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.
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.