Dying At Home

My husband, Kevin, died at home.  He passed away in the house we have lived in since 1994.  To facilitate his comfort as his disease progressed we had obtained a hospital bed.  The bed was placed in the living room where he could look out a large three paned window.  The room is the hub of the home and he was the hub of our existence.  How much I miss him, how much we miss him.

When we realized that Kevin had passed away we took a few minutes as a family to say our good-byes.  Since we had planned for his death in our home I had two different telephone numbers that I could call, either the visiting nurse or our GP.  The GP had already been to the house earlier in the day and had told me to call her if anything changed.  So I called.  She told me that she could attend the house immediately or that if we wanted, she could give us more time just to be a family.  We elected for the “just to be”.  After about an hour the doctor arrived at the house.  She had to determine if death had occurred even though it was quite evident.  She used her stethoscope and listened for a heartbeat as well as attempted to locate a pulse.  After these activities she pronounced his passing and completed a government form confirming his death.

The GP spent some time with us individually as well as collectively to determine how we were responding to Kevin’s passing.  Once she was satisfied with our general state of mind she left the house.  I contacted the funeral home that Kevin and I had decided upon months previously and arranged to have them come out to retrieve him.  Two attendants from the funeral home arrived and gave us a general outline of what was about to happen.  They did this to prepare us as well as to allow those unable to watch Kevin’s body being removed the opportunity to leave the room.  Wisely, my daughter decided that she would leave while they moved Kevin from the bed to a gurney.  Everyone else stayed.  The only glitch we hadn’t prepared for was that the pain pump was still attached to his arm.  After a bit of discussion and to save the trauma of watching it come out of his arm, I simply cut the rubber tubing by the machine.

The attendants were very efficient and very careful.  They had opened a body bag on the gurney and when they moved Kevin over he was placed on top of the open bag.  They zippered it up to mid-chest, covered it with a coloured quilt, took one of our pillows from his bed and placed it under his head and then distanced themselves from the gurney.  We were allowed one more opportunity to say good bye in the privacy of our own home.  My daughter joined us as we bid him farewell.  When we’d had our moment, they removed the pillow and lay Kevin’s head on the gurney and then rolled the gurney to the front door.  It wasn’t until they exited the house that they actually zippered up the bag completely, something they did out of our line of vision.

For us it was the right decision to have him in the home until the very end.  For others it may not be.  It is very much a personal choice.  One of the comments Kevin had made to me when he was first diagnosed was, “Would I rather have people being paid ten bucks an hour look after me, or someone who loves me?  It’s a no brainer.”  Fortunately I have a supportive employer who worked with me to allow me to maximize my time spent with Kevin during his illness.  Consequently, throughout his treatment I was his voice and his advocate and it would be no different right to his death. Kevin’s disease and his death have forever changed me; heightening my awareness of and changing my perception of cancer.  Kevin as an individual impacted everyone who knew him and were lucky enough to be caught up in his orbit, especially me.