Traveling Alone

I was apprehensive about being alone on this trip.  Not alone in the sense that I was by myself – because I wasn’t.  At any time I was surrounded by dozens of people, and indeed, I was traveling with my sister. It was more about crossing over an invisible line in the relationship world, from being part of a couple to just being one.  It continues to be an ongoing mindset shift, at least for me.

I had traveled on my own in the past, but I never analyzed it in any way, shape or form.  I didn’t have to, I was simply going from Point A to Point B and I would call Kevin when I got there.  I was part of a couple, just the half that was in transit and, consequently, the state of ‘oneness’ was temporary.  For me that provided a sense of confidence, knowing that I had the power of two whenever I needed it.  I also knew that when I got back home there would be a meal waiting – Kevin’s way of welcoming me home. Didn’t matter if it was a weekend, a week or a month I was gone; invariably he’d have a roast beef dinner ready to go.

For this vacation, my first hurdle was to vanquish the unsettled state I found myself in, having no immediate support system as close as a call away, and, in fact, not having anyone to call anyway.  I traveled along behind my sister feeling a little discombobulated, out of my comfort zone, content to let her lead the way. She did an admirable job; we got through the trip without any glitches and, for me, without any major meltdowns.

The drive home was uneventful; the weather cooperated.  As I made my way I was painfully aware that my return home would be like every other one since he died – empty. I wouldn’t be able to tell him about the ridiculous couple I met on the boat, so hung up on trying to impress everyone with how important they were that it became incredibly sad. Kevin loved the stories about people, truly, if there wasn’t one, he’d make one up.  I’d of had lots of good fodder for him to work with this time.

It was sad coming through the door after my cruise, but not tear-my-heart-apart sad.  It was just sad to realize how different my life is now without him.  But I also acknowledge that who I am now is shaped by who he was and what he brought to the relationship and even his illness and subsequent death.  These things are now part of me. I am thankful for what I have and what he gave me, but at the same time I know how much I have lost.

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.