Thanks for the heads-up
We muddled our way through the rest of that summer, in 2007. I appreciated having had the advance warning from the medium about my trip.
By the date I was scheduled to fly, there was absolutely no way I could have gone … Ron was relying on me for his daily needs. But I had already kicked into gear, having all the information I needed readily available … the cancellation was complete and no money lost.
In the midst of all else that was going on, what a difference it made to be able to take care of at least this one thing so easily.
Renovations complete … woohoo!
On August 31st, we finally signed off on the renovations. Yay! Things were looking up … sort of.
By this point, Ron was spending several hours each day lying in bed … not sleeping, just more comfortable. When I asked each morning, he always described his symptoms as “discomfort, not pain.” Some days a little more, some a little less, but always manageable.
We were adapting to his physical condition, giving him the opportunity to rest so he could heal and get back to some semblance of normal.
The next day, my parents arrived for a weekend visit, flying in from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This was notable because my mother had resisted travelling for years and I appreciated they made the trip.
Even given Ron’s daily tenure in bed, we still had a nice visit. In fact, the four of us played a couple of rounds of bridge. I did notice a couple of times during the play, though, that something Ron said seemed out of context, like his mind wasn’t quite all there …. It left me a bit puzzled.
“I think I’m in trouble”
On September 3rd, I took Mom and Dad to the airport for their trip back home. The next morning, Ron woke up … and for the first time said, “I think I’m in trouble.”
Discomfort had turned to pain. It was a sudden onset, so obviously something had changed and had to be fixed. Perhaps it was an infection? We didn’t know what it was, only that it needed to be addressed now.
I rushed him to the ER at our local hospital. After the inevitable wait, he was examined. They told us they wanted to admit him overnight. Sure, whatever it takes to figure this out and treat it … just do it! They wheeled him away and I headed home.
When I returned in the morning, I found him in a room with another patient, who was surrounded by an ongoing stream of visitors. Doctors, nurses, and random strangers came and went throughout the day. It was noisy and disruptive … a madhouse.
I sat by Ron’s bed, but he was sleeping much of the time. When he did wake up, he was still in pain. They were giving him morphine to help control it. If he needed more, all I had to do was ask. So, I closely monitored his situation.
Later that afternoon, a doctor came to see me. He asked me to join him outside for a discussion. He said he was a “palliative care” doctor and wanted to talk about Ron’s situation.
They were trying to secure a bed for him in a wing they called “Hospice,” where he would be more comfortable.
I didn’t understand what “palliative” meant or what a “hospice” was … but if there was an option for a room where we didn’t have to put up with this chaos, I was all for it.
He asked me about family. I told him we had no one here … we had just moved and Ron’s family were in the U.S. Besides, they knew nothing about his illness.
The doctor did a doubletake. “What did you say?”
From the outset, I explained, Ron had insisted we tell no one about his situation … he was a very private person. The inevitable looks of sympathy would have been more than he could bear. There were a handful of people I had insisted on telling, but otherwise, I had faithfully honoured his wishes.
Reality rushes in …
The doctor proceeded to make it clear … in no uncertain terms … that I needed to let his family know. And I needed to do this today. His manner and tone left no room for doubt … regardless of Ron’s previous wishes.
As much as I didn’t want to leave Ron’s side, I realized I’d have to return home to handle this. Ron’s brother and two sisters lived across the U.S. I had a long story to tell, stretching back twenty-one months. I wanted each of them to hear the same story, and as quickly as possible.
As soon as I arrived home, I headed to my computer to compose the most difficult email I’ve ever had to write.
After a couple of hours, I screwed up my courage and hit send. I quickly grabbed a bite to eat and headed right back to the hospital.
I would not leave again, staying the night in a chair beside his bed.
“It’s okay if you need to go … “
Suddenly, things had become real for me. The discussion with the palliative care doctor shed an entirely new light on the situation.
I was coming to understand that despite my faith that all would work out, Ron and I had reached a fork in our road together … and while I was headed right, he was headed left.
It was time for me to face the situation in those terms … and do whatever I could to help him. I’d read that people facing the end of life will sometimes hold on longer, enduring ongoing suffering, if the ones they’re leaving behind aren’t ready.
As painful as the thought of losing him was, I loved him too much to see him suffer more than necessary.
He’d been drifting in and out of consciousness for the past twenty-four hours. Mostly out …. But I recalled reading that the sense of hearing remains active. So, I leaned over and whispered in his ear.
“It’s okay if you need to go. I’ll be fine. I’ll miss you more than I can say, but I will be okay. Don’t be afraid of what’s ahead … your loved ones will greet you and it will be wonderful. You will continue on and I know this, so it’s okay … I will be okay.”
And the tears started to come ….
The next morning, I noticed blood pooling in Ron’s eyes. I pointed this out to the nurse, asking if this was a concern.
Within minutes, they’d found a spot in Hospice. And we were on the move … pushing through the family gathered around the bed of the patient that stood between us and the door … and out into the hallway.
Where this story began ….