The Thriller is at peace. Me, not so much yet, but I know I will find some farther down the line.
On this, our wedding anniversary, I reflect back on his life: one well-lived and full of great adventures. I’m sure at the end he regretted nothing other than the fact that he couldn’t stay with us. On my last post in the “Fighting Cancer” category, I will write about his last day while it’s still fresh in my mind, so I never forget.
The night before he passed, he kept his children up for hours (they had forced me upstairs to bed at 10 p.m., as I hadn’t slept much over the previous four nights), wanting to walk around the house, suspended on the arms of his son and son-in-law. They all took turns walking him around in his restless, somewhat agitated state. This was his active period; according to my research and what I was told by the Hospice staff, cancer patients in their final hours have periods of activity or restlessness. They often cry out or moan or talk in their sleep. They see and talk about people who are long dead. With other patients, it’s a time of physical regeneration, albeit temporary. Such was the case with the Thriller.
He refused to lie down to nap on that last full day and night, and it was wearing us all out, because he couldn’t be left alone for a single minute. We feared for his safety, as he wanted to stand up on his own and try to walk, but as soon as he’d take a step, he would surely lose his balance. At this point, he was almost completely non-verbal, with just the occasional “yeah” or head nod.
Anyway, about 5:00 a.m. on the 23rd, I came downstairs and told the kids to go get some sleep. Oldest daughter Becky stayed, and my younger son came over. They helped throughout the morning, and then at 11 a.m., I told them to go on home, as I had convinced Michael to lie down for a nap, finally.
He never left his bed again.
As Friday gave way to Saturday, we noticed his breathing becoming more labored, so I increased his morphine, and it helped. Then the apnea began, and throughout the day, we counted up to 20 seconds going by between breaths. This continued throughout the afternoon. We all sat by his bedside, taking turns holding his hands. We told stories, laughed together at funny memories from the kids’ childhoods, kissed him and stroked his hair. I’m convinced he could hear us and feel us.
In the early evening, his breathing changed somewhat, and he began breathing in through his mouth and out through his nose, at a faster rate. We took more time to talk to him and tell him how much we loved him. When his physical body control gave way and there were several accidents, we teamed up to clean and change his clothing and padding, while talking to him and doing all we could to spare his modesty. We put on our gloves, and while the girls assembled the waste bags and replacement garments, Josh lifted and moved his father (saying, “Sorry if that’s uncomfortable, Dad; I’m just going to lift you up…”) so I could clean him. No one minded. It was our privilege.
I suppose I could have/should have called Hospice in at that point, but as wonderful as they are, I didn’t want them there. I wanted it to just be family. And since he didn’t appear to be in any distress, I was fine with it staying that way for a while.
Just before 11 p.m., his children and I saw Michael open his eyes wide and look right at me. I knelt down beside his bed and said, “Well, look who’s awake.” It was then that his eyes closed again, and he exhaled softly. We waited for him to start breathing again, but he never inhaled. It was over.
There was no wailing or rage or histrionics. It was perfect, still silence. After a few minutes, we called Mavis and the boys, and took turns sitting next to Michael, holding his hand and kissing him goodbye. We held each other. We talked and cried.
After a couple of hours, I called Hospice. A nurse arrived and formally examined him (although we know he died at 10:58 p.m. on the 23rd, his official time of death was when the nurse examined him at 1:35 a.m. on Christmas Eve; hence, the 24th will appear on all official documents, and on his grave marker). She then contacted the funeral home. By the time the two men came and placed him on the gurney with a beautiful quilt covering him, it was 3 a.m. We gave him a final kiss goodbye, one by one.
And now I begin another journey: my future. I’m sure the good times will return, but it’ll be a different kind of enjoyment. I’m as ready as I will ever be for it. Next post, I’ll be back to my normal drivel about entertainment, daily life frustrations, school, grandchildren, grammar, and various and sundry things that make me alternately happy and furious.
Happy new year, fiends. Much love to you all.
Oh Linda, what a beautiful final moment you and Michael had. Words cannot express how sorry I am. The love you two shared was and is a beauty thing. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you.
Thank you for sharing your intimate and sacred experience. To have had Michael at home, Surrounded in love, physicality and emotional support by his dearest family, was such a gift to him as well as to yourselves. Wrapping you all in so much love and blessings. Keeping you in prayers, as you all find your way through a “new normal”.
A good passing. We don’t have the luxury of selecting our time, but the love there shows a life well lived.
This really brought back the feelings and captured the essence of when my mom passed. I felt her last heartbeat.
There simply are no words. The heavenly angels came and swept him away after he looked at his earthly angel one last time.
Thank you for sharing this and all the moments of this journey with us. You have allowed those of us who couldn’t physically be there to be there in spirit and in heart. As I said to you earlier this week, I shall love you both eternally.
Love to you…and a peaceful anniversary. oxo
I am just so sorry for your loss Linda, what a good man your husband was. A pain free angel looking over you and your family. As I read your blog it brought back tears & memories of the passing of my Dad, he had a brain tumor, when it was time for my Dad to be with the Lord he was seeing angels and my grandparents as he asked me to “move” away from the window so I wasn’t in their way. His breathing labored in the final moments , as I was with him hlding his hand, when he took his last breath the peace over his face and the peace that went over me put me in an “awe” moment, something that nobody else feels unless they have went thru it with a loved one. Hospice was with us also as Dad passed at his home that he had built years ago, but I know how you felt by just wanting “family” there at the last moments to share the crossing over .
My prayers with you on your new journey , let the Lord help you thru your day by day. Stay strong & Much love. !
Hugs to you sweet lady and prayers to you and your family. I can not put into words how sorry I am that you all had to go thru the journey of this awful disease. It breaks my heart to read the words you wrote of your pain but also makes my heart sing to read of the love you all share. Just know you will never be alone on your path forward. I am here for you if you need to vent, cry or just chat. Love you my friend.
I’m glad you all had some “special” time with Michael you will remember them always.
If you ever need someone to talk to, don’t hestitate to call me. I personally know what you are going thru. You’ll have good days and bad days. Take one day at a time. Love you always
My friend, I wept all over again reading this account. How blessed Michael was to have such a family, and I know you feel blessed as well. Peace and healing love to you all.
I can’t imagine leaving this life in more glorious or loving hands. Death makes life worth living; love like this makes life worth dying for.
Thanks so much for sharing this whole experience with us. Hugs and kisses XOXO
Love to you all.