When I thought yesterday was going to be a difficult day, making the decision to stop trying to save Pam's life and allowing God to take her, I never considered how infinitely more difficult today would be.
A wonderful nurse named Linda met with us yesterday morning. She explained to us what Pam's prognosis looked like, and it was about as bleak as one human could have. She would not have any sort of life at all. We knew she didn't want that, and we didn't want that for her. I would not wish life in a nursing home, trapped inside your own body on a ventilator on my worst enemy. Dad knew he had no choice but to choose comfort care and allow her to pass.
Today was the day. We arrived at the hospital this morning just before 9 am. Traffic was horrible. It's like they all knew we were heading for something unimaginable and they just wanted to delay it as long as possible. Pam's sister Cathy, her brother Jeff, her sons Shaun and Rusty were all there as well. The hospice representative came in to meet us and talk to us about the timeline. The hospice chaplain came to meet with us and see how he could assist. We waited on Jason to arrive, because Dad did not want to do anything until Jason was there.
The gave us the option to stay with Pam as they removed her breathing and feeding tubes or we could step out until they had transitioned her over to just her morphine drip. Everyone chose to leave but me. I just couldn't allow her to be alone during this time and I wanted to be strong for her. Nick tried to stay with me as they pulled one tube out and then another, but at some point I felt him shaking behind me and I told him to step outside. The hospice nurse came and stood with me as I watched everything they did. They were so gentle with her as they removed everything and cleaned her face for us. At some point Rusty, her youngest son, stepped into the doorway. He took one long look and immediately turned to run out.
They finished making her comfortable and everyone slowly trickled back in. Once she was off the machine, things became very uncomfortable. Her breathing was extremely difficult to listen to. It was not a quiet, peaceful breathing. I watched my Dad, as he held her hand, cry with every ounce of his being, sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. I stood behind him and tried my very hardest to be strong while he could not. My tears fell silently while his came pouring out. Nick, Jeff, Cathy, Jason....each of us had to find the will to stay in that room, to fight the urge to run and not face the reality of the situation.
But eventually we settled into a quiet routine of sorts. We each took turns pacing, wearing the finish off the wooden floors. We took turns standing next to Pam, holding each other, checking our phones, going to the bathroom, drinking another bottle of water just for something to do. This continued for almost 3 hours.
Then it happened, ever so quickly that it almost didn't register at first. At some point we asked Katie to increase the morphine for Pam, which made her breathing slow and become a little quieter. It was easier to listen to her that way, and everyone was a lot calmer. Dad was sitting next to Pam, and I had distracted myself with a game on my phone. Cathy was in the room, as well as Jeff. Nick and Jason had gone downstairs to grab a quick bite of lunch. Dad's cousin, Linda, had gone to get him a sandwich. Suddenly Dad shot up out of the chair and went to the door to grab Katie. Cathy and I didn't know what had happened, and he said loudly "She's not breathing!" before he quietly acknowledged that they wouldn't do anything for her anyway. It was a gut reaction, but one that we all knew was hopeless. As we gathered around her bed, Dad grabbed Pam's hand and said "She's gone." I looked at the clock on the wall: 2:05.
The texts and messages out to those who were in the waiting room began. This is what we had come here to do today, but it still felt surreal. In reality, I had been hoping that once we began allowing her to go that God would take her quickly and not make her suffer any longer than necessary, although the morphine was keeping that from happening. But still when it happened...it's difficult to put into words. I am honored to be a part of her final moments on this earth.