The Next Day

The next day, Monday, was a very full day – both physically and emotionally.  Kevin had been removed to the funeral home the night before and we had agreed to meet with a funeral director there at 2 pm the next day (or Monday).  Prior to going to the funeral home we used the morning to disassemble most of the home supports we had in the house and move them to the garage.  This was a significant undertaking since we had a fair number of assistive devices in the house.  Both my sons were awesome at getting it done quickly and uneventfully.  They disassembled the electric bed in the living room, removed the bed rails, bedside table, tripod bar, bath seat, rollator, commode, floor to ceiling support bar and oxygen pump to the garage.  It was a lot of hardware but the various agencies had already contacted us indicating that they would be sending trucks to pick it up within a day or two.  Since we were otherwise preoccupied with planning a funeral it seemed easier to store the hardware in the garage so we wouldn’t have workers wandering throughout the house.

There was the matter of the pain pump as well.  This piece of machinery they picked up within 24 hours of Kev’s passing.  The pump dispensed liquid morphine and I had a small supply that they wanted back and fast.  They were at the house late Monday afternoon and the hardware and all residual drugs – liquids and pills – were retrieved and removed by the service agency.  I must admit it felt good to have it out of the house.  Literally the medications had taken up a shelf in one of my kitchen cupboards.

Monday afternoon we went to meet with the funeral director.  I already knew I wanted the service on Thursday and a visitation on Wednesday and fortunately the funeral home was able to accommodate my wishes.  Thus the first thing we needed to action was the obituary.  I wanted it in Tuesday and Wednesday’s papers for sure, to allow adequate notification for family, friends and co-workers to attend.  We did a quick write-up and provided a photo that the kids had chosen – happy, earthy and truly representative of their father – it was a good choice, right down to the peace sign on his shirt.  The obituary out of the way we had to do the actual planning.  This is where personal preferences come in.  If you want an open casket then embalming costs are incurred, if you want cremation more costs.  Kevin had wanted to be cremated but he also felt that an open casket would  provide closure as well as allow family and friends the chance to insert little keepsakes or gestures to send him on his way.  He also wanted a casket that people could sign; surprisingly this was not a new request for the funeral home. It did limit our choice of caskets to two unfinished poplar caskets or a cardboard recyclable coffin.  Although he probably would have loved the cardboard, I just couldn’t do it.  After selecting the coffin, we had to choose an urn for his ashes.

Then back to the primary meeting room where we selected the flowers – a display for husband, dad and granddad.  We also needed to discuss who would perform the service and the general format of the service.  We picked out a register for people to sign. There was a discussion about photo boards, which we wanted to put up (again my children, I just had no capacity to do this).  What about a powerpoint?  Would we be having music during the visitation? Would we be using music for the actual service?  Was there something in particular we wanted on the Memorial Cards that would be by the register?  Would we be bringing in any of Kevin’s original art, if so, where did we want it placed? Did we want flowers – if we did then we would be responsible for removing them all.  If no flowers, what instructions did we have for donations? I’m sure there were more decision points but after a while I was spent and couldn’t decide anything.  Fortunately my sister and my three children were there to carry me through. How I love my family.

Based on the anticipated numbers of people the funeral home was unable to accommodate our reception afterwards, so they provided us with some alternative venues to consider.  This was an unexpected complexity but again, I left it to the kids (who aren’t really kids at 30, 27 and 25) and they came through with flying colours.  I have to thank my sister-in-law too, she had suggested the venue we ended up at even before we had our meeting with the funeral home since she knew we were going to have a fairly large turnout.

That was my Monday.  A lot of decisions on a day when a pervasive numbness consumed me. The next couple of days would  be equally demanding while the fog I was in seemed to get denser and denser.

After the Doctor Left

The doctor left the house around 2 pm on Sunday, March 29th.  The kids were all around and immediate family had come over as well.  It is surreal to me now as I reflect back on what happened.  The doctor left and I chatted with the kids about how things were rapidly declining.  The lymph nodes in my husband’s neck had swollen tremendously and likely were the culprit for the rapid decline.  We had been instructed by the doctor to use the pain pump as often as every 15 minutes if Kevin appeared to be in discomfort.  We also had the mouth care products which we liberally applied to the inside of his mouth and his lips.

There was no noticeable change in his breathing, it remained as laboured as ever, and his physical presence didn’t change dramatically.  Whatever was happening was occurring inside, almost like he didn’t want to cause us any distress.  There was no rattle in his chest and his agitation was significantly diminished – I suspect his system was gently slowing down.

All day, off and on, someone had been holding his hand or stroking his arm and telling him how loved he was.  Around 6:30 that night I knelt by the side of the bed and held his hand, my daughter Kelly knelt on the other side and did the same.  I said to him “it’s okay Kevin, your girls are here.”  At that exact moment his sister walked through the door saying “Hello everybody, I just finished dinner and thought I’d stop by.”  My two sons were at home, one in the room, one outside watching the darn hawk that had been flying over the house all afternoon.  It was then that Kevin took two deep breaths, almost sighs, and literally left us.  It was a graceful departure, one of peace – the thing he believed in most.  It was his gift to us as a family, a quick release designed to minimize our agony of watching him die.  Cancer may have taken him, but in the end he went on his terms.

Kevin, Kev, Kevi, Big Daddy, Pappy, Dad, Pops, Uncle Kevin, Granddad, Batch, Batchelor – you will be missed so very much and by so many – there was no one quite like you.  I love you honey.

What Next?

So I have to make a decision about this blog – do I keep it going or do I shut it down. It started as a diary of events surrounding my husband’s illness and with his death it must be revisited.

Grief is a debilitating thing, it takes away all rational thought and introduces a fear that is insidious that influences you without you even being aware of it. Like the fight or flight response the body goes into gut wrenching reaction where emotions over rule the mind. They tell me this is normal. The events preceding my husband’s death were the most emotional and draining I have ever experienced and play over and over in my mind as I grieve.

During Kevin’s last days with us he deteriorated far faster than the doctor expected. We had agreed and enrolled in a program called expected death in the home or EDITH. This provided us with access to home supports for all stages associated with impending death. Consequently when his health started to decline on Saturday I called our visiting nurse to come to the house and assist me and the kids in calming him down. He was most agitated.

We used an injection from a symptom relief kit that was supplied to me (and is given to all terminal patients in our area). Kevin’s agitation was quite intense and he was determined to get out of his bed and leave. He pleaded with us to “help me”. It was bar none the hardest night that the kids and I have ever put in. The night was an anxious one but he made it through.

We made a decision to contact the doctor to attend the house on Sunday to help us prepare for the days ahead – or so we thought. At this point we still believed we had at least a week or even two to spend with him.