Sometimes I get nostalgic, and this is one of those times. It's not about a long time ago. It's about one week ago: at this time last Tuesday Ken's favourite nurse, Angela, and a home support worker, Divina, were busily giving Ken a bath. He wasn't keen on it at all. He was feeling weak and somewhat irritable. It had been a full day since he'd had a cigarette, and he'd had only one then, so far as I know. And he hadn't had his morning coffee, either, because he usually slept until noon. So
that was another irritation--being wakened up "early". Nevertheless, he submitted to the bath in bed because he didn't have the strength to protest effectively.
Just a few minutes before the bath, he'd shouted "MOM!" and I'd come running down the stairs. When I arrived, he said, "I need help." This was odd because the home support worker was standing directly in front of him, knee-to-knee while he sat on the edge of the hospital bed.
It turned out he wanted to sit in the doorway where he'd been spending most of his waking hours for the past six months. But he didn't have the strength to walk to the door. My daughter and I, with the home support worker's help, put Ken on a chair with wheels and wheeled him to the doorway, covering him with a blanket. He sat there in silence for about five minutes gazing at the garden view and then asked to be taken back to the bed. Then my daughter and I left Angela and Divina to the task of bathing him.
The job was done and Angela and Divina left. My daughter and husband and I took turns just sitting by the bed, watching Ken rest. Perhaps he'd want to get up. I should be ready to bring him his meds and a cup of coffee.
Instead, when it was my turn to sit with him, his breathing changed from the rhythmic pattern (with an odd gurgling sound) to gasps. I held his hand, and he held my arm. I kept telling him I loved him, and he looked at me and mouthed something that looked like "love". His gasps were unlike anything I'd heard before, and with each one he seemed to stop breathing so I called his name. This happened about half a dozen times. My daughter and husband came into the room to see why I was calling out. The gasping stopped as they entered the room, and he didn't respond to my calling. My daughter checked for a pulse. He didn't breathe again. My son had died. The time was about 2:05pm, one week ago today.