There is a beckoning. A call that must be answered. Grabbing at the air by handfuls, staring off into the colorless void. And then suddenly trying desperately to lift your tiny frame from that bed. ” Hello? ” you cry out …
I don’t want to alter what’s happening. I’ve promised myself only to help keep you safe and hold your hand and remind you of beautiful things. You’re squinting now. What do you see ?
Your eyes are flashing open tonight and you’re looking right past me. It’s a feeling hard to explain, but nothing I can take personal. Earlier I asked if you wanted me to stay and you said yes. I told you I knew you would do the same for me and in your raspy voice, you said “I would do the same for you”.
14 days with little food or water. The secretions are trapped in your throat, rattling in your chest. I see your toes twitching under the blanket. I’ll never know where you are right now. These are the paths we travel alone. You on yours, me on a separate one.
I’m so tired. I try to rest but I know I am called upon to be a witness to this night. To be with you as you move into a quieter state. They say “active dying” happens in the last three days. I am seeing the signs and I am hoping and praying that when the moment arrives you will settle into it and let it wrap you like a blanket.
It has been a hard night. You have earned a peaceful day. I already miss your stories, and I am filled with regret that I could not give to you the one thing you asked of me: to get you out of here. I’m afraid these last few steps are yours alone. I only want you to know it’s okay to let go.
Fast forward to Friday night.
Driving in tonight I could see the white of clouds against a dark sky. Encouraging ! It has been a long time since we have seen any meaningful clearing. Perhaps the rain will end after all and we will see sunshine soon.
You slept more tonight. Deeper it seemed. You are struggling to talk through the gurgling but you slept. I’m grateful for that one small thing. I can’t know what’s happening in these moments, either. I hope you are leaning into the light and gravity is pulling you to the gate.
Beyond the gate it’s beautiful. George has it flung wide open to meet you. He is followed by a dozen dogs and he is just beaming ♡
I was brought back to these posts in my mind last week during a video call with my father-in-law. Everything you wrote is what we saw or heard about from family at his side. And the tears flow.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I think sometimes people see or hear of older people dying and think of it as a footnote to their story, when in fact, it is often a story all on it’s own. ❤ Big hugs all around.
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I’m watching Dorothy sleep and am reminded of my meditation practice.. She’s breathing deeply from her belly and I’m watching the rise and fall of her chest. Deep breath in and then a push out. Her left palm is facing up and her right palm draped across her body. I count her inhales and listen closely for the exhale.
Last night her eyes would flash open as though something quite surprising was happening right before her eyes. Her expressions changed as she was mumbling or whispering words to another. An extraordinary conversation to be sure. A comfort to me in a way I can’t quite explain.
Her bed is pushed too far to the right to see the moon outside, but I see it. In fact, I have to drag myself to the window and verify because it almost seems unreal. I can see it through the trees and it’s beautiful. She would love it.
You’d think that having spent the last 17 days with her that I would have some reality on what is happening, but I really don’t. She is straddling two worlds right now and one I get to participate in, one I just get to watch. She woke up alert this morning and we had a good talk before the conversation continued with someone “elsewhere”. There is conviction in what she says and on some plane I can’t understand, she is getting some reassurance.
I admit, I’m tired too. There is little meaningful sleep happening and I’m sure there is a bit of awe caused by an over-tired state. (She just asked someone to fix her a nice, strong drink. Now I know she isn’t talking to me … )
I’m sitting here with the small couch pushed up against the bed. She is in the midst of a review of memory, but not in a state of slumber. She is quite animated and now there is beer !
I’m about to go forage for coffee and leave her to her conversation for a few minutes. This is such an extraordinary journey. I am at a loss to accurately or adequately describe it, and yet I keep trying. This too, is her story. From humble beginnings to a lively, adventurous middle, to an amazing last chapter. Onward, my friend. You are clearly not finished yet.
I want to say there is something reverent in being here, but if there is, it is escaping me tonight. In the dim light, contorted on the tiny couch, I tap away on the even tinier keyboard of my smart phone. Yellow light is spilling in from the hallway and the oxygen machine has a “bang -whirr -flap” sound as it circulates.
With my good ear poised to capture all the sound of the room, I lie on my side and listen to the rattle coming from Dorothy’s chest with every breath. It can sound distressing as air is pushed through the small pool developing in the back of her throat. Even as I know it is harder for me to hear than for her to bear, I can’t get used to it. I keep straining to listen for it.
I want to be sitting next to her, holding her hand but I have learned that even that kind of light touch can wake her and set in motion a cycle of challenging rises and falls deep in this night. I’m not here to make things harder. I keep nodding off and then waking with a start. I don’t hear the breath. I’m about to jump up when the gasp comes. The natural apnea is unpredictable and I’ve grown uncomfortable with it. If breathing is beautiful noise, this apnea is its trickster cousin.
It occurs to me that perhaps the reverence lives in these soft, gray walls. I imagine hundreds of stories held in these rooms, all completely different and yet oddly similar to my own. I wonder how many others sought to share these moments as a way to make sense of them. Some of you have reached out with a big “YES, I felt that too” and it helps me to know that you have walked this path with someone close to you. It is in the the things shared that we see our oneness.
This whole experience is a net gain. It is the positive that remains after the exchange has been made: time and presence for the extraordinary experience of truly holding space.
Dorothy is clinging to this life with a firm grip. We have spoken about what’s happening and she knows that this is her journey. Hanging on and letting go – doing this intricate dance under her careful direction. She is not ready. And I and others are in it with her until she is.
This is deeply moving, even for those of us who are only on the sidelines. If there’s anything you need…
Thanks, Diana. You know I’ll need to get out soon. Thanks for being there ♡
So touching and beautiful ❤️
Thank you Shawna. I think she and I both could say this is the hardest thing we’ve ever done. Hard, but extraordinary ♡