Today, Sunday November 4th, 2018 at 12:30pm, Brian passed from this world. He was surrounded by his family.
I had offered a family prayer and shortly after, his respirations became agonal and I could no longer palpate a pulse so I placed my stethoscope on his chest and I listened until his heart beat for the last time and for a full minute afterward.
His last few days were mostly peaceful. I am so grateful that we were able to honor his wish to die at home. Ethne and I spent the last few nights together in my bed which was pushed up against his hospital bed. Because of the help of our families, we were able to meet all of his daily care needs without any outside help. The hospice nurse came to assess him twice a week, but other than that, we took care of him.
I know there are people who wonder why and how Brian and I would choose to have him die at home in the bedroom that we shared. Why would we expose our young children to that? Our current culture keeps death away behind a closed door. I do not believe death should be stigmatized in this way. I feel that it is one of the great transitions in life, just as birth. We come from somewhere, and we are going somewhere. To be a part of that process, to teach my children that it is not something to shy away from or fear is such an honor to me. We teach our children to live, to love, to grieve. I’m teaching mine the sacred importance of these things.
Our house isn’t special. Its just the four walls that shelter us. Brian never really even liked it. But in the past weeks as he was declining, a sacred calm came over this space. It was palpable upon crossing the threshold. People who came to visit felt it, people who just stepped in to hand us dinner felt it. And we were blessed to live in this place as we said our goodbyes. Its a tenderness I can’t begin to describe, but the veil between this world and the next has certainly been thin.
The one ounce of grace that glioblastoma offers, is that by the time the end comes, you are praying for it to be over. You pray for your loved one to rest, for their pain to stop, for peace. But never let it be said that Brian “lost his fight” to brain cancer. For one, he hated that language, but more importantly, he didn’t lose at all. Brian never gave up. He fought valiantly. He lived each day after his diagnosis with love, grace, humility, and gratitude; serving others, taking care of each of us. He lived a selfless life. He loved us. His children were the lights of his life and he wanted nothing more than to watch them grow. But even when it became evident that he wouldn’t get a fraction of the time that he deserved, he still persevered, he loved even more, he did not despair. He triumphed over cancer. He won his fight.
I have so much more to say, but I need to rest. I have been giving medications around the clock and my sleep has been lighter than usual as I listened for subtle changes in Brian throughout these many nights.
I will say one more thing. I asked Brian months, and then again weeks ago, to please give me a sign, let me know he is close to us after he passes. He said he doesn’t know how it all works, but he would try. Today, as I was waiting for the hospice nurse to arrive, I was lying on my side on my bed next to him with my hand on his arm. My eyes were closed, but I was awake. I distinctly felt a hand on my waist. I opened my eyes to see if someone had come into the room, but I was alone. I believe Brian’s spirit was close to me.
I hope he continues to stay close for awhile.