Sunday, December 12, 2010


Believe it or not, I have time to myself! And I reallllly want to capture the last few days here so I never forget, but you are totally welcome to come along for the trip inside my head if you are interested. Because I am covering big stuffs happening over a several days, this post is going to be epic in proportion. I might even need to split it up over two days if I don't get done tonight before MyFavoriteKid gets home from his weekend with his dad.

Alrighty. Ready?! Set?! Go!

Mr.W at TheMIG's 40th birthday dinner, 2009

Quick recap for anyone new here: This is TheMostImportantGuy's Dad, Mr.W. About a year ago he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the bladder, and was kinda never the same after that. He only returned home for maybe a day after that surgery. He's been a diabetic for most of his life, and he didn't heal well post-surgery. He'd either been in a rehab/convalescent facility, or he had been in and out of the "hospital hospital" ever since. He'd had blood sugar issues, and an infection he couldn't shake that I believe ended up being mersa, and it caused him to need to amputate his lower leg a few months back. He didn't heal well from that surgery, either. And this brings us to where we were a couple of days ago.

Mr.W and TheMIG (age 3) Christmas 1971
(OMG I love this picture. TheMIG still makes that face.)

Sometime this past week the convalescent place sent Mr.W back to the "hospital-hospital" because he was becoming less responsive, his belly was looking distending, and he was jaundiced. After many tests it was determined that Mr.W had something blocking the artery that delivers blood to his liver and kidneys. They don't know if it was a new tumor or a blood clot, but it didn't really matter, because anything they would do to remove the block would be a procedure that his body would not tolerate. By Wednesday night or Thursday morning (sorry, it's a blur) it was determined that he Mr.W would be switched to palliative care. Anything that looked like a treatment for anything stopped, and anything done for him at that point was going to be for done for his comfort only, as he transitioned.

Now, at that point (Thursday, for sure), the hospital had gotten him back to a place where he was responsive. He was communicating and it was kinda like, "he might have an hour, he might have..." well, I heard days, weeks, months even, from TheMIG as the various doctors came and went. But he wasn't in a critical state at that point, so the hospital (yay U.S. health insurance...*insert sarcasm*) determined he couldn't really stay there. They also determined he needed more care than hospice could provide him if they sent him home (which still pisses me off a bit), so Thursday evening he was sent back to the convalescent hospital. Thankfully, they moved him into a private room near the nurses station, though.

Ok. So. TheMIG decided to head home Thursday night, and he and I plan to return and spend most the weekend up there, starting early Saturday. Thursday night on his way home, TheMIG stops for an hour or two at my place before I go to dance class. I need to share some of what we talked about.

For starters, I asked TheMIG how he was doing, and his reply was, "Mmmmmmmmmmmmeh." So I said, "You know, people keep asking me how you are holding up. Should I say, 'mmmmmmmeh'?" And he said, "Tell them I'm poopy," and his eyes welled up. This might not make sense to you dear reader, but it is these two responses that let me know he was as fine as he could be, because these responses were totally normal for TheMIG (in fact, when TheMIG's sister told me she was worried about TheMIG, I related this story to her, and she blurted out, "Ohhhh goooood. He's fiiiine." LOL)

Anyways. I asked TheMIG if Mr.W was aware that his level of care had shifted. He told me his dad said something to Mrs.W like, "It's a good thing we have that special little pill." I might have that wrong, but I know I'm close....but the point is, TheMIG and his mom were questioning him if he was asking about medicine or insulin stuffs, and all I could see flash before my eyes when I heard this was some scene from a movie I saw where a captured Nazi pulled an arsenic pill or something out of the hem of his pants so he could kill himself before being captured or questioned or tortured or something. I was positive Mr.W was alluding to some sort of Hemlock Society kinda of thing.

The other interesting/possibly misunderstood thing Mr.W said was, "How many days?", to which Mrs.W and TheMIG were like, "How many days, what?? IN the hospital? You've been here two days." And Mr.W would just repeat the question.

Now, I am hearing this story and practically jumping out of my skin because I know he asking to know how many days he has left, and nobody is telling him. TheMIG says he was pretty sure that is what he was asking, too....and he would have gave him a straight answer had his mom not been standing there. He said the next time MrsW was out of the room talking to doctors and he was alone with his dad he tried to bring it back up again, but he couldn't steer the conversation back there.

I was not feeling so great about that. So me, in all of my blunt matter-of-factness decided I was going to go up there to see him myself, and that maybe he'd ask me because he knows me well enough to know I am a straight shooter. I aint gonna bring it up, but if he does, I'm answering him, dammit. And I am excited about going up to see him on Friday, actually. TheMIG knows I am going, but we don't tell the rest of the family, and I decide I am going to just fly in under the radar and try to show up in between other visitors (Mrs.W usually went to see him in the mornings and TheMIG's sister went in the afternoons). I decide to download his favorite big band music to my iPad, and I bring some photos, and I'm going to read him the newspaper. I bring a tiny potted Christmas tree and tiny lights and ornaments, and we're going to get festive.


Ok. Friday.

Mr.W with Rosey camping in 1991

I walk into Mr.W's room, and Mrs.W is leaning over him holding his face and talking to him and trying to get him to drink water. I call her name and say hi, and I surprise her a bit because she doesn't even know I am coming up that day. She flies over to me, grabs me, and starts sobbing. She says he has never seen him this bad. At 8:30 that morning the nurse asked him if he wanted a shave, and he said he did. They asked him to help pull himself up so they could reposition him, and he did. At 9:30 Mrs.W find him completely different, and by the time I get there at 10:30, here's where we are at.

MrW's mouth is open, and he his breathing is really shallow and kinda gurgly-ish. His eyes are wide open, but they are sort of gray looking. He can't blink. I tell him I am there, and he sort of grunts "ok" and I ask him if I can give him a smooch and he sort of pushes out an "uh-huh" and he does the same when I ask if I can give him one from MyFavoriteKid. The next two hours are spent with MrsW and I giving him water by way of the damp-sponge-lollipop-thing, and we're taking turns being close to him. We're waiting for a doctor to come in, and meanwhile I'm decorating the stupid little tree which Mr.W grunts that he can see, and we are playing his favorite cd's for him. A nurse comes in once or twice to give Mr.W something to help with the breathing, and I look over the list of what they are still administering him, and it's basically morphine and anti-anxiety meds and a couple of other things that are all about keeping you out of pain, and out of panic.

At some point this really awesome super duper cool physical therapist comes in. She'd worked with Mr.W right after amputation, I believer. I'm still not quite sure how she worked it out to spend so much time with us during that day, because I know it's not her job description, but she was amazing. She saw what was going on, took his pulse, checked his body, and in the most calm fashion I have ever seen, explained to Mrs.W how to massage his face to relax his muscles and help his eyes close. She arranged to get some sort of eye-goo authorized to help with that. Then she left and came back with the social worker. Thank god, again.

The social worker took one look at what was happening and asked if we wanted some written information about what to expect near end of life (see Friday's photo here). MrsW's mouth fell open, and I said, "Yes, please," because I knew that MrsW wouldn't be able to cope with a verbal explanation and needed to read it in bits and pieces as she could handle it. By the time the social worker came back with the packet, Mrs.W had been on the phone to TheMIG's sister and could do nothing but cry into the phone. Literally. It was literally, "Hi. Dad is...*sobbing* *click*." And then I shit you not, she came back in the room like that hadn't even happened and started giving Mr.W more water by sponge and looking for more eye-drops to give him and told him he'd be just fine.

The social worker, leaned over and said to me, "Does she understand how close he is?" and I'm like, "Ya' know, I don't even know that I KNOW. What are we talking here...hours?"
"Give me the packet."

Now, I'm not sure where these moments of clarity come from, but hooray for me, because I had one. I just flat out told Mrs.W to sit down and that I really needed her to listen to me. I told her that I knew that this was really hard, but that honest to god, this was going really good. He had been alert, and then he wasn't. And it was going fast. And he was calm and relaxed and not showing a single sign of pain or discomfort. I told her that I'd been at a death before, and one that was long and full of moaning and pain, and that what was happening in this room was a true blessing. She sat down with the papers and a bottled smoothie, and meanwhile, I sat with Mr.W and said every nice thing I could say to him about how much everyone loved him, and I swear to you he was trying to mouth La-La-Looove, but he was getting weaker by the hour.

heading off to Germany to serve in the Army, 1958

The next couple of hours, family arrived. TheMIG's brother-in-law first, the TheMIG's sister. Their eldest kid picked up the younger one from school and they came. I told the social worker call in a priest as Mr.W was very clear on all of his forms that his wishes were to have his last rights read. Mr.W was barely able to get a sound out by this point, but I am positive he was aware it was happening. There were a couple rotations of people going in and out to bring food in. TheMIG's sis's family had their family parish guy come in to support their family and say a prayer with Mr.W.

In my humble opinion, what was really happening was that Mr.W was hanging on for TheMIG to get there. He was well over two hours away. I was getting updated the whole drive, and when I finally leaned over Mr.W and told him that TheMIG had just gotten off the freeway, that was the last time I heard him try to make a sound.

The next couple of hours were magical. To me, at least. Everybody in that room was....I don't even know how to describe this....they were totally in their element and totally doing this thing true to their own forms. If that makes any sense.
Mrs.W, the caretaker type, was giving Mr.W water and massaging his face and telling him how much she loved him.
The sister was telling MrW stories. "Hey, dad. Do you remember the time we.....".
The brother-in-law looked like he was checking out and playing with my iPad, but he wasn't. He used to be an EMT, and he was watching every single thing that was going on with Mr.W and he would ask for my watch (which had a second hand) and check MrW's respiration to see if it was changing.
TheMIG, when he arrived, walked in, went straight to his dad's bedside (do not pass go, do not collect $200), and then held conversations with whomever needed to have them with him while never once taking his hand of his dad's shoulder, which he was very gently and rhythmically squeezing.

In the end, MrW totally stayed true to himself. Not one of us every saw his last breath. They just kinda got weaker and weaker and he didn't make a final sound or a rattle or anything. It was like he just tip-toed quietly backwards out of the room. Just like he was in life, he was totally chill, totally relaxed, totally easy going...and he never ever wanted to be a hassle to anyone or to make a fuss. That's how he was, and that's how he left. (it just dawned on me that this might mean I'm going out making a fuss)

I'm not quite sure if I was true to myself or I even know what my role was, but I was there, and it was something else, let me tell you. It was an honor to be allowed to hold space there while this transitioned happen, and it was an honor to be allowed to be present with the family while they were so vulnerable and open. It was an honor to get to see how the staff at the hospital handled everything.
It could not have gone better.
Fast. Calm. Quiet. Not in pain. Surrounded by love and loved ones.

So this has been long. And I'm not even done. Because I have a few more stories from after the passing. But it's past 7pm, and the kid is here (and hovering), so this is the end for now.

If you made it this far, thanks for listening....and sorry for all the typos because I don't even have the time to go back and re-read this.


Lorena said...

Having been in the room when my own father died, I can tell you - not that you need to know - that death brings out the worst and the best in people. CLEARLY, your MIG, and his family, are the best. What a beautiful way to go, surrounded with love and favorite music and family and everyone just... being. Lovely, really. While my heart breaks for your MIG and his loss, I'm so glad for him that it was peaceful. I wish I could hug you both. You both, and MIG's family, have all the love in my heart. I'm so glad you were able to be there, be helpful, be yourself. Wishing you strength, peace, love!

not supergirl said...

This is beautiful. It sounds like you were also definitely being true to yourself, at least as I see you in this tiny blog window: honest, aware, sensitive, loving and living in the moment. And now you're sharing, still true to yourself.
I don't intend to be dismissive of your grief, but wow, we should all be so lucky as to die that way: peacefully and surrounded by loving family.

Kacie Sunshine said...

Bonnie, that really was beautiful. My Uncle Bob was a wonderful man and he'll be missed greatly. Thank you for posting this.

The Bon said...

Wow, Mr.W and TheMIG share a lot in common, looks-wise! I'm so glad he was blessed with a peaceful exit, and an exit in line with his nature. When Nanie died, we were waiting on a staff member who could remove her life support and she, stubborn as she was, decided she wasn't going to wait and went out on her own.

My love to you and TheMIG, and FK, and all of TheMIG's family. xoxo.

Janine said...

I'm so sorry for you loss. He sounds like a wonderful man. I'm glad it was quick and peaceful, went through this with my FIL 5 years ago. Hugs to all of you in the coming weeks. xxx

Anonymous said...

This lurker is so glad to read such a clear account of such beautiful Being Present. Thank you so much for sharing this important work with family, friends, and readers. Wishing you, The MIG, and family plenty of love and light, and plenty of healing laughter in all you do.



Me, I want to go out like my Grandpa, who died in his sleep.

Not screaming, like the other people in the car.

JennaKate said...

Wow, you have brought tears to my eyes. What a loving experience and a gentle transition. Sympathy to you and TheMIG and the family in their loss. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the amazing photos. Lots of love to you all.

~Donna~ said...


That is a very good way to leave this life...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about Mr. W., but it does sound like the transition was made with much love and care.

And your account of day was beautiful and moving. Thank you for sharing.

My love to you and MIG.

Love, Karen TDL

Janice in GA said...

Ah, this reminds me of my dad's passing. We were all there, had all pretty much been with him since he first went into the hospital.

The last time he spoke to someone was Thursday night. He was gone on Saturday morning. But we all had the sense he knew we were there, and loved him.

Gwen said...

Love to you.

Mouse said...

*hugs* you know where I am if you need me. Much love for the MIG & his family!

Anonymous said...

That was the most beautiful thing I have ever read, I'm trying not to cry, but It's not working.

Not gonna try and compete with what you wrote, I have not the words.

painting with fire said...

What a beautiful recounting of a gentle ending. I'm sorry for your family's loss and glad that it was such a peaceful end.

Kerry said...

I'm so sorry to hear this. You all obviously have some wonderful memories and I hope they help to ease the pain of your loss. You're all in my thoughts and prayers. Huge hugs to you!

The MIG said...

Thank you thank you thank you everyone :-)

PS - My dad's last words to me, spoken with calmness & sincerity about 24 hours before he died, were "Thanks for everything."

Kathy said...

Dear Bonnie and MIG, what an amazing story of your Dad's passing. I was very touched and it reminded me of being present with my Mom for a few nights til she passed. It's an honor to be there, that's all I can say. And I love the photos!

Natalie Servant said...

My sympathies to you & The MIG and family. You've done such a wonderful job of writing it all & I'm glad everything happened in such a calm way with family there. Must go find a tissue now.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your and MIG's loss! I've been lurking on your blog for years, and this post is one of the most moving I've read. I second what Lorena said so well, and I wish you, MIG, and your families peace and acceptance.

(Pomegranateseed on Ravelry)