“Well, hello there”

Some things you just remember.  The details of some things remain clear in your mind even after the passage of time.  While we were on the hospital floor that contained the Hospice Unit, I talked with many people.  A significant number of them recounted with me experiences they had while their loved one was a patient in this same unit.

To a person, they could all tell me which room their loved one, husband, m0ther, father, brother, sister, was in.  They didn’t say things like, “My family member was in the room across the hall.” No.  Instead they said, “My family member was in the bed across the hall.”  or “in the bed two doors up on the left.”

Of course, I immediately understood the significance in the phrasing of their statements.  Their memories and emotions were more tied to the bed in which their loved one died, than the room where they spent their last days on earth.  In a hospital setting, I am sure that for various reasons, the beds get moved from room to room, so the bed to which they are referring may or may not be the actual bed in which their family member died.  I’m sure they realize that, but perhaps their memories and emotions, which are still so strong, may not allow them to acknowledge it.

Yes, I can take you to the exact room which belonged to Daddy and, a year and 9 months later, to Mother.  And yes, the beds in those rooms may have changed, but in my mind the beds in those rooms will always be the bed……..

After transferring Mother to the Hospice unit, her breathing once again became labored.  It was so similar to the way Daddy was breathing during his last hours, that I really though she would not make it through the night.  Even so, I went ahead with my ‘hospital routine’: asked for the locations of the linens, set up a cot, unpacked my luggage,  etc.  My sisters went home, and I prepared them for a phone call from me during the night telling them that Mother was gone.

This labored breathing continued for hours.  She was not in pain, that we could tell, but seemed very relaxed.  I went on to bed, and slept off and on for several hours, waking up to listen to her breathing.

I don’t remember time it was, sometime during the wee hours of the morning.  I woke up and I heard nothing.  I couldn’t hear her breathing at all.  Feeling sure that she was gone, I got up from my cot, and walked towards her bed.  As I approached her bed, in the dimly lit room, what I saw was totally unexpected.

Her eyes were open, wide open.  She was awake and was watching me as I approached her bed.  I walked over to her, touched her arm, and said,  “Well, hello there” and  in a very strong voice, she replied, “Well hello there”.  The shock of seeing her awake and talking (which she hadn’t done for quite some time), was overwhelming.  I felt as if I were going to faint, throw up, and have diarrhea all at the same time. (ok, so that’s more info than you wanted to know).  I had to sit down.  I called the nurses station and asked them to come, and went to sit down and gather myself together.

It was a good 5 minutes, before I felt strong enough to stand without feeling faint.  By the time I was able to stand by her bed, the ‘window of opportunity’ to talk with her had passed.  Sadly, she was not alert anymore.

In looking back I have several regrets about this experience.  If I had been awake, instead of sleeping that night, I would have known when she first woke up and perhaps been able to talk to her without the shock on my part. If I had communicated with the nurses that I was feeling faint, they could have perhaps helped me get past it quicker.  If I had pulled a chair over by her bed……If I, If I, If I………

Is it possible to go through these experiences with no regrests?  I don’t think so.  The reason?  We are all human and will therefore, exercise poor judgment from time to time.  We will make decisions that we would love ‘do overs’ on.  We will say or do something that could be said or done more appropriately.  I think some regrets are unavoidable.

What we do with those regrets is, in my opinion, the most critical part of any crisis.  Since we don’t get ‘do overs’ in these situations, then it is best to learn the lesson we need to learn from this regret, this poor judgment or decision, or whatever, and then file the regret in our memories, not allowing it to dominate our thoughts and emotions so that we can function and do what needs to be done during our crisis.  In other words, move it to the back burner, and get on with ‘business’.

Mother’s breathing relaxed and she comfortably slept through the rest of the night.

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