We took more pictures than I did writing—explanation is further down. But that’s ok. You know a picture is worth those thousand words.
Perhaps you should have a heads up. Some of these pictures are gut-wrenching. In fact, many of them I have not even seen since last November. It’s just so hard to grasp that my loving husband, my protector was so debilitated. So I understand if you don’t want to read any further. It’s important to me that I meet this monster head on. And the text and visuals are a big part of that.
November 23, 2014
Here we go
It was Sunday, and as we all started to wake, Roger was coughing. When he coughed he held his head and drew up his legs. We could tell he was in pain, so we called hospice. The on-call nurse came out and explained to us how to give the medicine. We started morphine at 9:24 AM; she said we could give it every two hours. She also gave us more instructions on how to administer the Ativan.
The nurse said that it looked like it would be about 48 hours for Roger, based on his fever of 100.4 and the color in his hands. It would be a rapid decline.
Scott and Jess were on the way; Lance originally had a flight for Tuesday, but he started looking for an earlier one.
We face-timed with Lance, and Roger reached out his hand toward the phone to touch Lance. I believed Roger recognized him.
The morphine routine continued. 11:30, and 1:48. We also gave him Ativan, because Scott and Jess had arrived at noon. It was meant to calm Roger, and we had hoped that he would be able to communicate with them. There was nothing.
It’s so difficult to see your loved one in pain. If you are a parent, you know what it feels like when your child hurts, and you can’t take it away. This was so similar, only worse.
Roger still appeared to be in pain, so we called hospice again at 3:30 PM. The same on-call nurse arrived at our house, and she told us to start the Atropine. All day, and all night, for about 3 days, Stephanie, Lisa and I gave dad medicine every hour, whether it was Morphine, Ativan or Atropine. It seemed to calm him, but for all intents and purposes he was coma-like. The Atropine was to help dry up secretions. I guess it helped, but there was still a lot of rattling. Compound that with his chronic sinus issues, and it seemed like there was a lot of drainage.
Can you endure just a little more humor? I don’t want to be uncaring or insensitive, but let’s face it: laughter got us through many dark days. Why not a few more before he left this life?
The on-call hospice nurse was very thoughtful and gentle. She understood just who we were and what we were going through. That is, except what Roger’s name was.
This is how it played out:
She went into the bedroom and asked, “Charles? Charles, can you hear me? Are you in any pain?”
Me: “Um, his name is Roger.”
Her: “Oh, I’m sorry. I really am. I thought I looked at the chart correctly.”
Me and her and everyone else: More talking and questions.
Her: Getting ready to leave, “Ok, don’t hesitate to call if you need anything else. Remember the sense of hearing is the last to go, so keep talking to him. It was nice to meet you, Charles. Your family is here for you.”
She left. And we burst out laughing!
Monday, November 24, 2014
Stress. Anxiety. Fear. All of these emotions and more. It’s what consumed us. My notes are meager for the next two days. I had plenty of time to write, but I wanted to spend time with Roger. Sit next to him. Hold his hand. Talk to him. Kiss him. Hang on to him. Touch him.
A little bit about my daughter-in-law Stephanie. When Chad met her at Pensacola Christian College she was studying to be a nurse. She teaches Kindergarten now at a Christian School, but she has experience working at a hospital and a nurse’s heart.
Now you understand why we called Stephanie our resident nurse. The hospice staff even asked her if she was a nurse. She had brought her stethoscope, oxygen monitor, and her “don’t worry about that—I’ll take care of it” outlook.
The hospital bed was by the door of our bedroom. There was a twin bed, several chairs, the treadmill, a dresser or two, but enough room for a family of 16 to gather. As we spent those nights, I found myself sharing the twin bed with Stephanie, and Lisa slept on the floor. Jess was down there with us as much as she could be, but little Savannah needed her, too.
So, from my skimpy notes:
Stephanie was the biggest and most faithful help. She set her alarm for every hour on the hour and was up giving Roger his meds. Lisa and I spelled her off in the early morning, but she did the bulk of it.
At 8:00 AM he stopped breathing, opened his eyes, rolled back his eyes and then started breathing again. He did this several times. 3 PM; 5 PM; 10 PM; 11:30 PM. At 8:00 PM pulse ox was 70%, 61 heart rate.
During each of these times we were sure that Roger was going to die. We would call everyone in and stand around his bed and cry and tell him that it was ok to go, and that the kids would all take care of me. Then all of a sudden he would start breathing again; it was as though we brought him back. Eventually we decided to be very quiet and not disturb him in his journey to heaven.
Here’s another story that will make you smile.
During one of the episodes we called everyone in to stand around his bed, and I asked the grandkids if they wanted to sing a song. Asher said, “Jesus Loves Me.” So we all sang it to grandpa. I asked if there was another suggestion, and Seth said, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” So we sang that to grandpa. I asked if there was one more for us to sing, and Seth, in the cutest little voice said, “The Star Spangled Banner.”
We all looked at each other, smiled, and proceeded to place our hands over our hearts and sing that patriotic song to Roger on his death bed. I must admit that it was precious and made us giggle a bit. It was a stress reliever at that point.
Even with the Atropine, there was a lot of mucous. Stephanie had to use a swab to wipe his mouth out.
November 25, 2014
This is all I have for this day.
Roger continued to have episodes throughout the day.
Lance couldn’t get his flight changed, so he was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday late afternoon, and even at that, it was delayed, scheduled to arrive in Bloomington at about 6:00 PM. Because Roger looked like he was going to die soon, we made a quick call to our friends, Gary and Carol to see if they would pick him up. That was a real help to us. As it turned out, Lance got to be there with Roger that evening.
November 26, 2014
We knew it couldn’t be much longer. Wednesday morning was one spent in his room, giving medicine, greeting the hospice nurse, letting Ashley the CNA clean him and waiting. Ashley came at 9:00 AM and noticed there was a huge bed sore on his back, one on his ear and several on his feet. We were amazed that they formed that quickly. I guess we were so happy that Roger was laying peaceably with his head tilted to one side so that the fluids/mucous could flow out, we just didn’t want to disturb him.
Ashley cleaned him up and changed his bed, telling us that moving him might send him to his death. We acknowledged that and were prepared for it. Nurse Beth came and said that it wouldn’t be long, and to call her when he was gone. She would come back and listen for a heartbeat and help us through the next steps.
At about 11:00 I was sitting at the dining room table, and again, as so many times before, Scott came out and said, “Ma, you need to come. This is a little different.”
I went to the bedroom and there was Roger, breathing regularly, but with shallow breaths. His eyes were open, fixed, and the adults all stood around his hospital bed crying, encouraging him the best we knew how and trying to savor the moment. His death was gradual, but by 11:17 he was home in glory.
I shall not forget the crying and grieving we did. It was almost a collective wailing and groaning, each one in his own way. We stayed there for a while and then called the grandkids in. They shed their tears, some more than others.
Stephanie called Pastor Thompson and the hospice nurse. They came and Pastor prayed with us. Beth listened to his heart and pronounced him dead at around noon. Ashley cleaned Roger up one last time. When we had enough time, Beth called the funeral home and the coroner. They came. The feeling of Roger being carried out of the house on a stretcher was heart breaking. He was never going to be with me in the house again.
We asked the funeral director if we could come in that afternoon to work out the details. Thanksgiving was the next day, and we thought it would help to get everything set before the holiday. At 2:00 PM the kids and I went there to pick out a casket and take care of particulars. Mr Tanzyus was very helpful, and it didn’t take us long to make decisions. He thought we may have been rushing things to have the visitation on Friday night and the funeral on Saturday, but it worked out with so many family friends to do it this way.
What did we do the next day? Gave thanks. It was Thanksgiving.