|Photo by Chris Noren in Hawaii|
Last Thursday, June 19th, the Hospice nurse read to me from the booklet. She saw the signs that the end-of-life was approaching and of course the Hospice policy is to make death as comfortable and humane as possible. He was dying, so gaunt, but the morphine made it so he wasn't in pain. Please understand this.
It was time for a relaxing medicine and for morphine--every four hours. My neighbor, Kenny, who has seen deaths in his extended family in the past month, helped, giving those first doses to my husband--even coming back every four hours through the night. Another hospice nurse came out and he gave me further instructions on the medicine such as how to fill the syringes. I practiced this. After that nurse gave me confidence to administer the meds, I did--a very, very hard task for me.
Friday morning, June 20, the Hospice Home Care Aide came as usual. She is very competent but I also helped her. It helped me cry. He was awake with the bed bath and changing of the sheets and so I told my husband I loved him, Jesus loves him and there is a place in heaven, a home that Jesus has prepared for him there. He mumbled/mouthed that me loved me. This made me cry again because I was happy he communicated. My husband has been made comfortable.
Monday morning, June 23, the every four-hour alarm on my iPhone went off at 5:30 am to give hubby his medicines. Only when I woke up there was no breath and no pulse. I gave the medicine anyway just in case. But again a warm body but no breath and no pulse. Then I called the Aqua Team of Hospice and within the hour a Hospice chaplain and a nurse came out to the house.
The nurse preformed various tasks including calling the funeral director. The chaplain let me talk. He also read from John 14:1-6 where Jesus said we should not be troubled because he was preparing a home for us in heaven. Thomas questioned this, even as every loved one questions death of a spouse.
Thomas: How can we know the way?
How can I go through his pain of widowhood again? How can I too go to my Father in heaven?
Jesus: I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.
This is the essential good news of the Gospel. I have always known that since a child who at seven years of age remembers asking Jesus to be my Savior—my way to God. But it occurred to me that Jesus is the way to navigate the choppy waters of widowhood. His truth is in Scripture. There is life that will continue and one day I will be reunited with all my departed loved ones in heaven.
Then out of the Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship he read this prayer:
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we comment your servant, [my husband’s name]. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.
After some time the black-suited funeral directors pulled up and put my husband on a gurney and brought him out of the bedroom. I had been carrying dog Ziggy, and the men stopped by Ziggy and myself. Ziggy licked my husband’s face and I kissed his cold face. Then before us they covered his head with the rest of the red cloth and brought him outside to a black van while I sobbed healing sobs. At midday the regular Hospice nurse came; she hadn’t heard the news and we hugged and grieved together. The aide who had come most morning heard the news and she came also later in the day to be with me and we grieved together. Such a wonderful team—those Aqua people. They let my husband slip gently into the arms of Jesus. He was ready.
So how am I able to cope thirty-six hours later? Prayers of you all and Scripture. For example, four women and I have been sending each other Scripture each day. Georgene who regularly comments on this blog started it last year and then Betty came along. Soon there were two more, Pokeberry Mary and Kim. Here is a sample of Scripture I have been treasuring that I am meditating on now.
• When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. Psalm 142:3 NLT
• Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. 1 Peter 4:12-13 NLT
• You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:16 NLT
In the fourteen years of marriage with my now deceased husband, about half of them were about Alzheimer's. This blog grew along with my faith during those 7 years. I am grateful for those years. I am grateful that my husband is with the LORD now. As a Christian I have that assurance also according to 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the LORD.
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So now I am about to change my marital status on Facebook to “widow”, help prepare the memorial service program and bio, and begin to do grief work. I have been a widow once before and know Scripture that speaks to widowhood and those promises of our LORD to protect me.
Last night I hung out with a family from my church thoroughly enjoying the parents and the four children. I just asked them if I could come over. The youngest wore this T-shirt.
Hanging with people and hanging with the LORD is how I will cope and heal. Scripture says he puts widows in families—even the family of the local church.