11 April 2007
From mid-afternoon until he died around 8:00 p.m., John didn't open his eyes. He seemed to know when I was with him, but he didn't speak any coherent words and he was no longer awake or aware.
At some point during that time, he started to moan when he exhaled. He hadn't been taking much pain medication up to that point. I asked him a few times if he was in pain, but he couldn't answer. I listened to him moan as he breathed, trying to decipher what the moan meant. Pain? His breathing was not labored and he was not restless. In my hand, I clutched the bottle of liquid morphine that hospice had given me. I wanted so much for John would wake up and have one last conversation with me before he died. I knew if I gave him the liquid morphine that any chance of that would be gone. So I told myself that he wasn't in pain, set the liquid morphine on the bedside table, and told John that I was there with him.
When I got back from picking up the babies from daycare, John's moaning had intensified. By this point, I knew in my heart that things were moving very, very quickly. I wasn't going to get that conversation I so desperately wanted.
I gave him a dose of morphine.
The moaning continued.
Right before I put the babies to bed, I gave John more morphine. I was holding Riley in my arms as I filled the syringe and administered the medication.
The moaning continued.
Just over an hour later, John died.
Everyone asks me if John's death was peaceful. I always say yes. I guess it was; he basically fell asleep and stopped breathing. But I worry that he was in pain for those last hours, physical pain that I could have taken away by giving him more medication sooner. I wish that I had not been so selfish in my desperate wish to get him back, even for just a few moments.
Everyone wants to know how I'm doing. I usually say that I'm hanging in there, that the babies and I are finding our rhythm. It's a true answer.
What I can't say to people is that since John's death, I'm filled with a palpable sense of relief. Of course, I miss John terribly and there are moments when I'm awash in sadness. But down in my core, I have a deep sense of peace in knowing that John is not sick now. He was so tired of having cancer. And, to be honest, I was tired of cancer, too. I was tired of the unpredictability of our lives, of not knowing how John was going to feel day to day, of knowing that he was going to die in the near term, of the burden of caretaking.
I hate that he is gone. I feel awful that not having to deal with John's illness removes a heavy load from my overextended back. Of course I would give anything to have him back, sick or well. But there is a piece of me, a guilty piece, that is not sad to say farewell to the cancer phase of my life. I miss John terribly. I don't miss cancer one bit.