So much has and hasn’t happened since I last blogged here that it would silly and somewhat impossible for me to recount the moments that have filled the months. But one thing I will mention for those who will not know and may wonder.
After ten years of struggle, blind fear, anger and misery ‘The Man’ made the final stage of his journey gently and with some sense of peace in the days before he decided to take himself off to bed to dive deep and learn to swim in another universe. He died on the 27th September 2010 at three minutes to 6pm. He was surrounded by people he recognised as friends, in a place he called home and with someone holding his hand till the final breath.
I wasn’t there but the day before I had spent six hours with him reading the Sunday paper aloud to him, playing music I knew he loved, singing along and falling asleep in the chair, when the infection I was being consumed by took the upper hand, for a moment much to the amusement of the sister in charge who came in to find us both asleep and my breathing way more laboured than his. That visit finished me off really and I knew I’d not be back the next day but also knew he was going to die the next day.
I saw many members of staff who kept a steady flow of visits whilst I was there, some who were not in work but had heard the time of his death would be probably whilst they were not on duty that week so came to say goodbye.
I spoke with three of the youngest members of staff who had not been in the job very long and ‘The Man’ was really the first person they had seen purposefully dying and were astonished and a little scared by the physical changes that were clearly happening hour by hour.
I am very clear that death is a wonderful promise never reneged on, is often a gift to be embraced with joy and is the moment for diving deep and learning to swim in another universe; that the energy of a life is freed to swim in waters never guessed at but familiar beyond knowing is the wonder of death for me. Being involved in the final days of anyone’s life is a privilege if one is able to help the person be as comfortable physically as they may be and peaceful in mind.
I thanked the three young women for their care and attention of ‘The Mans’ needs beyond rote or imposed policy. I told them that if they could manage to look every resident in the eye, lay a caring hand on a shoulder they would discover why their job was very important and more than that they would discover the magic held in each of the people who now called the nursing home their home.
Before the final week of ‘The Mans’ life I had sat down and written the letter I had promised him I would write, outlining what his wishes were for his final day and then had a meeting with the nursing team to draw up the plan which would be agreed by doctors as well as all staff at the home.
It turned out I am a rarity and that they have a hard job trying to get people to even consider this very important part of their relatives life. People clinging on for themselves rather than trying to understand what is good and true for the other person is much more the response which means nursing staff are faced with the agony of racing dying person off to hospital to be resuscitated for a third or fourth time to bring them back to the home each time further diminished and I would say dehumanised by the frightful pushing, pumping and alien sounds and sights that the resus room can present.
‘The Man’ tested the waters quite a few times before his final journey began, each time I was aware he had not really packed for the journey so was never surprised when two or three days later he’d be found doing his circuits of the establishment with a care assistant valiantly trying to keep up with him.