I've been avoiding this post, not because I have been unable to put words together, nor because I have been too wracked with grief to journal my thoughts ... but because his last days were both pain and beauty and private. As public as I have been, via blog and Facebook, etc, there are some things that will remain small and close and intimate.
-------------- some timeline ---------------On Wednesday, Ian still had quite a bit of fluid and an awful, drowning cough. I started to witness "seizure activity," something he'd never experienced before. The last straw was when friends moved him up in bed, and he finally got a cough out ... but it contained blood. It was clear my ability to handle this at home (read: alone, overnight) was done, and he was transported to in-patient hospice.
The nurses deemed his breath "extremely labored." It sounded like a snore ... but in double time. And loud. In the middle of the night they woke me to say he had experienced another decline. They helped move him, and I spent the rest of the night by his side. At 6:30 I realized I hadn't heard that awful noise ... I sat up a little ... and I knew. I held tight. I sang him a song. I called the nurses in and they confirmed.
It was surreal, and horrible, and beautiful, and cold and warm and sad. I didn't sob. I breathed.
------------ [private family grief stuff] ------------
---------------------- logistics ------------------------Ian was an organ donor. I made the decision a few months ago to pursue having his brain donated to the cancer center, in hopes that someone else would soon be spared this awful disease. (Yes, Ian was on board with donation of any kind).
We had many "final arrangement" discussions, and Ian had always requested whatever was "easiest and cheapest" ... the old "pine box or ashes dump" kind of conversation. Then he would look at me and say, "of course, you're going to do what you want anyway, so ..." Funerals are for the living, and in our case, for the children; it is for them that I make these decisions.
So now I had thirty minutes for the actual choice; send Ian's body to Pittsburgh for the autopsy, or zoom to camp and back with the kids to say goodbye again*, negating the ability to donate but affording them the opportunity to see him. If I'm doing all this for the kids, what makes the most sense?
I chose the former; I didn't want to rush their grief. "Hi, I'm here, guess what happened, pack your stuff, let's go see him" just felt wrong.
----------------- my amazing children ------------------I had prayed and pleaded with God ("Please, God, let the kids get through two weeks of camp - to be kids, make friends, have fun, and to not associate camp with me coming early because Dad died.") I had the "gathered at bedside at home" picture. The final words thing.
And God said, "How about this? How about I have them go to camp, meet new friends, share their situation and be prayed over and loved on, still get to be kids in light of this trauma but be separated from those very last, non-Dad moments. You will bring them home and hold them close, but they will return to that fragile but deliberately constructed nest to again be loved on and prayed over by a giant group of Christian peers and counselors. And they won't associate HOME with his passing."
Ah. Right. It's the whole "My plans/your plans" thing. Noted.
So the kids came home, albeit reluctantly, that evening. We had a private viewing just for them at the funeral home the next day, and after choosing some happy Dad pictures, back to camp they went, munching snacks and grieving in little pieces but smiling as children should.
There are many things I could post about the things they said and did, but I will not out of respect. I will say this: I allowed them to grieve as they wished -- to choose what they needed to do and say and think. I honored, as much as possible, their desires both to be given space and to be held. And I assured them that all thoughts, including, "can we just get back to camp now?" are good and okay and acceptable.
---------------- prescriptives -----------------Do NOT tell my son he's the man of the house, and to take care of mom. HE'S NINE. HE ALREADY HAS A COMPLEX ABOUT KEEPING EVERYONE HAPPY.
Do NOT tell my children how their "dad would have wanted them to" respond/live life/think of him.
Come to think of it ... just tell them you loved their dad and know that they miss him and that things are hard and it sucks.
Because it does.
----- the obit: summing up a life in several paragraphs -----
|~our last family moment~|