The end came early on Christmas Eve morn, around 2:30. The doctor who called said my husband had passed quietly, peacefully. He’d waited, as I hoped he would, for his sister to arrive from out of state. We rushed to visit with him late Friday night, fearing if we waited until Saturday morning, he’d be gone. It was a good thing we didn’t wait.
Only last Sunday, he was lucid and, though fixated on coming home, feeling good enough to swing his legs over the side of the bed and sit up. Determination shined in his eyes, his pursed lips, as he tried to hold himself upright.
“I want to come home.”
I explained I couldn’t care for him home. Not yet. He was still connected to fluids, and antibiotics, and other drugs that now, only a week later, I can no longer name.
Some time between Sunday and Monday morning, his body collapsed. He was unconscious, was having trouble breathing. His organs were shutting down. Doctors said this was the end, gave him morphine to ease his struggle, and announced that death was imminent.
Evidently, science can’t quite quantify imminence, certainly not in a man who was determined not to die, who never sat still in his life, and whose heart was strong.
Released from all medications save the morphine drip that kept him comfortable, he existed in an unconscious twilight for five days, never awakening, until early on Saturday, Christmas Eve. He no longer looked like himself, gaunt to the point of skeletal, a bony nose so unlike his prominent one, sunken eyes even in sleep, cheek and temple bones glaringly evident, all subcutaneous padding gone.
I only feel relief. Part of it is for me, for the stress has been immense. But the vast majority of it is for him, for freedom from his struggles this past year, from his determination to go forward despite the pain, despite the indignities his body heaped upon him. I will forever remember his smile and laughter, and his industry surrounds me in a beautiful kitchen, perfectly detailed book cases, well laid tiles, but this year has given me other snapshots burned into my memory, ones I’ll never forget–of a starving man staring at dinner he wanted so badly but couldn’t bear to eat for the pain he’d feel afterward, of the man’s humiliation at having to defecate in a bucket in the yard because he couldn’t make it inside to the bathroom.
Strong. Yes. Determined, yes. A flawed man, but a good one. A keeper, my mom always said.
As he lay in his bed, comatose, I told him he could go, that his parents were waiting for him, that all of his dogs, his cats, were waiting to play and cuddle with him. I knew he didn’t want to die. He wasn’t ready, but I wanted him to know the others who went before him were there for him, waiting, loving.
And so it’s done.
There’s much to do in the aftermath, but the worst part is over.
Sleep well, my love.
And now I can cry.