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The Peaceful Departure

Updated on February 19, 2014
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013, it had been a week since mom had made a drastic change; what the Hospice Nurse called “Transitioning.” We had known for a week that it was going to be over for her very soon.

Mom’s nurse came over at a little before 11:00 am. As soon as she arrived, I questioned her about if the oxygen was prolonging mom’s suffering, it was supposed to be for the purpose of comfort only. (Mom wanted no life support of any kind).

When the nurse walked in mom’s room and looked at her, she knew that mom was nearing the end. The nurse told me that mom had slipped into a coma. She said that giving mom morphine at this point would help calm mom’s breathing, and put her in a more peaceful state. I asked the nurse if mom would be able to die more peacefully if she had the morphine, and she said yes, she felt that mom would be able to die more peacefully.

This was all very hard to grasp. I didn’t want mom to have to go on like that, but it was hard to let go. The nurse said that mom could pass in a couple of hours or a couple of days. She instructed me on what to do about giving mom the morphine, and what to do when mom passed away.

At 1:00 pm my husband, son and I were all in the room with mom. We were talking normally as if she could hear us. At 1:21 pm the oddest thing happened; my friend sent me a text, and my phone made the little noise alerting me that I had a message. The moment that the alert sound went off on my phone, my mom took a big gasp of air (It was startling!) It was as if the little sound on my phone was the signal for mom to begin her departure. She took a second gasp of air, and then made three little gurgling sounds in the back of her throat, and then at 1:22 pm she was gone. Two hours and twenty two minutes after being taken off oxygen and put on morphine, mom’s suffering was over.

I called Hospice and mom’s nurse came back over. She verified that mom was gone, and then she helped me put a dress on her. I had already cut the back of one of mom’s dresses so that we could slip it on her from the front, like a hospital gown. I wanted mom to be dressed when the Funeral Home picked her up. Mom would never leave the house not dressed, and she wasn’t going to that day either.

A final thought.

Mom had refused morphine (For pain) in the hospital, so I followed suit, thinking that I was honoring her wishes. The nurse that came the week before mom died (On the “Transition” day), she said that morphine would help with mom’s breathing, and help her be more at peace. I wish now that I would have allowed mom that comfort for the last week of her life, instead of just the last few hours. I have to say, that the morphine did everything that the nurses told me it would do, and it really did allow mom a peaceful departure.

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February 2014 - One Year Later

I will be haunted for the rest of my life that I allowed my mom to remain on oxygen that final week of her life. She had stopped taking in nourishment, including water, a week before she died. Mom had already made it clear that she was to have no IV or feeding tube, she also didn’t want oxygen if it were sustaining her life, which, as it turned out, it was. My mom should have been taken off oxygen and started on morphine (for any discomfort) as soon as she stopped taking in any nourishment. I will never forgive myself for her having to possibly linger on in her suffering longer than she had to.

Mom and I both thought that the oxygen was just to keep her mind clear. If she would have thought for one moment that it was going to sustain her life, she would have refused it from the onset. She died two hours and twenty-two minutes after she was taken off the oxygen and put on morphine.

My mom couldn’t have made her wishes any clearer; she wanted no form of life support, and I didn’t honor that in her final days, due to my own ignorance. My advice to anyone who is a caregiver for a loved one would be; to abide by your loved one’s wishes first and foremost, and to be informed in all areas of their care. Your loved one is relying on you to protect their best interest, and to see that their wishes are honored.

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