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Transitioning to Depart

Updated on March 23, 2014
Vintage Angel by The Graphics Fairy
Vintage Angel by The Graphics Fairy | Source

A week before my mom passed away, she went through a change; the Hospice nurse called “Transitioning.” The nurse explained it as my mom was preparing to pass over. Once that happened it seemed like mom’s decline kicked in to high gear. Mom was changing daily. She’d get up one way in the morning, and she’d be different at bedtime.

I thought she had, suffered a stroke, because her speech had been affected. You could tell that she knew what was going on around her. She understood what you were saying to her, but when she tried to answer back her speech was almost like gibberish. It was very frustrating for her not to be able to communicate. If she talked slowly enough, and didn’t attempt to say much, she could be understood. I understood her loud and clear when she said to me, “I want to die!” She didn’t know that she was just one week away from that being so.

Mom’s eyes didn’t look the same after transitioning. It’s hard to explain what they looked like. She didn’t look at you with both eyes at the same time; it was like they weren’t working in unison anymore. Her right eye looked more to the right, and the left eye looked slightly to the left; they didn’t either one look straight ahead. They also looked a little glazed, for lack of a better term. Mom’s facial expression looked different, but that could have been because her eyes were so different.

The transition happened on a Tuesday morning. Every day following brought a new level of decline. By the following Monday evening, mom was no longer communicating at all. When I changed her diapers, she was like a limp rag doll. Just a few days later mom would pass away very peacefully.

I don’t know if everyone that is dieing goes through “Transitioning,” but if you’re taking care of a loved one and you recognize what I’m describing, time really is working against you. If there are people that you would want to give the opportunity to call or come to see your loved one, so that they can say their goodbyes, you should do so, if you think your loved one has transitioned.

There was a sadness that came when mom went through her transition, because she didn’t seem like herself anymore. She didn’t sound, or look, like my mom. I wonder what it is that happens in the brain that causes such a change, and why does it happen? If “Transitioning” has to do with the dieing person preparing to cross over, then do they will them self into the state of transitioning to depart? All I know is that when it happened to mom, it was a dramatic change, and it truly was the beginning of the end.

I can’t help but wonder about the account in the Gospel message of the "Transfiguration" that the Lamb went through prior to the day He died on the Cross. Was that event something similar, to a dying person’s transitioning?

March 2014: A Person's Will to Transition

I wrote the above; Transitioning to Depart, just a few months after my mom had passed away. It was still a very painful time and I didn’t feel much like doing a lot of research. Now that some time has passed I would like to have a better understanding of what transitioning really is.

I searched online and the information that I was able to find explained (To the best of my understanding) transitioning as being the process of letting go; the dying person is at peace; there’s nothing left that they need to do and they are ready to leave this world. That was a condensed conglomeration of information from a number of websites.

I know that my mom was at peace. From the onset of being told that she was terminally ill my mom made it clear that she was not afraid to die and that she was ready to meet her Maker. My mom was in the place where she wanted to be (In her own bed at home) and she had her family with her when she passed away. She was at peace and was situated in the way that she wanted to be, for when her time would come to pass away.

It wasn’t until I began to research about what transitioning is, that I could come to a better understanding that mom transitioned because she was at peace and it was her will to let go. There truly is comfort in knowing that. Unfortunately, in coming to a better understanding of my mom’s transition, I also came to an awareness of how costly the mistakes were, that I had made twenty-six years ago when my dad was dying.

My dad battled cancer for ten years. In 1987, after his final surgery, we knew that it was just a matter of time. He was in the hospital where he was being taken very good care of, his pain was being managed, he had the nutrition that he needed and was in a bed that was suited for him. I can honestly say that he looked comfortable and seemed to be very much at peace.

Being that dad was kind of a homebody; I thought he would naturally be happier if he could be at home instead of in the hospital. So, I told my mom that we should make arrangements to take dad home, she agreed and against the doctor’s advice we had dad transported home. Dad was home for eleven days, I knew right from day one that I had made a mistake, because the fist time that I changed his diaper, the look of humiliation on dad’s face was almost more than I could bear.

We weren’t set up to take care of dad at home, and he didn’t want to be at home with his family changing his pants and taking care of him; he was uncomfortable and seemed to be quite frustrated. We wanted his life at home to be as normal as possible, so we carried him, as best that we could, from his bed to the uncomfortable couch every morning, and then carried him back to his bed every night. I can’t even imagine how physically painful that was for him, being that he had just recently had major surgery.

One day I had the bright idea that maybe he would enjoy sitting up in his favorite chair instead of laying on the uncomfortable couch all day, but as soon as I let go of him he couldn’t hold himself up, and hr slumped over like a rag doll.

On the beginning of the twelfth day, I could tell that dad was even more frustrated than he had been before. I told him I was sorry that I couldn’t take better care of him and that I should have allowed him to remain in the hospital where everything was set up so well for him. I began to cry and I laid my head on his tummy; as I did, he began to choke, and it scared me. I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t let my dad just lay there and choke to death, so I called an ambulance. When we got to the hospital dad’s doctor was notified that dad was there and he came immediately. The doctor asked me to step out of the room so that he could talk to dad for a few minutes in private.

When dad’s doctor came out he told me that they were going to admit dad (I was relieved). He said that he was going to let dad get a little rest and then they were going to run some tests; dad would later be moved to a room where they could monitor him and keep him comfortable. The doctor told me that there was no need for me to sit in the waiting room, that I should go home and get some rest and come back later. So I went in and told dad that I was leaving for a while but that I would be back later in the day. I kissed him goodbye, not knowing that it really was goodbye; dad died just a few hours later.

I saw dad’s doctor that evening; he told me that as soon as he looked at dad, while in the Emergency Room, he knew that it was almost over for him. My dad’s doctor allowed dad the time he needed to be alone, so that he could just peacefully go to sleep. That’s why the doctor told me to go home and get some rest. My dad was ready to die, but he didn’t want to die with me or anyone else in the room with him. I guess it’s common for some people to want to die alone. That was mentioned to me when mom was close to death, but mom was the opposite, she waited to die until three of us were in the room with her.

My dad was at peace in the hospital, but the natural process of dying was disturbed as soon as we took dad home. He was thrown in to survival mode because he didn’t want to die at home with any of us around him. Honestly, now that I look back; having gone through the process of mom’s death; I don’t know what I was thinking taking dad home like that.

I have no way of knowing for sure, but I would like to think that once dad returned to the hospital, he was able to transition (Let go) and peacefully pass away,

For a dying person to transition is a very positive thing, and though it was a little frightening when it happened with mom, nonetheless, it is comforting knowing that mom made the transition because she was at peace and was ready to depart. I feel horrible to realize, after all these years, that I turned, what should have been, a peaceful time for my dad, in to a time of stress. My heart was in the right place, but that’s about all. I guess it’s true that some of the worst mistakes are made with the best of intentions.

My dad's death experience was the opposite of my mom’s. Mom was very much at peace in her last days and she did what dying people do who are ready to pass on; she transitioned. My poor dad, on the other hand, was forced to hang on to life until he could return to a peaceful state. I would have hated for dad’s body to give out at home, before he had the opportunity to return to the hospital, because then I would have to look back, well knowing, that he did not die in peace.

I'm sharing about my dad so that hopefully I can help to keep someone else from making the same mistakes that I made.

Mom and Dad 1960's
Mom and Dad 1960's
Dad and Mom 1986 - Last photo of Dad
Dad and Mom 1986 - Last photo of Dad

Poem: My Apology

Mom’s been gone more than a year, I’ve thought of her each day

At times it seems that she’s still here, for I can smell her Jean Nate`

If there’s one thing I know it’s this; that mom had willed to go

Momma died in peace, but I can only hope my dad did so

If I could write my dad a note of sincere apology

I’d first ask his forgiveness for how selfish I can be

I didn’t give a second thought to the care my dad was under

Thus, desire to have him home, would soon become a costly blunder

I’d tell dad I was sorry, that I could have been so unaware

That peace is the essential goal of a dying person’s care

But I disrupted peace, and caused eleven days of woe

I would end with my admittance that;, I couldn’t bear to let him go


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