I was given a booklet from the Hospice nurse called Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience. Here are some excerpts that stood out to me:
“This is becoming a time of withdrawing from everything outside of one’s self and going inside. Inside where there is sorting out, evaluating one’s self and one’s life. But inside there is only room for one. This processing of one’s life is usually done with the eyes closed, so sleep increases. A morning nap is added to the usual afternoon nap. Staying in bed all day and spending more time asleep than awake becomes the norm. This appears to be just sleep but know that important work is going on inside on a level of which “outsiders” aren’t aware. With this withdrawal comes less of a need to communicate with others. Words are seen as being connected with the physical life that is being left behind. Words are seen as being connected with the physical life that is being left behind. Words lose their importance: touch and wordlessness take on more meaning.”
“It’s okay not to eat. A different kind of energy is needed now. A spiritual energy, not a physical one, will sustain from here on.”
“Focus is changing from this world to the next: they are losing their grounding to earth.”
ONE TO TWO DAYS, TO HOURS PRIOR TO DEATH:
“Sometimes there is a surge of energy. A person may talk clearly and alertly when before there had been disorientation. ….THe spiritual energy for transition from this world to the next has arrived and it is used for a time of physical expression before moving on. The surge of energy is not always noticeable, but in hindsight, it can usually be recognized.”
“How we approach death is going to depend upon our fear of life, how much we participated in that life, and how willing we are to let go of this known expression to venture into a new one. Fear and unfinished business are two big factors in determining how much resistance we put into meeting death. The separation becomes complete when breathing stops. What appears to be the last breath is often followed by one or two long spaced breaths and then the physical body is empty. The owner is no longer in need of a heavy, nonfunctioning vehicle. They have entered a new city, a new life.”
We have definitely seen a mental surge in Vernon over the past week. When it seemed Vernon was slowing down again into more sleep and confusion, it seemed to me that it was just a matter of time. But even last night, I saw a different alertness that alarmed me. He was agitated and seemed strong. Even in the dark light of the room, his left arm looked more functional, stretching across his body by holding the bedrail, just like all those times on the dialysis chair. He doesn’t want pain killers because he knows they make him groggy. He seems to understand that quality time is short, even if he only emerges from sleep less frequently.
The Hospice nurse thinks his heart is strong, that he could go on another week or so. I’m not sure where I want to be if it goes on that long. Do I stay here or go home for a bit? Fortunately, I don’t have to make that decision today. I do like being nearby at the moment…with freedom to come and go.
It is confusing though: sometimes elements of his “surge” make me doubt certain decisions. I have to remind myself there is no turning back from this path now, that it is happening regardless of how Vernon is responding. That’s hard. Derek, our chaplain (and friend) has talked through it with me. Or at least he listens while I talk through it.
I asked Vernon earlier if he felt confused. He said he did.
“What are you confused about?”
Here’s one more excerpt from the booklet:
“Death comes in its own time, in its own way. Death is as unique as the individual who is experiencing it.”