
    I hope you find comfort and strength with each day that passes.


    1. Thanks for your story, Lesley. I had heard of those lucid moments, but never expected them from my wife. I will always remember her wise advice she gave me about living without her. Now I am anxious to discover this time if it comes to me. I can’t imagine was causes it to happen, but am certainly glad it occurred with my wife.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know what causes it to happen either, RJ. As I get older, I sometimes think about death and dying. I’ve decided to put my trust in the process, that there is nothing horrifying at that time – despite what fundamentalists try to brainwash people with. Everything will be fine.


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