Death and the caregiver

Outside is life

She had asked for Neil Diamond, and I had complied, loading the player with all six discs and pressing random play. “Red, red wine,” fills the room with a pseudo-calypso rhythm.

A gentle breeze wafts across the canal, through the wide-open doors and tousles her sparse, piebald red and grey hair. I turn away and watch the palm trees outside wave their fronds, almost in sync with the music. Sunny, bright and deliciously warm, almost mocking in its beauty, the day beckons me to come out into life and leave the drama playing itself out in the apartment behind.

For a few precious seconds, I let my mind flee. I soar out into the brilliant blue sky on wings loaned to me by Diamond and Jonathon Livingston Seagull, high above the houses and condos, the well-tended landscaping and the masts of the many moored boats, beyond all earthly ties, up to the wispy fair-weather clouds.

How distant our day-to-day worries, how ridiculous our struggles, our strivings, our useless ambitions our conquests and defeats when in the end we complete our journey, no matter what. Life and then, death. I choose life, keeping my face turned to the outside. I love life. Life --

“Please.” The word floats out on a breath, soft, barely formed yet expanding to fill all the space around me, in spite of the heartfelt refrain of “American Woman.”

I turn to the American woman dying beside me in the hospital bed Hospice has placed in what was once a beautifully appointed living room and is now a sick-room, with all the accoutrements a sick room requires. “What do you need?”

Her vivid blue eyes, so startling in the greenish-yellow, waxy face, her flesh now no more than a papery covering for the skull below, try to telegraph me a message.

A message I don’t receive. “Are you in pain?”

“Please,” say her gummy, chapped lips. Phlegm has collected at the corners.

“Water?”

Her eyelids flick and her lips form a word, the same word. “Please.”

I can’t give her a drink. Over the past hour, she has lost the ability to swallow. In the early hours of my shift, she’d sucked happily at a straw. But now, even sipping from a teaspoon causes choking and coughing. I take the spongy swab – why only one? – soak it in fresh water and moisten her lips. She opens her mouth, signaling her desire to have her inner mouth moistened. When the wet swab enters, she closes her mouth and sucks out the liquid – and her eyes bug forward as she goes into another paroxysm of gasping for air. I reach for the bed control box and raise her head. She grows agitated. Her quivering lips move.

“This--is--so--fucked,” she exhales, the words puffing out, more mouthed than spoken.

Without asking, I walk to the kitchen and grab a preprepared syringe of morphine. I return to her and hold it up before her almost blind eyes. The tumor in her brain had robbed her of most of her vision a few weeks earlier. “Morphine?” I ask.

“God, yes,” she replies.

I take her ice-cold hand and lift it to her mouth, placing the syringe in her bone-thin fingers. “Here it is.”

The hand falls limply across her chest. “Please.”

Another conundrum. By law, I am not allowed to administer the morphine. I am a caregiver, not a registered nurse. The drug must be self-administered – or Kate must be transferred to Hospice House and she does not want that. She wants to die as she has lived, privately, independently, on her own terms and above all, at home. Nevertheless, I’m all she has. It doesn’t require much thought. Screw the law. There’s the law and then there’s the right thing to do. I take her delicate, fragile hand in mine and hold it while I lift the dosage to her mouth.

Like a famished baby bird she opens her mouth and greedily rolls her tongue in the drug while I depress the plunger. Another line crossed. I finger her wrist as I lower her hand. The life force is a fluttering, thread beneath my fingertips.

I take her vitals. Her body temperature is low at 97.6. Her pulse rate is down from 94 beats per minute at eight o’clock this morning when I arrived to 75 now. Her blood pressure is only 63 over 36. I study her for a moment. At the base of her neck, her heartbeat causes a rapid fluttering as though some other living thing was trapped in there. Her body is a wasted shadow of the woman she’d once been, yet, as though trying to make up for the delicacy of the rest of her, her lower legs and feet are grossly swollen with edema, the legs red and painful. I must be careful when slip my hands under her calves and tuck her feet under the covers. Her feet are blue.

My eyes move up to the photograph on a chest showing Kate a decade ago, from a time when she was vital and brimming with life, the slender, finely-featured indomitable dame from Maine, stubborn to an irrational degree, independent and salty-tongued.

A small cry brings me back to the present Kate, the one determined to leave this world today. “More,” she pleads.

This I cannot do. Instead, I swab her mouth again and pull another blanket over her shivering body. Her eyes follow my form as I move, looking more through me than at me. What does she see? A faceless shadow looming over her or me, someone she hadn’t known existed nine weeks ago, a stranger paid to come in and help her with the most intimate of life’s functions: bathing, toileting, dressing, eating… One member of a team that had provided round-the-clock care and supposedly, companionship, foisted on her against her will, the price she had to pay for the privilege of staying in her own home. Is she glad I am here?

"Alone"

As if reading my thoughts, Diamond sings “Alone, again, naturally.”

I suppose dying is a lonely business. After all, even if you’re surrounded by your entire family, it’s you that’s dying, going to whatever is next, leaving life and loved ones behind to go on without you. It’s your body slowly shutting down as the dying process creeps along at a leisurely pace. What can those still obsessed with life and living know of your journey? Nothing, that’s what.

The morphine has begun its work and her agitation has disappeared. Only the rapid rise and fall of her ribcage, clearly visible under her parchment-like, yellowed skin and the flutter at her neck speak of life – and her eyes. They look so intense, as though willing me to understand something.

But I have undergone a journey of my own, from the easy friendship born of long night shifts spent together, talking, sharing our thoughts on life, politics, religion, marriage, divorce – all the forbidden subjects --to a sense of detachment. I am cold-hearted at this moment. I look after her bodily needs, but cannot allow myself to think of the Kate that has already died. For this barely functioning body is not she.

"Difficult"

By the time I had joined the team caring for her, Kate had already earned herself the reputation of being “difficult.” Once a professor of English in a New England college, educated and cultured, quick-witted and full of dry humor, she should have made friends easily. But she owned three things that kept others at bay: an absolute disdain of “fools,” a quick and sarcastic mouth, and no charity for the feelings of others. Four out of five caregivers worked one shift and announced “I am not going back there.”

But I can dish it out as well, and did. Kate and I clicked. She had once said, “What a shame I’m in this shape. We might have been good friends.”

I had replied, “So because you have cancer, you can’t make new friends? Bull shit! Consider me your new friend.”

I had liked the over-night shifts, 8 at night to 8 in the morning, because Kate didn’t sleep much, and we sat alone while the rest of the world slept, and I read to her, or we watched the news and dissected the stories, sometimes arguing for hours. I made batches of soup for her (Kate was a vegan) and froze them in portion sizes, ready for the day shift to thaw out while we talked about books and writing. She liked my cooking.

She grew comfortable with me, and I was one of two caregivers allowed to help her bathe, though, even then she held a washcloth over her missing right breast. I was not to see the mastectomy scar until the day she decided to die. The surgery and follow up treatments of radiation and chemotherapy she had kept to herself, not even telling her daughter, not until a year later when the doctors discovered the secondary tumors in her brain.

She told me of her troubled relationship with her daughter. Indeed, her daughter was busy at that time trying to have her mother declared incompetent, and herself made Kate’s guardian. “And if she thinks I’m going to live like that, I’ll just up and die right now.”

If ever I’d met an undeniably competent person, it was Kate. I had asked, “Why would she do that?”

“She doesn’t agree with my decisions, I suppose. I’d like to think she’s trying to save me from myself, but you know, she’s sixty years old and if she doesn’t know me by now, she never will.” Kate had had enough of what she termed the “cut, burn and poison” of traditional medicine’s approach to cancer treatment and had elected not to go down that road again. She laughed. “There’s certainly no money involved.”

“That’s your right,” I had said and known I was correct. I’d certainly sat through enough seminars on the rights of patients for this job.

“So I thought, but apparently not,” Kate had answered. Two days later, Kate had to go to the courthouse to meet the specialist in competency hearings for an evaluation. The resultant report concurred with my own opinion: Kate was a completely sane and rational human being who had made an informed decision and was fully aware of the consequences of her choice. Kate had added, “As if the end result won’t be the same no matter what.”

“At least this way,” Kate had said, quite cheerful, “I can spend whatever time I have left being happy, not poisoned and so sick I wish I was already dead.”

That is how it had gone, too. For weeks, I showed up for my shift, sometimes the morning, other times the evening and whenever I could, for the overnight and though I always said, “I think you’ve gained a bit of weight; you look better” in deference to her belief that supplements and health living might just beat the cancer, the truth was she already had that translucent complexion of the dying, and the yellow-green tinge that told me her liver was now involved, and she grew ever weaker.

Then, aware of the costs of ‘round-the-clock care and being of a decidedly frugal nature, Kate decided to invite some friends of hers “up-north” to come to Florida and help her, the wife being a retired nurse. She had, she confided to me later by telephone, only agreed to the services of our group in order to fight the competency issue. “But as soon as I’m feeling a bit better, we’ll get together, Lynda.”

Two weeks later, my supervisor called me and told me things weren’t going well for Kate and our services were once again needed. Was I interested?

Of course, I was.

She went on to explain the situation. Kate’s granddaughter was currently visiting and had tried to take over her care, had shut out the friends who’d come all the way from Maine and rented a suite next door, for undisclosed reasons. But the granddaughter had to leave, and Kate’s court-appointed trustee had stepped in. Our company had resumed twenty-four hour care. I had been busy with another client for the first few days, but now had time free. Could I take the morning shift the next day?

I would.

I was warned I would be “shocked” at Kate’s condition.

I answered, I wouldn’t be. My mother had died from cancer with a secondary tumor in her brain, much like Kate and I’d already seen how drastic and rapid the final decline could be. I would be fine, I assured my supervisor.

Brave words.

When the night-shift caregiver let me in, she briefed me. Kate had had a good day with her granddaughter yesterday, had slept well during the night. The granddaughter and her friend were packing up their car, getting ready to go. Kate was asleep. There are your instructions “just in case…”

Once alone in the room, breathing in the smell of sickness, seeing my friend prone in a hospital bed, the commode chair close by, I couldn’t help but recall those great night-long discussions and the spirited woman who wanted everything her way. I leaned over her.

The change was indeed shocking but not unexpected. Kate had become a living cadaver with rapid uneven breathing, and skin the distinct color of jaundice. I swallowed once or twice and lectured myself on keeping my emotions strictly under check.

Kate’s eyes opened.

I took her hand and said, “Hi, Kate. It’s Lynda. I’m here to spend the day with you.”

Her mouth opened. Each word was an effort. “So—happy—to—see—you.”

She dragged one hand to her mouth and made the hush sign. Two fingers beckoned me closer. “Where – is – everyone?”

“They are getting ready to leave.”

She made a small smile. “Get—me—up.”

It was a struggle. Kate could not support her own weight, leaving me to not only hold her up but to navigate her about. Her only contribution was the whispered shriek of, Oh God, oh God. Oh, God!” in my ear. In what must have appeared as some kind of strange clumsy waltz were anyone looking, I managed to manhandle her into the closest chair – the commode, which I suggested she try and take the opportunity to use.

So it was that when the granddaughter came to say her last goodbyes, Kate sat upright, as regal as any queen on her commode, with a freshly washed face, combed hair, a clean shirt and a blanket draped over her bare lower body.

If anyone would have told me at that moment, Kate would be dying four hours later, I would not have believed it. But as soon as the granddaughter left, Kate deflated.

I literally dumped the exhausted, courageous woman back on the bed and hauled her up to her pillow, apologizing non-stop for the rough treatment, amazed at how such a wasted body could weigh so much. “Thank—you,” she mouthed. Then she beckoned me come closer. “I—want—to—go.”

“That’s perfectly all right with me,” I told her. “I’ll be here, right here.” I emptied the commode of a small amount of dark, brown urine. Apparently, the kidneys had already shut down.

I pulled an armchair close to the bed, sat down and took her hand in mine. With the other hand I picked up the Bible Kate kept beside her. I am not a religious person, but I do know the Good Book. I turned to the appropriate chapter and began to read.

“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want…”

When I finished, her hand squeezed mine.

Then there was silence, save for the rhythm of Kate’s shallow breathing and the sounds of life from outside the window. Eternity passed, though it was a mere thirty minutes. Occasionally, Kate’s hand twitched in mine and I returned the greeting with a gentle squeeze.

We both began our separate journeys, hers to death and mine to numb detachment.

She slept, and when she awoke, she asked for Neil Diamond and I complied.

"Walking on water."

Sweet Caroline has ended. I check on her. I had thought her asleep; she isn’t. Her eyes are wide open, staring straight ahead, seeing something I cannot. Her jaw quivers. The pulse at her neck is stronger, faster. I swab her lips and mouth. This time she does not suck at the sponge. Her face flickers and her eyes fasten on to my form.

“Are you scared?” I ask.

Her poor chapped lips pull into a smile. She speaks, each word a glottal puff. “Not—at—all.”

“Good.”

She sighs, a long, deep sigh.

I am, I said… surrounds us with sound.

But Kate is no longer.

It takes me a few seconds to comprehend. I note the time.

Goodbye, Kate. You have died as you lived, entirely your own way. Well done.

Neil Diamond is singing about walking on water when I turn him off.

I wait

I go to the phone, functioning at a strange mechanical level. I call Hospice. They must come and pronounce death in accordance with Florida law. The duty nurse tells me it may be some time before she can get here, more than an hour. “At what time did she stop breathing?”

“12:36. I’ll wait for you.”

I call the trustee and tell him. He fires off instructions I am too numb to understand. I ask him to repeat. I am to call the funeral home. I am to remove all medications. I am to take the keys and secure the premises. I am to…

“This is not my job,” I tell him.

“Oh, right.” I hear him inhale a cigarette. I want one. He sucks on another drag. I really want one. I come to understand he is in shock. Why? This is the job he signed up for. His silence irritates me. He clears his throat with a wet cough. “I can be there in an hour or so.”

“I’ll wait for you.”

I call the caregiver who was to relieve me at four. She cries.

I call my office and get the answering service. I leave a message, telling them.

I return to her body. She wouldn’t want people to see her like this. I get a basin and washcloths. I go to her bedroom and find something to dress her lower body. I do what I can for her and pull the sheet over her.

I walk out on the lanai and suck up life. I can’t shake off the numbness. I need to do something. What? And then, thankfully, my brain power returns. I spend the hour and a half waiting for the others doing the last of the laundry, loading all dishes into the dishwasher and starting it, collecting all garbage and taking it out, emptying the refrigerator of all foods, collecting the medications for the Hospice nurse to dispose of….

And finally others arrive.

I’ve done my best for her and now I can go.

Somehow, I make it safely home. I am so tired, more tired than I can remember ever being. I lie on my couch and turn on the TV. My dog, sensing my mood comes and lies beside me.

The phone rings, my supervisor. “Are you all right?”

“Yes. I’m fine. It was an honor to help her.”

More by this Author


Comments 35 comments

ArtzGirl profile image

ArtzGirl 4 years ago from San Diego

Oh dear, wow... what a great hub page article.

I went through this with my Mother. My sister waited to call me to come and see her, until my mother had already slipped into a coma. I spent 2 solid weeks with her while she was in the coma. She was not taking any fluids or was not being fed in any way. It was agonizing to sit and watch her as the morphine or pain meds would wear off. The only saving grace-- I had a few unbelievably fabulous spiritual experiences that just couldn't be explained in any way, other than "you would have just had to have been there".

I haven't come yet to a place where I can sit down and write about it. The pain is still too fresh in my mind. I haven't distanced myself enough from the emotional feelings to actually write a story about it.

I took hundreds of photos of the process of this, but feel that they are personal family images. When I go back through my photo files, I can easily see the process that I went through that 2 weeks.

Thanks for your hub page. I'm sure this will have great meaning to the people who have gone through something similar to what you are talking about. It is a tough subject to write about, but you pull it off with ease!


Rolly A Chabot profile image

Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

Morning Lynda:

Thank you for writing this, such a reminder of living for the day. The one we are in and making sure we have taken care of all we need to look after in advance. Death is a hard thing to face for most people. I have been present for many in the final moments. Thank you for being there what you have written is a true blessing.

Blessings and Hugs


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

May Wakan Tanka rest her Spirit.

I cannot comment much here Mrs. Lynda - I spent too many years in hospitals, with wet swabs, morphine and the rest ... none of that helped in the end anyway. Not for my mother, or my grandmother ... not for some of my best friends ... it is what it is.

I am honored to know You. The work that You do and have done is priceless.

Many thanks - I wish You all the best. Cheers!


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 4 years ago from USA

This was an interesting, well written hub. I've worked in a nursing home, but I don't know if I could work one on one with one person until the end, but I admire you that you can do that.


resspenser profile image

resspenser 4 years ago from South Carolina

Beautiful piece of writing, Lynda. Think I'll put on a little Neil Diamond myself, make myself a fresh cup of coffee and read this again. Excellent. Brilliant. Touching.


lisa.bom 4 years ago

Thank you so much for writing this. I have been my sister-in-law's only care giver for the last 6 months. We are now at the end. Now the family and friends come. They ask questions like "why aren't you giving her water? You are killing her." and "Why is she so bad off. She was fine a few days ago". It really does hurt. They have no idea what she has gone through. It hurts to think what they think of me. I know in my heart I did everything I could.


DemiMonde profile image

DemiMonde 4 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

Wow, you are a great writer. First part definitely hooked me! Demi


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hello Artsgirl -- sorry for your loss. End of life care can be very wearing, no doubt, particularly when it is a loved one. We are not the same when we come out of it. Thank you for sharing with us here.

Hi Rolly, good friend and thank you. It is indeed an honor to help someone make that last great journey.

Hi Mr. Happy -- do not be quick to decide our small attentions do not help the dying. I'm sure -- positive -- they do, in every way except the one we can do nothing about. The dying will die, and yes, nothing will stop that. Thank you for commenting here.

Hi Barbara -- I would rather work one on one and give my all to that person right to the end, especially at the end, than work in a nursing home, so we are different in this respect. Thank you.

Hi resspenser -- I believe Kate's death was a lovely death, just as she wanted it, complete with the music. Thank you for your kind words.

Hi lisa -- I've often thought that death brings out the worst in families. Emotions run too close to the surface and all the unsettled issues return. Few understand the dying process unless they have been a part of it, so don't take their comments to heart. End time care means taking no steps to prolong life and every step to provide comfort. Yet, people are so attached to life, they can think only of delaying death. They mistake the process for neglect. Silly, really, but part of human nature, I suppose. Best wishes to you.

Thanks Demi. Pleased you enjoyed my style.

Thanks to all, Lynda


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

I don't know what has kept my Grandmother going in her nursing home. We keep expecting her to die but she doesn't. Nursing homes are particularly bad places. As for the type of care you do Lyndia, that I wouldn't mind if I reach your client's age. I hope I die before that happens to me, but at least when you hire people to take care of you, it is more private and focused. Nursing homes. Ick.

I don't think I could do what you do except for people I personally know (i.e. not for a living.)


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

You are an exceptional woman, Lynda, and an exceptional writer. I admire both your strength and your talent. This is an outstanding piece of writing about a difficult subject for most of us. Voted up, my dear.


ArtzGirl profile image

ArtzGirl 4 years ago from San Diego

Outstanding article, a very difficult subject matter. Thanks for writing this.


Kathy 4 years ago

Powerful! I was recently with my father when he died. My emotions were something like this, and he met the trials of his illnesses much as Kate did. "Stubborn", "difficult" - they don't begin to describe him. But he got his wish and never went into Hospice or nursing home - stayed home until the end and suffered mightily for it. Thank you for this.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Flora. My client had only just turned eighty and up till her illness was active and healthy --owned a boat and sailed, rode a bicycle... I always smile and try to keep my mouth closed when young people say "I hope I die before then." I guarantee you, you won't feel that way when the time comes. Last, I find it much easier to care for people I didn't know under other circumstances than to care for my loved ones. It's much harder when your emotions are involved. Thanks. Lynda

Hi drbj -- You make me blush. Thanks for the kind words. I've never understood why death is such a difficult subject for many. It is a natural part of life, after all. We must all die, and I wish good company for each of us when our time comes. Lynda

Hi again, ArtzGirl. Thank you and you're welcome.

Hi Kathy, I'm not sure your father suffered more for not going to Hospice. I've attended a few at-home deaths and a couple of in-hospital deaths. I think those who were at home were much more at ease and comfortable. Thanks for commenting. Lynda


capricornrising profile image

capricornrising 4 years ago from Wilmington, NC

I'm very moved, and don't know what to say, except that many times in my life I've contemplated my own mortality, and wonder whether I would handle the end well. Thank you, Lynda.

Cat


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Was with you all the way, Lynda -- went through same with my Mom. I admire you for your strength and compassion for your clients. Exceptionally interesting and well written (as usual) Hub. Voted UP. Best, Sis


Laura in Denver profile image

Laura in Denver 4 years ago from Aurora

I saw my mother die and was sad, of course.

However, I, Dad and two sisters were relieved that her flinching from the pain was gone, that she had all her intelligence, that SHE chose to discontinue painful cancer treatments and died with dignity.

Coming from another state, I was thankful I made it in time. Her wonderful doctor was honest with a prognosis, so she chose the "palliative care" (only treat the pain).

I have known of others who felt so strongly that their wishes not to suffer such pain caused them to commit suicide far before necessary.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Capricornrising -- I've yet to see a death where the dying did not handle his end well. I think the process reaches a point where the dying accept and understand. They slowly move away from life in a gradual journey. So, yes, I'm sure you will also face the end with dignity -- and if not, what does it matter? Lynda

Thank you Angela. It seems to me there's a great difference in attending the death of a loved one and being a professional caregiver. There's certainly more room for detachment, but the compassion is still necessary. As I stated, I consider it an honor to have been the one to help Kate. Thanks for your comment.

Yes, Laura in Denver, the final act of the process is a relief. It is over, suffering is over, life is over. It is only the living that feel the pain. As to suicide: who is to say when such an act is necessary? I would respect that decision, not judge whether or not they had suffered enough. Everyone has their own choice and I feel strongly about that right. I imagine it takes a certain courage to end your life before life does. Thanks for raising such an interesting issue. Lynda


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Hello again Mrs. Lynda,

you are right, our small attentions do help. I was thinking more about hospitals, the drugs and such. It seems as if hospitals and drugs sometimes just make the pain longer, for no reason - if we're to die without recovering.

I did not mean the personal help is no good. That is tremendous. Even the simple companionship I think matters, during tough times.

All the best!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Mr. Happy, I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Usually at end of life care, the only drugs given are to provide comfort -- morphine is the usual choice. Are you referring to care before that point? Then yes, I agree. I've seen doctors order procedures on people who are terminal even when the patient is wanting to go. I consider that an act of ego on the doctor's part, as if acceptance of the inevitable is "losing the game." In my father's case, I actually had to fight with his doctor to leave him alone. I think I said something like, "He's dying and unless you can help him with that, get lost." This man was so annoyed at me, he tried to have my father removed from the hospital, saying if he wasn't receiving treatment he shouldn't be there. CAn you believe it? Luckily, the hospital listened to me and transferred him to the palliative care unit where I stayed with him until death. So yes, sometimes the suffering is prolonged with no reason. Thanks for the comment. Lynda


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Dear Lynda,

You've done a phenomenal job of documenting this poignant slice of life in this truly moving think piece. As a caregiver myself, although not to this level yet, Lord willing not for a long time to come, I share many of these thoughts, emotions and fears. Having also been the one to walk my Dad into the hospital for the last time, a week later never to walk out, I understand the progress of the disease as it takes its last toll, something painfully hard to witness. A general feeling of numbness takes over, I believe, in order to preserve one's sanity as they undertake this necessary task.

I hesitated reading your article once I saw the title, only because I knew it would bring out things that I've tried really hard to forget: the interaction with my other family members once Dad progressed to the coma stage and so many other repressed feelings that went with the whole process of watching someone pass away.

I was moved to tears by your words, not from sorrow, but out of compassion for your difficult task and the brave manner in which you helped this woman in her final moments. Bless you for your strength and for sharing this woman's story. I'm so glad you were there to help her through it.

Much love,

Peg


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

We live in a society that denies death, fears it, is uncomfortable with the very idea, and yet, death is an integral part of life. In many societies it is celebrated. Our attitude makes death more difficult, not only for the survivors and the caregivers, but for the dying. I try to stay out of this mind set. This is not to say I am not moved by death, grieve for the loss, but I see it as just another journey, the end of this road, something we will all face. I've been present for the death of my own parents and for the end of comparative strangers. It is an honor to be the one to help. Thanks for your comment. Lynda


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 4 years ago

Hey Lynda! I read this when you first published and I just found the time to reread and make a comment. I have been a registered nurse going on two decades now. No one does dying the same way but the end result is always unequivocally the same. I have spent most of my career with the dying and witnessed many end of life situations, even in nursing school which was eons ago. I think about death often and even write about it. I really enjoyed your story it makes me so glad that I have had the pleasure of knowing you.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Tammy. I've sat through a few deaths myself and in the end, it all goes the same -- you're right. Some people simply can't handle it, consider it a tragedy, weep and wail, but I see it as a release. For Kate, it was by that time very welcome. It is an honor to help someone pass away, I think. And every time, I am surprised by the peace that comes at the end. Thanks for commenting. Lynda


itakins profile image

itakins 4 years ago from Irl

This evokes so many memories for me Lynda.I totally agree with you with regard to dying at home v. Hospital/institution.Your account of Kate's last few hours shows me, there were two feisty ladies in that room.

It is always such a privilege, to assist a person on that final journey.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks itakins. I know I would choose the route Kate did having seen the prolonged suffering of those who endure treatment right up to the end. Yes, it is a privilege to be there and assist. Good to hear from you. Lynda


sweetguide profile image

sweetguide 4 years ago from River side

Interesting information. Thanks dear martin


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You're welcome, sweetguide. Lynda


KrisL profile image

KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

Thank you. I cried.

If this ever leaves hub pages I hope it is because it's being published in a book of essays, on a renowned journal's website, or as a book of your own.


PenHitsTheFan profile image

PenHitsTheFan 4 years ago from Home

I'm sorry for your loss. This touched me. I was with my Mom when she passed from Colon Cancer. My Mom was not lucid as you described but it still brought up those emotions of that day.


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 4 years ago from California, United States of America

Beautifully written, beautifully conveyed. I'm just about speechless. Don't know what else to say.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you KrisL

Hi PenHitsTheFan. This was not a loss, but an honor.

Thanks NateB11.


Lyla Burns 3 years ago

I've never really known much about hospice care until my mom and dad started to get older. We recently started working with a hospice of New Mexico company for my dad as his health continues to diminish. Thanks for this information. http://www.heritagehomehealthcare.com


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 3 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You're very welcome and thanks for dropping by and commenting.


Emanate Presence profile image

Emanate Presence 3 years ago from the Head to the Heart

Lynda, as others, I enjoy your reader-friendly story-writing style, insights and spunk. A reader of my hub on being a caregiver referred me to yours. There is not much to add to what others have commented. My experiences with people at the end of their lifetimes have filled a few hubs. Still it is refreshing to read the perspective of one who felt the experience so deeply and articulates so well.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 3 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Emanate Presence. Yes, caregiving is a rich and rewarding endeavor. Pleased to meet another carer.

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