I have tried to write about our experience honestly.  To do so has required my revealing the harsh realities of painfully ordinary people.  I could try to create the illusion that we are a saintly household above all the weaknesses and failures and missteps that plague regular folks.  I could try, but this blog is not fiction.  It is too much work to make up stuff and keep it all straight.

I got up this morning after a night of watching her, feeling for her pulse, putting my hand on her chest to be sure she is breathing, getting up and putting my ear next to her mouth to be sure I could hear the breath going in and out.  I was tired and grumpy and angry.  Why does she have to be so stubborn?  Why can’t she just let go?  What a jerk I am to be angry at someone who has suffered so for so long and is now in the throes of dying!  I just can’t stand seeing her weak and vulnerable and in pain.  She would hate it!  She is a proud and strong-willed person, not about to be found to be weak.  I am not angry at her.  I am scared and sad and in pain with absolutely no one to blame.

I suppose I could waste a lot of time and energy being angry at God, but pain and suffering are not God’s idea.  God often gets the blame for the bad stuff (usually perpetrated by people doing the opposite of what He has asked us to do).  God more rarely gets credit for bothering to give us the breath of life and everything we just assume is our right, belongs to us.  I can’t waste my limited stamina being angry with the only One who can actually help both Mary Ann and me as we pass through this transition in our lives.

I wish I could cry, but I think the tears are waiting until this is over.  Every day seems like an entire lifetime.  This morning I was grumpy and angry.  I went to the computer to find that one of the other two in our online Lewy Body Dementia Spouses group at the same stage we are in lost her husband finally this morning.  Here is what I wrote to her:

My thoughts are with you.  We are still in that time that has extended beyond the fear of the end to a longing for it to be over.  Rest now from your and Philip’s winding, uphill, exhausting and exciting journey to this point.  I wish you well as you take the best of what Philip has brought into your life, discover who you will become now that he is not with you here, and find joy and fulfillment when finally the pain finds a quiet place to remain as your own adventure continues.

Somehow reflecting on her loss, helped me regain a bit of perspective.  My anger and grumpiness are just a function of feeling utterly helpless, struggling to accept something I don’t want to accept, already missing horribly someone who has been in the center of my life for decades.  Yes, we could irritate the Hell out of each other sometimes, but that is precisely because we matter so much to each other.

The lifetime lived today included treating sores (none open yet), inserting Tylenol suppositories, cleaning and turning bones stretched with bruised skin over them, administering Morphine before the three times of turning to lessen the pain revealed by her grimacing as we worked on her.

The lifetime lived today included good friend and former co-worker Jim and Joanna, hugs and conversation and prayer.  A full, hot meal appeared at the door, delivered by Shari, member of our little Spiritual Formation group that meets for a couple of hours weekly.  Good Buddy Jimmy came by bearing a gift and concern for us.

Today’s lifetime included moments with Granddaughter Chloe, lots of words and acts of support for one another between Daughter Lisa, Son Micah, Daughter-in-Law Becky.  Today included the return of Son-in-Law Denis and Granddaughters, Abigail (who now wants to be called Abby) and Ashlyn, both full of energy and grateful to be in Mom’s arms again after being gone so long.

In today’s lifetime our downstairs bedroom and family room have become a campground.  It is very good that our small town home has three full bathrooms now that we have finished the downstairs and many people in it.

During this lifetime, the one lived today, fatigue has been a constant presence.  The consensus was that it would be good for me to go into the bedroom with Mary Ann, shut the door and just rest. Grumpy Grandpa is not their favorite family member.  I did so at least three times in this lifetime, today.  It helped.  Nothing can remove the tired with which I woke up, but it helped.

Lifetimes include sunshine and storms.  Today began with rumbling thunder, and moments ago the power went off for a moment, turning off the computer and the oxygen machine.  Needless to say, both are working again.

This day’s lifetime will now continue into the night.  At least intellectually, I have determined that it is not necessary for us to be awake and with Mary Ann at the moment of her death.  We love her and she knows it.  We have cared for her and doted on her for days.  Micah asked Lisa how long she has been here.  It has been eleven days that this watch has been going on.  It actually started two days earlier. We would love to have the privilege of surrounding her at that moment.  It is, however, not necessary for me to try to stay awake all night checking her breathing.  While I know that intellectually, we will see if knowing that has even a shred of influence on my insides and my actions.

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I called the Hospice Nurse when I saw Mary Ann shivering at bedtime last night.  She suggested I take her temperature, and if it was over 100 degrees, she told me to give her some Tylenol (rectally, since she can’t take oral meds any more).  Her temperature was below that.  I covered her to help with the chills and eventually they subsided.

When I got up this morning, the first thing I did was take her temperature.  When taken under the arm it is necessary to add a degree to get the actual internal temperature.  It measured 102.8 plus the added degree, 103.8.  I gave her the Tylenol and phoned the Hospice Nurse.

When Hospice Nurse Emily came over, she checked Mary Ann’s vital signs.  The fever was a little lower than earlier this morning, but not much.  Mary Ann’s blood pressure was fine, her oxygen level was fine (she is receiving oxygen), her lungs were clear, her heart rate was up some.

Nurse Emily said that her heart is beginning to work harder.  The fever is often a part of the process.  Mary Ann clearly has begun actively dying.  Emily said it this way, “Probably not today, but I could be wrong.”  She added later in the day that she expects Mary Ann to be gone by Friday based on her assessment of her condition.

Those words were very difficult to hear.  Lisa, Micah and I keep telling each other how much we just don’t like this.  It is, of course, a good thing for Mary Ann to move to the next leg of her journey, free of all the problems she has endured here.  With that said, we still don’t like it.

The good news is that Mary Ann continues to appear very comfortable.  The fever has edged down a bit.  Mary Ann is not particularly pleased when we jostle her around and poke things in her bottom, but that is just part of it.  Other than those times, she rests peacefully.  Her breathing is not labored.  Her heart rate continues to increase.  Her normal is about 60.  When Emily checked it this morning it had risen a little over 80.  The last time I took her pulse this evening it was about 100.

We have spent the day talking about the funeral, whom to call, what to do back in Northern Illinois where we both grew up and still have family and friends.  The words come out of my mouth as if we are just making funeral plans for someone.  My gut is doing flips while wearing cement overshoes.  (I have no idea what that means other than that it hurts like Hell.)

I have had to finally start thinking about the afterlife.  Hers will be great.  Mine, not so much.  I started making a list of things that I will need to do.  Discontinue Lifeline, let the Bath Aide know not to come — very many more things like that.  What will we do with Mary Ann’s clothes (I can hardly stand writing this) and when.

As I am writing this I am trying to move inches along the path of coming to terms with what is happening.  This morning, long time friend, John from KC, called and offered support.  Later today, Volunteer Coordinator Mary and Parish Nurse Margaret stopped by, brought cookies and spent a little time with Mary Ann.  She, of course, does not respond at all any more, but it is very likely that she hears what is being said to her.

Son-in-Law Denis and the girls headed back to Kentucky.  Lisa has stayed for a few more days, depending, of course, on what happens when.  Micah, Becky and Chloe spent the afternoon and evening here.

We are in a time warp.  There is no sense of what this day is in relationship to other days.  Minutes seem like hours.  Days seem like an eternity — but not long enough to be with Mary Ann.  Sometimes we wander around the house.  Sometimes we eat.  Sometimes we talk.  Sometimes we sit.

We now have all the elements of the Comfort Kit that Hospice talks about.  We have Morphine if there is respiratory distress or severe pain.  There is none so far, other than the heart pain that subsided with the oxygen and one tiny dose of the Morphine.  We have Tylenol tablets for the fever and will receive Tylenol suppositories tomorrow from Hospice.  We have Ativan tablets and will receive Ativan suppositories tomorrow.  Ativan will be used if and when the agitation hits that often comes and the dying process moves along.

I just glanced at the last few posts on this blog.  I can’t believe how fast things are moving.  There are some things that are helping us as we move through this time in all our lives.  I have probably said them before, but I just can’t remember at the moment.  One thing that helps is that there is not so much as a hint of wondering about Mary Ann’s secure connection to a wonderful future.  We don’t have the tools to form a picture of it, but we have no need to do so.  Our faith life as a family allows us to relax and accept the gift of a future given freely by a Loving God.  There is no time that we need to spend with any distress about her future.

We have a strong family with no baggage, no unfinished business to complicate the process of letting go.  We accept that we are not perfect.  I have not given Mary Ann perfect care, but there is a forgiving Lord who frees me from that guilt.  Mary Ann has an estranged Brother, whom I have promised to tell that she forgives him.  The result of all that is that we have the privilege of feeling the pain and sadness, celebrating her impending freedom, all with a peace that winds through our grief.  There will be tears, sometimes uncontrollable, but no despair. We don’t have to like it, but will will live through it, hopefully stronger than before, more compassionate, free to live meaningfully no matter what comes next.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

As Bath Aide Zandra was leaving this morning, I caught out of the corner of my eye that she gave Daughter Lisa a lingering hug.  When she left, Lisa said that she was in tears.  Mary Ann has such a presence that it doesn’t take long for her have impact on people.  Zandra has come to help Mary Ann with her shower, wash her hair and get her dressed in the morning twice a week for maybe four years now.  Zandra was absolutely shocked when she came last Wednesday and saw how much Mary Ann had declined in just a week.

It is probably good that I didn’t see it.  I am beginning to feel as if my intentional denial is only a thin veneer.  I am not ready to allow the dull pain to break open.  I suspect that the illusion that I actually have anything much to say about when and where it breaks is only that, an illusion.  Enough of that!

Then there is Freda’s food.  Lisa was putting some clothes in the dryer.  As she walked out of the laundry room, I was standing in the doorway to the kitchen.  The door to the garage was between us.  As I was standing there, I was eating some of the Chicken Tetrazzini that Tamara had brought the other day.  I said to Lisa, “You know, I think we are running out of food.  I need to get to the store and pick up something.”  Lisa said that she certainly could cook something.

Seconds after Lisa finished that sentence, the door to the garage opened between us, and Lisa’s Husband, Denis, who had been sweeping out the garage, said, someone is here with food.  Neighbor Freda walked in with a bucket of beef and noodles, a package of salad, a loaf of bread and a freshly baked chocolate cake, announcing, “I brought supper.”  It’s all in the timing.

Today there was resolution to some minor annoyances that in our circumstances have seemed like adding insult to injury.

On Friday, I got the summons from the County Courthouse to jury duty.  Today, I picked up the note from the doctor excusing me from serving and got the form and the letter ready to put in the mail tomorrow.

There had been a leak at our gas meter we had reported a couple of weeks ago.  I called today to check on when they would come to repair it.  The truck came this afternoon, dug up a section of our new landscaping, and put in a new meter.

Yesterday, the waterfall stopped running.  Today, Brad came, pulled out the pump, covered with calcium deposits, took it with him, and later returned with a new one.  He had to talk long and hard to convince the vendor to honor the three year warranty.  Since Brad’s Dad has also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he has always been very good to us.  Actually, what he told the vendor was that he could not bring himself to charge this customer for a new pump and if he had to he would pay for it himself. Brad said he would come back in two or three weeks to add some stone to cover places where the liner is exposed.  He also will search from some bird friendly chemical to keep the calcium from building up again.

Today my mind has wandered a variety of places.  First of all, my gut keeps reminding me just how much I do not like what is happening to Mary Ann.  I won’t try to describe that feeling.  It is too big for words.

As I was driving out to run some errands a couple of thoughts wandered through.  One is how much of a relief it is not to be dealing with decisions on medications, how much to give and when, what to give and what to remove.  There was always the sense of responsibility for Mary Ann’s survival weighing on me, as if that depended on my making the right decisions.  I know I did not have that much power, but it did make a difference what we did and when.  There were good choices and bad choices to be made.  Those choices are no longer mine to make.  In that regard, it feels as if a heavy weight has been lifted from my shoulders, only to be replaced by a heavy pain in my gut.

Then, just for a moment, as I was driving from the Wild Bird place where I got some more peanuts in the shell for the birds favorite feeder to the Barnes and Noble to look for a reading light so that I could be in the bedroom with Mary Ann reading without having to turn on a light that might disturb here — just for a moment, I had a flash of being out running an errand by myself, without have Mary Ann at home to return to.  It was almost more than I could tolerate.  Have I mentioned how much I don’t like this???

On a more positive note, it continues to be a marvel how many people here and in other places are praying for us.  One of the images used by some of the New Testament writers, is that of myriads of people cheering from the stands.  The imagery comes from the sporting events of the time.  We feel as if there are many people cheering us on as we are in the home stretch, winded and in pain, buoyed by the good will of so many.

Mary Ann has seemed very comfortable today.  We were concerned about the possibility of sores starting, but there were only a couple of red spots.  Bath Aide Zandra confirmed that her skin looked very good.  Nurse Emily came by and confirmed that Mary Ann is still not in need of changing to the special bed and mattress.  She also said that Mary Ann is probably much more comfortable in her own bed than she would be in a hospital bed if one was brought in.  We can get one within a couple of hours if it is needed.

Hospice Chaplain Ed came over for a while.  Again, that is more just a chance for two pastors to chew the fat, as they say, than anything else.

Mary Ann did not eat anything today, but she did drink some water.  She has had her eyes closed almost all day.  One eye opened for a bit when the girls (our 5 and 7 year old Granddaughters) sat on my bed next to Mary Ann and read her some books.  Mary Ann said “okay,” when Nurse Emily told her she would be back tomorrow.  When we changed Mary Ann tonight, there was very little redness in a couple of places.

It felt good to see her comfortable today.  Somehow that helps make dull pain more bearable.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.