The dialysis was no longer working. My husband, his sister, and his brother discussed the options with the doctors. It came down to the fact that it was futile to continue the dialysis, but it was still a very difficult decision…this decision to let their father go. The doctors told them that his death would not be painful. The toxins in the blood, which was no longer being cleansed by the kidneys or the dialysis machine, would within the week shut down the other organs.
My husband’s mama had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's only months before. She knew her husband was in the hospital again, but didn’t really grasp the seriousness of the situation. Still, her children thought it only right to have him moved back into the adult care home with her so they could be together for his last days.
With him in the twin bed next to hers, the family gathered. Oldest son, daughter, son in law, hour after hour by his bedside. They played the old timey gospel quartet music that he loved and sang along. They watched his favorite John Wayne movies, him drifting in and out of consciousness. My husband would sit and read the Bible to him. His wife, their mama, just seemed irritated at the whole thing, not understanding. She would scold her husband for not waking up, pick at him, slap at him.
As the end got nearer, I drove up with my girls so they could tell Grandpa goodbye. We got there shortly after noon on Friday. He was conscious enough to know his grandbabies, now full grown, were in the room. (That man loved to have his grandbabies near him, even at the end.) Things with Grandma, however, were deteriorating. She was getting more angry and hostile whenever she was in the room with him. She just wasn’t understanding what was going on, and getting more and more aggressive. Her kids were now having to keep her out of the room. This was not the peaceful passing they were wanting, for him, or for her.
As the afternoon wore on, he was no longer waking up at all. His breathing was getting shallower. The nurse said it wouldn’t be too much longer. The kids were now rotating…someone in with their dad, someone out in the living room, occupying their mama. Later that evening, she looked up at her son in law, and as clear as can be said, “He’s dying isn’t he?” My brother in law told her the truth. Told her that it was time to tell him goodbye and tell him how much she loved him. Told her she could go back into the bedroom and be with him if she wanted.
When she walked into the room, she was herself. No, in truth, she was better than that, she was herself wrapped up in love and grace. She took his hand, bent over him, and for the next twenty minutes, told him how much she loved him. She told him what a great husband, dad, and grandpa he was. She told him it was okay to go to heaven now. She reassured him that the kids would take good care of her. She kissed him, her tears dripping off her cheeks onto his. Then she sang. “Jesus loves you, this I know, more and more like Him you’ve grown, now He’s come to take you home.” The tune was the old familiar Sunday School song, but the words were ones God must have given her, just in that moment.
Those were their last moments together. She left the bedroom, and went back into her world of foggy confusion. She wasn’t with him, when in the wee hours of Saturday morning Jesus did come and take him home. However, their goodbye, after over 45 years of marriage, was forever and ever, etched in the minds of their children, their grandchildren, as miraculous.
During the month of June, I am joining others on Wednesdays and blogging about marriage…