There is a time to say goodbye. No, it is not easy, but if you have walked down this path, the path of losing a family member to a terminal illness, then you have probably stood by their bed and told them farewell. My sisters and I did this the day after Mother arrived in the Hospice Unit. Though she was almost in a comatose state, her eyes would open when you spoke to her. We knew that she could hear and understand what we were saying.
Many times families don’t have the opportunity to say goodbye. If death is unexpected or comes suddenly, often there is not time for closure. From my perspective that would be very hard. You would give anything to say, “I love you” one more time, or “I’ll join you in heaven someday.”
It became obvious to us that Mother was beginning to have some pain. Therefore, after we had our goodbye moments with Mother, My sisters and I told the nurses that it would be ok with us if she slept the ‘rest of the way’. The nurses understood what we meant and agreed to comply with our wishes. She was kept sedated and relaxed all the way to the end.
She did occasionally open her eyes and respond when she heard new, but familiar voices in the room. When her former pastor came to see her, she opened her eyes, smiled and said his name. We all cried.
I do have one regret that I must mention. This may sound disgusting, but because some of my readers may be in this same situation, I must share it anyway. One of the things I did not expect and was not warned about when we took the feeding tube away, was the effect that dehydration would have on Mother’s body. I knew her kidneys would shut down. I expected that. What I did not expect was the effect dehydration would have on her tongue. For some reason I did not notice it at first. Perhaps because it happened slowly over about 3 days. Her tongue began to dry out. It looked chapped and well, just awful. That must have painful. It could have been the main source of her pain. We don’t know because she could not tell us. I don’t know why, but I didn’t mention it to the nurses. Perhaps my mind was on other things, and perhaps I thought nothing could be done to help. I feel badly that I didn’t at least try to do something. Sometimes I wish that we had changed the feeding tube to just come clear liquids to have prevented her tongue from drying out. Eventually someone brought in something topical we could put on her tongue. I don’t think it helped much though.
Next post: Her battle is over.