A peaceful Christmas for all

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.

Merry Christmas.

And now I can cry.

33 thoughts on “A peaceful Christmas for all

    • Thank you, Becky. I remember how you rushed from conference to be home for your own crisis. We all have them. My turn now. Keep those prayers and love coming. They’re keeping me afloat. Love, Donna

  1. Oh, Donna. I’ve been thinking about you and not wanting to bother you during the holidays. I will call you later in the week when things calm down. You know I love you.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss! You describe the situation I had with both my parents–praying for death, for God to take them so they will finally be free of the misery and pain-yet even though you know they are at peace, you are in misery and pain for the loss of the ones you hold so dear!

    • Dear Kristy, I’m so sorry for your loss. We do and wish for what’s best for our loved ones when they’re suffering. It’s always tougher on us, but love requires charity, and our love for them wants what’s best for them.

  3. Donna, I’m so sorry for your loss, but so relieved he is in a better place. His earthly journey is done, yours will be rocky for a while yet. Hang in there and know we are thinking of and praying for you.

  4. So sorry for your loss. Thank you for putting in words the way you feel. My active, healthy, veggie sister spent the last 9 months of her short life in and out of hospitals with cancer. I watched her husband and four children take care of her until the end. She lingered for 9 days. So happy she is now at peace and out of pain.

    • Then you understand both my grief and my relief, Terri. I’m glad your sister had family to care for her, and that she now has peace. A twitter follower mentioned a passage, can’t remember from where, something to the effect that as we weep for their leaving, those on the other side of the veil are rejoicing in their arrival. I rather liked that.

    • Thank you, Lynne. I can feel the warmth of those hugs, and I’m grateful. I’ll be back early in the new year, I hope. I need our forum and our members.

  5. My dear old friend… So sorry for your loss. I would read your updates and cry along with you. As a caregiver you did everything possible. You were a wonderful other half. My prayers for you and Lisa and your family. He is at peace..may you all find peace too.

  6. Donna, such a painful post. I’m so sorry for your loss. The days ahead will be difficult. Let people help you. You won’t want to; you’ll want to be strong. But their strength will help buoy you up. My thoughts and prayers are with you. ❤️

    • Ah, how you know me. I rely more on everyone’s good thoughts and prayers to buoy me. Just knowing how many care for me is a grace I probably don’t deserve. Thankfully, I live in a close-knit community. Everyone within walking distance has dropped in to offer whatever help I need. That alone is daunting. How could I ever repay their kindnesses?

  7. Donna, Sending much love and peace for you. You’ve been brave, caring and courageous –that’s what real love is, and you were fortunate enough to receive it and give it in full measure. May this year bring you wisdom, healing and light. May your gifts continue to shine. And may all the deep love you’ve had in your life hold you up and give you strength. Be well, and take care of Donna now. We need your voice and your stories more than ever. Maerwydd

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