Feb 09, 2020
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future
To a known God”
Corrie ten Bloom
My wife of 58 years (June 10) and best friend Eileen had been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the esophagus, in February 2019. This blog gives my thoughts, fears, prayers, and hopes during this challenging and difficult time.
This week has seen a slow process of the body easing towards the end. Eileen is in bed most of the time, but today (Friday) has been a surprise. She asked to come into the living room, which requires much lifting on the younger folks part. She stayed for about four hours, when the pain forced her back in bed. Hospice has given us a special ‘form comfort’ mattress, which apparently conforms totally to the body, relieving pressure points. It has relieved many pain spots that Eileen had. Then on Friday evening after we said dinner prayers with her, she wanted to be with is while we ate. So we gathered small folding tables and other ways to sit around the bed and have dinner with her, with the normal conversation washing over her to her joy. Eileen does not want to be the “hidden problem”, and wants as much interaction with all as possible. She cannot talk except in a whisper, and even then it is hard to understand at times, but is insistent we listen. Her love for all of us is inspiring to all.
Eileen receives morphine (0.75 ml) every two hours, now Barbara and Janet are the featured nurses, and it seems to be just the right amount to minimize the pain while leaving her able to hear and respond, usually. The only other medication is a saliva-reducing pill on occasion to avoid congestion, and a cool mist to increase room moisture. She may look and sound asleep, but usually the eyes are open and she is watching and is aware of others presence. I spend time just touching and gently rubbing her arm (right) and laying close to her, beside being with her all night. There is always at least one in the room, often more. We have been told many times that at this stage even if the patient appears asleep, they can hear, and hearing is the last sense to go.
(Saturday) Last night (Friday) she woke at 2, worried that she had missed somebody because no one was there (except me), and it was dark. Yes, being lost in time is common towards the end of life, and often the result of lost time due to the pain meds. When asked was she worried, she said yes, about her children when she is gone. We assured her that we had raised very strong children, that all would adjust. Then she said she worried about me, and I assured her that I have our children to turn to, and so many friends and others who have shared their love with me over the years, and will continue to do so, and the presence of God is always there. Eileen has talked about her desire to see her brother and sister and parents again, and appears to be resting easy about death for herself, and moving into communion with her family and friends who have proceeded her.
Eileen is half sitting up in bed during the day, which relieves the congestion and hopefully prevents pneumonia, which is the major problem at this time. Eileen prefers to lie down more at night. When pain arises, Hospice has suggested spurts of pain meds every hour for a while to overcome pain, then backing off to the two-hour regimen. This seems to work, thank you, for getting up every hour would be real challenge, but divided up among the group we could do it.
The body is amazing in its functionality, even at the end of life. Various parts such as the kidneys and liver shut down, causing more and more sleep, allowing the body to just slide slowly towards its natural end-of-life cycle. Amazing that the gentle God has set things so well, accounting for all phases of life. Yes, the presence of God is strong, and fills us with a sense of peace and comfort.
Your presence, oh Gentle One, is clear at this time. Slowly and gently You call Eileen, becoming more present to her awareness each day. Help us be gentle to all that occurs, aiding her in this moment of her life’s journey. Clarify us to be able to hold her when needed, and the ability to let her go when needed.