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Memories We Share – Part 18 - Grateful for the Absence

Updated on October 3, 2011

As I sit savoring my morning coffee in a house warm enough to ward off the Fall chill, I swallow a handful of medication my older human system now requires. But I have the means to acquire my needs and I am struck with overwhelming gratitude for lack. My life, so recently filled with caring for my husband around the clock, as his was life was draining away from end stage COPD, has turned, albeit temporarily, into a life lacking the need to be a caretaker every moment of the day and night. I no longer have to be alert to every breath, or lack thereof, that comes from his body.

After three long months of being on Hospice care he was “graduated” from the program on the twenty-fifth of September. This term simply means that his terminal disease no longer can be expected to end his life in three to six months or less. It also means he does not require or qualify for Hospice care.

Was there a miracle? Well, yes and no. No, his COPD is not better but his respirations are, now that we stopped “making him as comfortable as possible.” We almost “comforted” him to death. The theory of keeping a person with a terminal illness comfortable is wonderful and I still believe in it whole heartedly. I do caution, however, that you make absolutely sure that person is, indeed, in the end stages of their illness. In my husband’s case, and I want to stress this is the only expertise I claim, he was being highly over medicated with pain medications and those for Anxiety. The last time I wrote of our situation we had just come home from his second stay in the Hospice ward of the hospital. The attending doctor, along with the results of a long overdue breathing test, caused his treatment to be changed significantly. I had been literally exhausted both physically and psychologically traveling back and forth between administering the medication we were told he needed and the nagging voice in my head that told me something was desperately wrong. His confusion had become so severe that he was hallucinating at times, was rarely awake and when he was, there was a complete lack of personality. He was a bundle of symptoms that all of us who were caring for him attempted to “manage.” I had lost my best friend, lover and confidant and never in my life had I more desperately needed him. He complained of pain whenever a nurse or doctor asked how he was feeling, so doses were increased and so was the depression of his respiratory system, already failing from the COPD.

It has taken a full three weeks for all of the effects of the “extra” medication to leave his system but after the first five days his mind was becoming increasingly clearer and his need for oxygen on a twenty-four hour a day basis has ceased. He still uses it when he feels short of breath or he will take a dose from one of his inhalers but the difference is amazing. I find myself butting in now and answering questions for him when people try to converse about his care and how he is feeling. For three months he was unable to tell if it was day or night, and only responded the he was in pain or so very tired. I would have to fill in the blanks and took copious notes about every aspect of his life, such as it was.


Now, our life is filled with the lack of. There are not Hospice nurses, personal care aides, doctors or delivery people entering our home four or five days a week. There is no need for me to fix him something to eat between meals, he snacks quite well on his own. I no longer watch the clock to note whether it is time for medication, he manages his own. At one point it had to be kept in a box with a padlock and hidden from him, along with the car keys, to keep him from harming himself. I no longer have to schedule my showers when someone is here to keep an eye on him and can allow the calming water to beat down on my, no longer so tired, muscles, as long as the hot water lasts. The responsibility of running to the post office, pharmacy or grocery store for a couple of items no longer plagues me with fear that he will awake while I’m gone. He now runs these errands many days when he feels up to it. I no longer have to try to get my daughter to bring our groceries from town or help with the yard work. Last week he dropped me off at the grocery store while he drove himself to his doctor’s appointment and was even able to carry in a couple of bags filled with groceries when we returned home.

Absent from our living room is the hospital bed, side table and the reclining lift chair. Gone from the bedroom are the four heavy extra tanks of oxygen that required moving when I need to vacuum. There is a lack of longing for someone to talk with, share with, to laugh with! And, most wonderful, is the absence of sleeping alone in the recliner or on the couch. Now we sleep in the same bed and while he is propped on a small mountain of pillows to make breathing easier, our legs can still find each other in the night and the warmth of two wards off the chill of our recent past.


Submit a Comment

  • Sharyn's Slant profile image

    Sharon Smith 

    6 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

    Dear Pooh,

    I am very late to the party but never the less, so happy to hear this news. May God bless you with many, many more bright days!


  • stars439 profile image


    6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

    Dear Phoenix : I am so very happy for you , and Gary, and I am glad you are not as over worked. God Bless you both precious heart. You were very alert during the entire difficult times. Your awareness of the medication issue probably saved his life, and has prolonged his life. God does work miracles. Our prayers for you, automatically never end. I never stop loving my friends, and family. God Bless You.

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from On the edge

    We have, absolutely, been given a miracle and the opportunity to fully appreciate that which seemed so ordinary at one time. Gary covered me with an extra blanket as I was falling asleep and the pure love of this act and his ability to live outside of his pain and reach out in caring was a gift I'd never expected to experience again from him. We are beyond blessed and I marvel at each new day we have.

    We do not fool ourselves into believing this horrid illness will disappear. It is still obviously present and a constant reminder of what may come, but for now, we have each other and it is by His grace and guidance, we have no doubt at all that this is what has taken place. To all who have kept us in your prayers, we are so very grateful!

  • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

    DeBorrah K Ogans 

    6 years ago

    Poohgranma, WONDERFUL! I see this as a MIRACLE as well as an answer to the many prayers that have gone forth from all concerned! How Marvelous! The LORD has extended your time together and Gary's quality of life is improving! However I wish that you were given help for a season so you could recuperate and get more of your strength back... You and Gary have more memories to share and chapters to live out together in life on this side of Heaven! May the Lord give you His Peace & Joy for The Journey! PRAISE GOD!

    Your loyalty genuine care and concern for Gary has been inspiring and made ALL the difference in the world! The power of your Love for him is evident! Wow! What an improvement! May you both get stronger as each day passes! ENJOY one another! God Bless You Take Care! In His Love, Grace, Joy, Peace & Blessings! GOD BLESS BOTH OF YOU!

  • rwelton profile image


    6 years ago from Sacramento CA


    You pave a path that all of us will eventually walk, with grace, compassion and love. We are fortunate to have you share with us.


  • WillStarr profile image


    6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    What wonderful and unexpected news! Prayer does work.

  • K. Burns Darling profile image

    Kristen Burns-Darling 

    6 years ago from Orange County, California

    Sherry, so happy to hear that things are better! I went through that over medication disaster with Dad last January when he was in the extended stay facility for his hip. It was horrible, and I couldn't seem to make the nurses understand that one of the reasons that they were having so many problems with him was because he was over medicated. It was though, my incentive to push even harder for him to come home. I am suffering my own lack right now, for at my house too, there is an absence of table and bed and oxygen and people coming and going, I am happy to know that your "lack" has a happy outcome! Mine of course, will resolve itself in time. Still praying for a full recovery, and for you and Gary to have many more years to share!


  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Pooh , I too love that last thought ! Of warming each other . There is no finer thing in this life than that shared!.....:-}

  • Hyphenbird profile image

    Brenda Barnes 

    6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Pooh, how wonderful to hear a progress report. am so happy for you both and that you have one another. Does this mean we will be seeing more of your sweet self?

  • Poohgranma profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from On the edge

    SOH, I have missed you so. That is one absence I have not been grateful for in any measure. It is so very good to hear from you, although I've felt the comfort you've sent silently, all along.

  • SomewayOuttaHere profile image


    6 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

    ...good to read - 'our legs can still find each other in the night and the warmth of two wards off the chill of our recent past'......................................


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