Posts Tagged With: death

Beauty in Dying

My dad died on Monday. I watched him take his last breath. I felt his body as it got cold. But those were the endings of the 53 hour journey he took and allowed me and my family to be a part of.

We were instructed to see death as a journey similar to the process of labor and delivery when a baby is born. As with labor, no one knows when it will begin exactly. For my dad, it started in the middle of the night with pain all over his body. From the moment my sister gave him his first dose of morphine we knew he had begun the labor of dying. For the next 53 hours straight we took turns singing hymns, reading scriptures, holding his hand, giving him back rubs and head massages, shifting him from lying down to sitting, holding his head up when he could not, anything that might bring him comfort.

When he became completely unresponsive we continued to talk to him and let him know what we were doing, that we were there, apologizing if anything we did might seem uncomfortable to him. Putting the syringe of morphine between his cheek and gums, I said I was sorry if I didn’t do it as well as my sister…I couldn’t tell if I was pressing too hard on his gums. I held my hand to the opposite corner of his mouth to make sure none of the precious pain reliever was dribbling out; my hand was dry…success!

My daughter and I had the 10pm-12am watch, a little less than 8 hours before he died. We whispered so my mom, who barely left my dad’s side during his dying journey, could get some sleep. I played sudoku on my phone. We would glance at his chest periodically to see if his quiet breathing, nearly impossible to hear over the loud snores of the dog, had changed…it hadn’t.

When I was alerted a few hours later to the arrival of ‘the death rattle’ I slipped onto my parents’ bed, which had been pushed up against the hospital bed so my mom could snuggle with my dad. She held him close, aware his journey was almost over. The death rattle arrives 1-5 hours before the final breath. I decided to go back to bed knowing those on watch would wake me if anything changed. I slept a few more hours then came up to check on my dad…he was still breathing. I couldn’t believe his body was still going!

Within an hour or so, his breathing began to slow, with long delays between breaths. We knew he was close and surrounded both him and my mother with our love and gentle touch. And then he stopped…no more breathing, no more life. Relief. Relief that his labor had ended and he was free of the body that carried him so beautifully and humbly through his 90 years on this earth. We were silent, just soaking it all in.

Slowly, one by one we started talking about him, remembering, laughing, crying. We lingered with him for a long while. We took turns washing his body using a cloth dipped in water infused with frankincense and myrrh. I gently held his stiffening leg in my hand as I washed his foot. I felt such a deep connection with him in that moment, a sense of gratitude for allowing me to be a part of his journey all the way to the end. Tears fell, sobs slipped past my vocal chords and I kissed his cool cheek. I walked away thankful for the beauty I witnessed in my daddy’s ending.

Categories: Acceptance, Healing, Self-Help | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Grief Revisited

Grief is a fascinating experience.  I have felt it several times in all its intensity but never with the death of a deeply loved and intensely close being.  I went through the ups and downs of my daughter’s failing health, lung transplant and cancer.  We came close to losing her, but we didn’t and still haven’t.  She’s doing really well!  I have been grieving the mortality of my dad as his health has been failing significantly in the last few months, but he’s still here and I get to have sweet special moments with him.

Mighty Maya!

Mighty Maya!

My current grief is a result of my tiny seven pound dog being snatched out of our yard about two weeks ago most likely by a coyote. There have been sightings of a mountain lion in our area but we didn’t see the creature only its paw prints in the mud near our fence and on the top rail of our fence. Whether coyote or mountain lion, it leaped from the field next to our house right into our yard and decided to take Maya. We were spared the gruesome remains of her but there was plenty of evidence to indicate she had been mortally wounded and removed.

It was a normal morning. I let her off the bed onto the floor (she was too tiny to jump), and she promptly headed outside to go to the bathroom. That’s all she ever did in the morning. Just a quick trip out and right back in. She has been doing this routine for the eight years we have lived in this house and never had a problem. But on this day, she didn’t come back in. When I went to look for her, she was gone. Vanished. I had no idea at that moment what had happened to her.

As the details came together, I was heartbroken. I sobbed and sobbed for the first two days. I was useless. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I got a warning for speeding. I told the officer I wasn’t paying attention to my speed only thinking about the death of my dog…I guess my authentic tears really got to him. He said he had to walk away before he started crying, too. He was sweet. That was no excuse for speeding, and I owned that I was being unsafe. I decided I better limit my driving for a few days and when I did drive I had to intently focus.

I thought about her tragic death which brought on heaving sobs. At first I was just really sad, then I moved to beating myself up for not going outside with her. If I had been there maybe I could have shooed away the animal. Then I moved to being mad at the circumstances because I just want my dog back. I want her to be curled up on the couch, taking all of about a 10 inch radius of space. I want her cute little face to look inquisitively at me while I ask her questions or talk to her. I want her company on my walks and I don’t want to have to go through the trouble of deciding if I want another dog (do not read that as I want someone to surprise me with a puppy! No, no, no!).

I am now deathly afraid to walk out on my deck at night because I’m literally gripped with fear that something is out there looking for something to devour. I don’t feel safe. When I go on walks, I am looking around, certain I’m going to get attacked. I never worried about these things before. I thought about it at times because we live in an area where coyotes live, too but I was never afraid of running into one. I’m only 12 days into this particular grief process and I realize that most of what I’m going through is normal, but when you’re going through it, it doesn’t feel normal!

The best thing I can do for myself is bring others into my grieving, which I have done. I am also allowing myself to feel all the emotions that come up. I let the tears fall. I notice the fear and understand why it is there. I feel the anger and get why I would be mad. As time is moving on, I’m noticing the intensity of the emotions is dissipating. I can focus on tasks again (including driving!) and I’m accepting reality, well, sort of.

It’s interesting to grieve the untimely and tragic death of a pet. I did not expect the intensity to be like this. My husband’s uncle died last week. I was sad for him and his family but he wasn’t in my life on a regular basis. I had only known him for eight years and saw him briefly a handful of times. I felt more sad for others in that situation than myself. My dog has been a constant companion. She adored me. I was definitely her favorite and everyone knew it. I’m realizing now how much I bonded with her. Our bonds can be with skin or fur…and the loss of either can be painful. I also believe we learn to connect with others more deeply when we are willing to connect with our grief.

Categories: Acceptance, Emotional Healing, Growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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