**WARNING – THIS POST MAY TRIGGER SOME PEOPLE**
His last day was one I’ll both never forget and one I can barely remember. If this post seems a little scattered, my memories of that night & day are… so it fits.
I had spent the night in the hospital, holding his hand, talking to him when he was awake, sleeping half on him when he wasn’t. Wandering in and out of his space.
Robert was the nurse who was amazing from the get go. I had met him before he’d ever done a shift taking care of Mark – he had helped one of Mark’s nurses do a linen change or position change with Mark one night I was there. I had hoped then that I’d get to spend some time with him – and he turned out to be an amazing support throughout the 6 months we were in the ICU.
I had asked for Robert to be our nurse that night. I knew Patricia was going to be our nurse for the next day, but I wanted Robert to be there overnight – he was wonderfully caring and compassionate and I had a rapport with him.
When I needed to step away from Mark’s bedside Robert was there. He was there to explain to me what would happen the next day, he was there to listen to me. When he got on shift, and knowing that it was Mark’s last night, he removed the NG & NJ tubes to make Mark more comfortable. He brought me a chair that I could sleep in somewhat comfortably.
When Kyle arrived, he brought his guitar in and sang for his Dad. He sang all the songs that he’d written to that point… bringing all of us sitting on the other side of the curtain to tears. Robert, Adriana, Naomi and I were giving Kyle some time alone with Mark to say his goodbyes and connect with his Dad one last time.
Adriana went to go home, I think… I know she came back the next day but I don’t remember where she was… Kyle went to the waiting room to sleep. Naomi went to the waiting room to sleep. For 4 or 5 hours, it was just Mark and I and Robert.
It may sound odd – but that was the most amazing, intimate time I had with him. We drifted off holding hands. I cried, he comforted me. I kissed him, we talked, we loved each other fiercely. I tried to get into bed with him for a snuggle but it hurt him, so we had to settle for a half snuggle. We were there for each other.
Susan & Ivan and the kids arrived around 5am. I think. I know it was still dark, and it was very early in the morning. That was the start of the gathering of friends and family.
Early in the day shift, Mark’s primary physician came in to have a final conversation with him – to confirm that yes, Mark was sure that this was what he wanted. The ICU doctors came in to confirm. Patricia confirmed.
At this point, I think it was Kyle, Naomi, Susan & Ivan & kids, and me there. My mom was enroute, Kathy was bringing the boys down, and Katie and Adam were on their way. Roxy came in from Chiliwack.
Kathy didn’t arrive until after 9.30 with the boys. I told the doctors that we WOULD wait until my boys got there and they had a chance to say good bye to their Dad.
How to break my heart again and again… make me tell my kids that Daddy is dying. I’d already had to go through this once with my older two kids – and now I had to do it again with the younger ones. I had never hidden the seriousness of Mark’s illnesses from them. They had been there throughout everything. When we thought we were going to lose him in January, they came down to be with us.
Around 10 – 10.15 the ventilator was turned off. Patricia explained that as Mark’s discomfort increased, she would increase the hydromorphone to keep him comfortable. Eventually his breathing would stop, and his heart would stop. It could take hours, it could take days.
Everyone got to say their goodbyes. Everyone got to talk to Mark, talk to the boys, talk to me. We brought in a bunch of chairs, sat on the counters and basically crowded 12-15 people in an area where you’re only supposed to have 2 visitors.
Some came and went. Susan couldn’t stay in at all times because she’d left her husband and kids out in the waiting room and needed to check on them. Adriana and Roxy went to go buy wine. We decided that wine was a good idea while we sat with Mark. We hid it from the nurses but I’m pretty sure the nurses knew :p They didn’t say much about it. We were discrete so I think it was ok.
There was a lot of love and laughter in that room. We told stories, we told jokes and we smiled and laughed and we cried.
We had a minister come in to say a prayer. He was in the wrong room… I wish I could remember the name of the guy he was supposed to say a prayer for … but because he was there, he said a prayer for Mark anyhow. It was so funny… even after being told Mark’s name, he still used the other guy’s name. We laughed. It was a welcome respite from the waiting.
I checked with the nurses as to what we were looking for. What signs were we looking for that the end was near? I wanted to make sure that everyone was there and had a chance to say good bye.
She told us the signs – and shortly after he reached that point. I gathered everyone in to say final good byes.
Everyone said good bye. I remember watching the monitors, waiting for my turn, and hoping he wouldn’t slip away before I could kiss him one last time.
The day had been overcast.
As I kissed him goodbye for the final time, told him I loved him and he took his last breath… the sun broke through and shone into his room. I remember kissing him over and over and over, telling him how much I love him. My mom touched me and said that he was gone… all I could say through my tears was… “I know”
He died at 4.15pm.
We sat there a while longer. I started to wash him, clean him up. I wanted to be a part of that process for the end, but Patricia wouldn’t let me. So I did what I could to clean him up.
At one point, after most people had left the room, I climbed on the bed to snuggle him. It couldn’t hurt him any longer and I needed that last snuggle. I cried, broken, lost. It wasn’t him laying there.
I checked with Patricia about the need for the bed. She said that no, we could take as much time as we needed in there regardless of anything else.
I know Mark and he would have been appalled if we were holding up a bed that someone else might need to get better. I had been around the ICU long enough at that point that I checked the board – there were two other empty beds so I was ok with us staying there a little longer.
I remember gathering his stuff. I remember spending more time with him. I remember kissing him one last time.
I don’t remember how I got home or how the boys got home. I just remember the couch. Staying on the couch and being lost on the couch. The night after that was blurry and lost to me. I don’t remember who was there or who wasn’t. But I remember being surrounded by friends and family. I remember being hugged and loved. I remember being broken.
I know that this post cannot convey the emotions and the reality of that day… I know that I’m barely scratching the surface of it. I re-read it and it doesn’t feel like it reflects the depth of that day.
Today mark’s 5 months since he died. 5 months being a widow. 5 months since my children lost their father. 5 months of trying to find a new normal. 5 months of grief. 5 months of missing Mark.