Thursday, January 26, 2012

One Year Ago Today

I can hardly believe it has been a whole year. One year ago today, I held the hand of my 96-year-old aunt as she lay bewildered, uncomfortable, and miserable in a hospital bed. She briefly opened her eyes, and asked where she was and what happened.

... a brief interlude of lucidity among the deep clouds that Alzheimer's Disease wrought on her brain.

I explained that she had a heart attack, and that she was being treated in a hospital.

"A hospital? I don't want to be here...".

Gosh that hurt. "Of course, sweet aunt, I know you don't want to be here, but you're not well enough to be home right now."

Then she closed her eyes, and I thought she was going to sleep. Suddenly, she opened her eyes wide and reached for my hand again. With strength I didn't think she had, she pulled me close. She kissed me, and said the last words that I would ever hear from her,

"Thank you, thank you. I love you."

... then she closed her eyes, dropped her hand, and stopped breathing.

The alarms on her monitors started bleeping and screeching and making quite a cacophony. I just sat there with her, and two of her caregivers who were there with us.

Nurses ran in, but honored our previous discussions -- my aunt had a "DNR -- Do Not Resuscitate" order -- so they silenced the alarms and left the room.

I had made my peace, knowing that I had done everything possible that I could do to ensure that she was happy and safe in the last years of her life, up until her dying day. I have many fond memories of this memorable time in my life.

The rest of that day was a blur. I talked to her sons who live out-of-state, and who made arrangements to come as soon as they could. My siblings offered to come look after me, but there really wasn't anything that they could do. I just wanted to go home and be held by my partner.

Soon enough, I regained my composure and strength, and moved on to do what needed to be done, to honor my aunt and observe her final wishes.

Dealing with death is never easy, but when you know in your heart that the loved-one you cared for was happy and that you had fulfilled all promises and moreso, then the grief is not as painful. Sure, I cried, but I slept well that night, too, knowing in my heart that my aunt was finally at peace.

Life is short: show those you love how you love them, each and every day.


Anonymous said...

My gosh, bro, Aunt Lee's death seems like yesterday. I am glad that I flew back home to be with you, and watch you as you honored her wishes. You cared for her deeply, and all of us were truly impressed by how you executed your care so well. It seemed effortless.

I miss you and love you very much.

Ore e sempre,


Sarge D said...

Losing a loved one is probably the hardest thing we go through in life. Sometimes I wonder if it might not be easier to die than to witness and remember the experience. Anniversaries have a way of recalling the grief and sadness of that time, and there's no getting around it.

You have my sympathy.