Donna’s last four days were peaceful. The nurses were very careful about keeping her comfortable by turning her in bed every two hours. Her pain level was very controlled with medication, and she was non responsive the entire time. Well almost. There was one moment gave us all a good chuckle. A close family friend was sitting with Donna while I stepped out for a little while. When I came back, she told me that Donna had given her quite a scare.
It seems that Donna, who hadn’t spoken or moved on her own for three days, suddenly turned her head, opened her eyes, and tried to sit up in bed, Then she laid back down, closed her eyes, and turned her head back to the same position it was in previously. Yes, our friend was very startled. She frantically called for the nurse, who told her that it was just some involuntary movement and nothing more.
In the midst of the the humor we found in this incident we also realized with sadness that Donna was not coming back. The emotional roller coaster continued.
The purpose of a hospice in-patient unit is not merely to provide care and comfort to terminal patients in their last days. It is also a calm, quiet place for families to gather and say good by. Often there is also relationship “work” to be done in addition to letting go of a loved one. Sometimes forgiveness needs to be asked for, and sometimes forgiveness needs to be extended to the dying family member. On her last day, Donna and I had some of both to do.
It was a very emotional moment for me, but it gave me more peace about her death and more peace about my relationship with her. The issues Donna and I had are over. done. gone.
That evening, just after I dozed off to sleep, the nurses came in to check on her and woke me up to let me know that Donna had stepped into heaven. Her battle was over.