Written in prayer and love for all those who have accompanied a love one in Hospice. These are my words – but inspired by listening to those who have a more intimate knowledge with the situation than I do. (Permission to post was provided by those who recently inspired me.)
It wasn’t the sound, or lack of sound, that woke me up this morning.
The unsteady breath, irregular and incomprehensible sounds, the mechanical rhythm of the forced oxygen, had long faded into the normal unchanging scenery.
At first, our routines remained the same. Then the days and months began to shorten our tether. We had visitors, and help. Friends came to sit with her and I would run out for the necessities, finding moments of stolen joy between the grocery isles or pursuing through magazines in the doctors’ waiting rooms. But then, the sound of my name being called or the sight of the ice-cream drums sticks, one of the only things she would eat, would call me back.
In just a week, the words Alzheimer’s and cancer joined the already too familiar heart failure on the diagnostic screen. Words saved in some cloud for the medical staff to call up as needed, yet real and thick and present as we walked into the door of our home.
I had married her early, a boy with stars in his eyes. I was in awe, and had no choice. I loved her.
Three months. After years and years, moving and kids, and never knowing what would happen next, we were given three months.
To know the end date, to know what is expected. To know that I would have a life without her, after her.
She was ready, but I was not.
She knew where she would go, we both did. The arms of our blessed Creator were waiting for her. Her room was being prepared with flowers and song and sunlight.
But my room was still standing empty, blinds drawn and lights off.
Three months became four, and five, and then six.
Life continued, but the ticking clock was always there alongside our daily routines.
Another good day! Another birthday, holiday, anniversary. Another dinner with the kids. Another week, month, hour. More time.
Seven months. Eight. Nine. Ten.
Eating less. Sleeping more. And me, just waiting.
The slow, almost imperceptible changes, gaining speed. Her body, seeming to say, that the time is soon.
Time. I can have everything in the world I want, except time.
She tried to keep the rhythms of our life steady, but could barely make it from bed to chair without needing to sleep. She tried.
She tried for me.
Eleven months. 241 extra days of being present, of being together, of being able to ask her if she needed anything.
Of being able to kiss her beautiful face.
It wasn’t the silence. It was the space.
The presence of her strength, her love, her joy, was gone. The tether had been cut. I was alone. I do not know how to be alone.
The visitors of Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart failure were also gone. They exited as she took that last breath in the dark hours of morning.
I know she is at peace. I know God’s Promise has been fulfilled.
I know she wasn’t young. I know we had lived more than our share of happy years.
Yet for one more kiss. For a few more moments to look over and see her sitting in her chair. To see her smile, or hear her sweet voice bringing alive the verses of a poem.
Now, I can just walk out the door. I can go shopping. I can finally get someone to look at that pain in my leg.
I can go out to dinner at a restaurant. See a movie. Spend hours looking at books in the library.
I can get out again.
But, without her.
And always, with her.
Lord, it is my deep and honest prayer that John and all the others who you have not yet prepared a room for, feel your love. And I do not just mean know you love them, but feel it wrap around their bodies and sink into their bones. Lord, it is through that love that we continue to be contented to our mothers and fathers, wives, husband and partners, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, and all those we have ever loved. It is through your living presence that, existing in the same unexplainable space and time in our physical, limited world, and your amazing, limitless world of eternal Heaven, that we can never be separated from You, those we love, and those that love us. I may not understand it all, but I do understand that John and his beloved wife will forever continue to be connected. It is your love as expressed between them, that is immutable. Lord, thank you, for in that, lies Hope. Amen.