Thursday, January 28, 2010

The importance of sitting with a dying person

I had previously wondered whether I should have done more when I sat with my dying husband. Could I have said more, held his hand, stroked his face, etc. But largely I had forgotten about having thought this until I went to church last week.

I went to a healing service with my son, hoping he would be healed of his eczema & sensitivity to dairy products as I'm fed up with having to cook different foods for each family member due to either food allergies or simple food fads.

Anyway, the person giving the talk (J.) started giving a spiel about his dying Grandfather & how he had just sat with him for 36 hours & doing nothing else as he drifted in & out of consciousness. Eventually J. went home & his Grandfather died the next morning. He was gutted.

He then proceeded to tell the congregation that God had told him how important it had been to just sit with his Grandfather. J. went on to say that this was nothing to do with what he was going to talk about but he felt there was someone here in the congregation that needed to hear this. God was telling them that what they also did was very important - just sitting with the dying person.

I immediately felt stunned, gob-smacked. I knew this message was for me. I had only ever wondered why I had not done more once before & had forgotten about it. Now it resurfaced. It felt so magical, like the candle burning in one of my recent posts (see Daytime ramblings of painful anniversaries). The connection with God, with my husband, the personal message for me out of the whole congregation. But why now? I guess now is as good as any time. I can lay this ghost (thought) to rest.

As my husband had a tumor at the base of his spinal column, bit by bit of him was packing up very rapidly. By this time he was bed bound & couldn't move his legs. In fact the nurses had been instructed not to move him back up the bed when he had slid downwards. I guess any sudden movement would have killed him & they had to cushion his feet with towells instead.

I held his hand on one occasion & he seemed to take his hand off immediately. I thought he didn't like the sensation. Maybe he could sense my hand was there but he was going numb & he didn't like how this felt. His body was shutting down. So I respected him. I could only be guided by him.

I didn't think to say anymore to him as I had said all I needed to say at the time to him a couple of days before. I had to ask my Mother-in-Law to leave so I could say what I needed to in private.

I guess I was very conscious that my M-I-L was around trying to sleep in a nearby relatives room. We were taking it in turns to sit by my husband's side. She had already done the previous night. Tonight was my turn but we both wanted to be there when he died. I had to know when to go & wake her at the right time, otherwise he may have died without her being there. It felt a lot of responsibility to be taking onto my shoulders.

So for ages I sat all alone. How I hate death & dying. Here was I facing it all alone. I didn't think to pray to God. I didn't feel his presence. I was just fixed on my husband's every breath - sometimes his chest would rise & fall. Other times his stomach seemed to be doing all the breathing.

But when I was worried or thought he was uncomfortable, I went to call the nurses. I didn't even buzz the alarm but crept down the corridor so as not to disturb the other patients.

The nurses were very good. They gave us space & privacy. But they quickly came to help when requested - such as to use suction to clear his airway as one of the last things to go was the ability to swallow. They guided me when to go & wake my M-I-L up. That helped relieve the pressure. She was able to see him through from birth to his death aged only 41.

I am so grateful to J. for this message, in church. I obviously did need to hear it. I don't normally come to the evening service. As I said before, it was only because of my son that I had come. So it must have been inspired by God, even orchestrated by him. I felt very comforted by this, how God can single me out & speak to me at this time.

I found it simply amazing how God arranged for J. to use his experience to speak to me & for me to actually be there to hear it.


Teacher's Pet said...

Debbie..with tears in my eyes I say, "Yes, Lord, yes...thank you for speaking to Deb tonight at Your service." You, my dear, have gone through a lot...more than we will ever know, but your words in this post will touch and comfort more than you know, also. As you were there with your his mother was there, so was God. He took him home...and you will see him again. Thank you for an inspirational message through your blog. I admire you so much. Continued blessings and strength to you as you minister to others...
With love,

Maggie May said...

This was a very moving post for me to read. As you know, I wasn't able to come to Essex again until after R had died. It was a difficult thing for you to have to face...... and for us waiting for news & knowing what you had to face.
I am sure writing it down will be excellent therapy for you.
It did seem to be a miracle that you just happened to go to Church when you heard that message from J. However, God does do things like that, by using other people.

Lots of love from
Mum xxxxxx

Nuts in May

Eddie Bluelights said...

Very moving Debbie and God does move in wonderful; ways ~ Eddie x

talesNtypos said...

Honest, heartbreaking,and quite beautiful in its absolute but profound message.
Thank you for sharing this very intimate account.

Mickle in NZ said...

Dear Debs, for a second time I am struggling to find words. I'm thinking - Debs has been sent a relief from doubts that may have lingered deep within without you maybe being aware of them, and sent a continued healing and love.

Oh wow Deb.

Much care, Michelle

Bernie said...

Debbie I am a blogger friend of your mother's.....I do hope she is having better days this weekend.

I have just finished reading all of your post.....I am so sorry for your grief. My husband passed away when he was 42 and I still miss him very much today.

It will get easier over time but (and I can only speak for myself) just because your husband dies, the love you shared doesn't. Special anniversaries, dates and ocasions can and will be more sensitive than other days. I am so happy you have your boys to love and share your life with, they give you reason and purpose and they need you very much...they have lost their father.

I hope you have a good support system Debbie, family and friends are so important. You loved your husband a very long time so please don't let anyone tell you how long you can/should one should take your grief away, it is something you have to go through and only you will know when the journey gentle with yourself, with support, prayer, your children and your Faith you will come out the other side.

Sorry, I didn't mean to ramble I just wanted you to know I care and understand as much as I can, every relationship is different, special and unique.

Have a super Sunday my new friend,
........:-) Hugs

Head full of stuff said...

Thanks so much for sharing this experience. It gives me hope as I know I will be facing something like this too.

vmginny said...

Thank you for your blog post. I found it through a search for anything on 'sitting by a dying husband'. You see I am doing that right now sitting by the bedside of my dying husband. It doesn't seem like much but I guess it is. He'll waken occasionally and I'll tend to him but most of the time he is sleeping. I wonder sometimes if he even knows I'm there and then he'll say, "I love you honey." and the bedside sitting is all worthwhile.