There have been tomes written and books published with varies ways of handling grief and death. Grief, like death, is so very personal. It will affect us all in one form or another.
How one handles death and dying says much about who they are, even as losing a cherished loved one will change who one is.
Many fear death, the unknown 'after' that so many religions' try to explain. Many religions agree in an 'after', though many have different versions of what their particular 'after' is like.
Don't panic one and all, this is hardly a religious debate.
Going through the dying process with someone can be very difficult, as difficult as losing a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly without any chance to even say goodbye. But as difficult as it is for us, as our dear Oma leaves this life, how blessed we are to have this time to say our goodbyes.
To us, handling death is like handling life........your focus changes from yourself, to the person dying. Simply put, it isn't about you anymore, it's all about the loved one that is leaving. There is no room for selfishness in the dying process.
Hospice has been a dream, making sure we have everything we need to care for our sweet Irma. What they can't provide, we just get for her. Anything to make her comfortable, to feel safe, to make this journey as easy for her as we can.
We have provided all her favorite foods and drinks, sat quietly with her as she napped in the recliner. Just to see her bright smile when she wakes and sees us there with her. She is NEVER left alone, because in her confusion she fears waking up with no one there. So our first few days, that was all that was needed a constant presence of either my husband or I. Providing all her favorite foods at once, just so she could eat what she wanted, when she wanted it. Stocking up on Boost and apple juice, until she was bursting.
Slowly, we watch as her food and liquid intake deceases. Oh, how tempting it is to force her to eat or make her drink, yet we don't. She is making her wishes known even as her words become impossible to understand. We tell her she's safe, tell her she's loved, and constantly do our best to comfort her. Most times she thinks she is in Toledo, at home where she wished to be - those are her happiest moments and ones we will cherish always.
Far too soon she stops asking for food, no longer asks to go 'pee pee' as she used to. So, we check her to make sure she is clean. Medicating her rectally with small amounts of morphine to keep her pain free. Using medication when in her confusion she becomes so scared and even our words and presence don't comfort her. We repeat our mantra, 'we love you, you're safe, it's ok', even as the tears come. The garden sits waiting for harvest, outside fall work sits incomplete as we do our best to be here for our precious Oma.
How hard it is for us, we try to understand her wishes as she dictates her own dying process. Even if her words are no longer understandable, her actions tell us much about what her wishes are. We do our best to honor them. Oh, how we hate letting her go, but we will, it isn't us that matters right now, it's Irma, as we take our own journey with her.
All too soon the day comes when she refuses all food and liquid. We kept offering her food and her favorite drinks, yet refuse them all she does. We know she will be leaving us soon. The knowing doesn't always make it easy though, as many of you will understand too well. We remember who our Irma is, even as the shell of her remains for a while longer. You see, already she is partly gone, as she talks occasionally in her sleep. Sweet dreams they are as you see her smile in her sleep.
The first day we left her in bed was the hardest day for us, she is no longer 'here', not really. This is the hardest part for all we can do is wait. Clean her up when necessary, and apologize for disturbing her rest. Her eyes open as we dress her in a clean nightgown and make sure she's comfortable again. We think for a while that we are prepared and ready, yet the tears come no matter what we think. We have no control over her passing, only what comfort we can give.
At this point, touch is so important. How gentle my husband is as he cradles her in his arms while I gently clean Oma. Again after changing her, we lotion up and rub her legs, feet, arms, and back. Our touch is comforting to her, as my husband kneels beside her bed gently soothing back her hair, repeating our manta, "we love you, you're safe, it's ok". Her eyes are unfocused, or should we say no longer seems to see here, but is looking to her 'after'. We swab her inside her mouth again, put lotion on her dry lips. She goes back to a peaceful sleep and we wait.
All too soon the time comes for our final goodbye. It is TOO soon, for us anyways. We play music for her, soft and comforting. Our sister-in-law is a concert pianist from Russia, oh how gram loves her music. We play her CD as Oma's breathing becomes labored. We lotion her legs and back, one more time, speaking softly to her our mantra "we love you, you're safe, it's ok". Hospice is here, watching with us. Her eyes open, yet she doesn't see us anymore. Softly Lena's music plays in the background, we touch her hands, soothing her hair back as she takes one last breath.........than another..........than her last. Her body relaxes in death as it hasn't in life........oh how our tears flow! It's so hard to say goodbye to our cherished Oma. Yet say goodbye we do, and we love you, you're safe, and it's ok.