Thursday, September 09, 2004

Day five and finally six..

That Sunday I agreed to go to mass with John's brother, sister and brother-in-law. The Newman center didn't fall down and I thought that was a good sign. We went back to the hospital for more bad news. John's heart had been permanently damaged by the infection. They were using all the meds they had to even keep him stable. He was in pain and heavily sedated; he barely was able to even acknowledge us as being there. I got all that were there together to tell them what the doctors had told me: if he didn't show improvement that night, taking him off life support and letting nature take its course was our only option. It was a sobering thought. We had turned on the TV in his ICU cubicle so he could be distracted from the pain by football at least. We sat around the waiting room talking about the what ifs, driving ourselves nuts. So we all went out to Billy's barbecue for dinner. That dinner turned out to be magical. We drank beer, ate like wolves, and I laughed so hard my sides ached. We talked about John, shared memories and dreams he had. It was a glorious meal. John had been a chef, so if there was any more fitting wake I couldn't think of one. We were still a little tipsy when we got back to the waiting room, to find out his heart had started worsening. John's sons slept in the waiting room, and I went in to talk to John. He was laying there bloated, bruised from needles. This was not the man I had married. I didn't even recognize him. There was so much to say, so I said it all and cried. I told him I was sorry for letting them put him on life support. I could say only that this was all up to him now to make the decisions. Then I walked out to go up to his room at Markey to sleep, where he had entered 2 months earlier never to leave.
The next morning I got up early to head down to the waiting room, and they took me straight back to the ICU. The nurse who had taken care of him the whole time was there to tell me the truth. His heart was beyond repair, all his organs were shutting down. It was time. The doctors got us all together for a meeting, told us there were no more options, and what had to be done. We went outside to regroup, then we all went back to the ICU. Most of the people he love were there: Anne and Randy, Billy, and his children LJ, Charles and Jocelyn. They left it up to me to tell him. The doctors had lightened up on the pain meds temporarily so he could hear us. I asked him if he wanted off the machines: he nodded yes strongly. I asked if he understood what that would do: once again he nodded his head. So it was time and he knew he was going to die. The nurse and doctors started the paper work. Anne wanted a priest to give him last rites, even though he hadn't practiced Catholicism since he was a child. To keep the peace I said yes. They upped his pain meds, unhooked the dialysis machine, and took out the respirator. The priest got there and tried to give him communion, and John fought him, twisting his head away to keep from eating the wafer. It took several minutes of struggle before I finally whispered in his ear that this was not for him but for Anne, so quit being stubborn. The last grin I ever saw from him: he relented and opened his mouth. Then, after the priest left, John started wheezing. It was close. I told the family I was doing a witchcraft death ceremony, no discussion. They didn't say a word. I started the ceremony, and gave him to Hecate. The ceremony ended, and he was going. It is a hard thing to watch someone die. He would stop breathing for several seconds, then gasp for air. It was maddening. I just wanted to scream at him for being stubborn to the very end. I wanted to put a pillow over his head to smother him. I took off my pentacle and pressed it into his heart. I kept it there till I realized that he was no longer breathing, and I couldn't feel his heart beating. Then I wailed. I didn't know what that was till that minute. I just wailed, a loud screaming sob.