Jump to content
Grief Healing Discussion Groups

Fifty-seven months--and another death

Recommended Posts

Dear friends,

The 57 month anniversary of Jane’s death was last Thursday. I’ve had little time to reflect on that because her father’s health has taken a significant urn for the worse. As I write this, he is on his death bed just a few feet away. It is 5:50 a.m. and Gail, his other daughter, is sleeping.

I slept for a few hours earlier. The medicines he is on to keep him comfortable have to be given every hour, so one of us has to be awake at all times. How long this death will take, neither of us knows. But he is seemingly comfortable and, at this stage, that is all that matters.
Jane’s dad was sick long before we discovered Jane’s NET cancer. Kidney problems are easy to spot with the standard blood tests everyone gets with every routine physical. It was a bigger struggle to get him to accept dialysis than it was to discover that he required it.
Dialysis is an exhausting experience, but it does clean out the toxins in the blood pretty well. While Hank’s life the last six years has not been perfect, the quality of it, until recently, has been decent. He was able to get out of the house, go to cookouts, watch football—most of the normal things people do.
Unfortunately, Hank was done in by another medical failure. Apparently, we stop testing for prostate cancer in older men at some point. The thinking, they tell me, is that prostate cancer generally moves very slowly in the elderly. In Hank’s case, that meant the cancer had spread to his bones before it was detected.
The last year has not been good. He has been in and out of the hospital, in and out of rehab, and the quality of his life has steadily declined. Last Tuesday, Gail called 911 when he had become increasingly confused and lethargic. We expected he was dehydrated—the weather was hot and humid and there is no way to pump enough liquids and electrolytes into a person in Hank’s general condition orally.
But that was not the problem. The vital organs in his body had begun to shut down. We moved him into hospice care Thursday and brought him home Friday afternoon. He was already asleep most of the time—waking up only when we changed his bed clothes. Since late Saturday night he has not opened his eyes.
We wet his lips, give him his medications, and sit with him. We talk to him—we can’t know how much registers. But I think that while the porch light is on, there is not much of him left at home.
Jane’s death was similar at the end. She went into that final coma and slowly drifted away. The difference was she did so in a hospital room. I would have liked to have brought her home to die, but she might not have made it there had I tried—and I did not want her to die in an ambulance surrounded by strangers.
I’ve spent the last few days thinking about Jane and her parent’s house. I have stood by the fence outside where I first told her I loved her, stood in the hallway where I kissed her good night after a date, sat in the dining room where we ate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinner—as well as a host of Sundays. 
I have stood under the grape arbor where we once sat and inhaled their late summer perfume. That scent is there this week as we wait for Hank’s death. It will close the book on so many memories in a way I can’t quite describe.
We forget sometimes that medicine is not an exact science. A test not given, a series of diverse symptoms not recognized as part of a larger pattern, a specialist’s rather than a generalist’s view of things—by such little things all our lives hang like the grapes on that arbor. We don’t know when a particular grape will be fully ripe, when a particular leaf will fall—when a specific life will end.
Jane’s mother died nine years ago tomorrow. I thought of the irony of that last week. That Hank should die on the same day as his wife has powerful symmetry to it, but I kept it to myself at the time. Gail raised the idea this morning and I agreed with her. I feel uncomfortable intruding on her grief.
In a few minutes, I will dip a fresh DenTip—a tiny sponge at the end of a long plastic stick—in water, cleanse Hank’s mouth and then give him his next bit of medicine. I’ll note the slight change in the sound of his breathing, and continue to wait—as I waited with Jane during her mother’s last hours, nine years ago, as I waited for Jane’s death 57 months and four days ago.
And when the waiting is ended, Death and I will become full adversaries again. I understand the cycle of life and death—of birth and rebirth. I know even the stars have expiration dates. But I am very much a disciple of John Donne: Every person's death diminishes me, for I am involved with humankind.
For now, Henry is dying. I will do what I can to make him comfortable as he waits like a grape to be plucked from the vine.
Hank died about 5:45 this evening. Gail and I were both there when he passed. It was over very quickly when it came.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"But I am very much a disciple of John Donne: Every person's death diminishes me, for I am involved with humankind." 

Yes, this sounds just like you Harry. I am sorry you are going through yet another death of a person so connected to you through your Jane. Peace to you as you grieve another person who has had a special place in your heart.

Please pass on to Gail our sympathy.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Amen, Marty.

Harry, I hope that your heart finds peace and that your spirit is filled with the loving Light of all those you love who are loving you from another dimension.  

Peace and Light,


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Harry, I am sorry Jane's dad passed away.  You're in all our thoughts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Harry, What a privilege it is to read your heartfelt words. Your loving care for Henry shines from you. Your father in law was so fortunate to have been surrounded by compassion and love. I wish that for all of us when our time comes. Jane and her mom and dad are reunited now. May you and Gail take comfort from that and in the fact that Henry didn't die alone. I studied John Donne at school and I had forgotten what a wonderful poet he was. 


by John Donne

SOUL'S joy, now I am gone,
              And you alone,
              —Which cannot be,
Since I must leave myself with thee,
       And carry thee with me—
       Yet when unto our eyes
              Absence denies
              Each other's sight,
And makes to us a constant night,
    When others change to light ;
              O give no way to grief,
              But let belief
                  Of mutual love
              This wonder to the vulgar prove,
                  Our bodies, not we move.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is beautiful isn't it Jan? There are 2 verses and below is the second verse which I think is equally as beautiful. I love it when he argues at the end that our material bodies do not have the same power as our spirit bodies which can always be together. He began his life as a skeptic but ended it believing in God and the afterlife so much so that he became a cleric and is buried in St Paul's Cathedral in London 


Let not thy wit beweep
              Words but sense deep;
              For when we miss
By distance our hope’s joining bliss,
       Even then our souls shall kiss;
       Fools have no means to meet,
              But by their feet;
              Why should our clay
Over our spirits so much sway,
    To tie us to that way?
give no way to grief.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...