Natural Ink: Watching Death.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Watching Death.

"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"
Edgar Allan Poe 


I've watched several pass.  I've been in the room when they took their last breath.  
I've had one die in my lap, me cradling their head and crying tears I never thought I would cry.
Some are harder than others, of course.  You're closer to some more than others.  
But that doesn't make the experience any easier.  
You're still there.  
You're still watching them take their last breath.
You're watching their life end,
 their journey end,
you're watching them end.  
And when it's all over, you're still there.  You're still breathing and they're not 
and it is a very weird experience to go through.

I was in the room when someone died a couple of years ago.  I wasn't supposed to be there, I thought at the time.  
I didn't want to be there.  
But I ended up being there, for whatever reason.  He had been sick for years and at the end, hospice had been called in.
He was home, and that was a good thing for him.
The end, or the beginning of the end, was strange.
Several times when I walked into the back of the house into the bedroom, I interrupted conversations.  He was alone, but he was having conversations.
Conversations, full conversations, with his brother who had passed years before him.  I would hear him talking and as soon as I walked into the room, he would stop talking.
As if his brother saw me, heard me, felt me, and disappeared, or told him to be quiet in whatever language he was speaking then.
It makes you think.
Did he really see him?  Was he really talking to him?
Were those he knew that had passed over come to talk to him, to comfort him, to help him through this?  I like to think so.
I like to think someone showed up and told him what it would be like,
and to not be afraid.

The night he died, I had not planned on being there.  I stayed for supper with some people and then I went into the bedroom with him with a couple of others.  I sat on the bed next to the hospital bed hospice had provided.
I lingered.
I talked with the others that were there.
He was unresponsive as he had been for a few days, but he was breathing and he was still there, if that makes sense.
I sat on the bed with one, and the other one held his hand.
We started talking, just reminising about the past and talking about lighter things than the death we knew was coming.
In situations like that, I turn my emotions into humor and I try to lighten the mood.
It's usually a good thing. I'm a relief. I'm a distraction.
I'm glad to do it. It helps me, too.
The conversation got ridiculous, normal for those in the room, and a few minutes later me and the person holding his hand looked at each other.
He had stopped breathing.
About a minute later he took a shallow breath and we sighed with relief.
He did this for a few minutes, stopping breathing and then taking in a small one.
I kept the conversation light with the other one on the bed, who was his wife.
We joked, we pretended things were okay.
We brought up dumb topics we found humorous.
We laughed.
He stopped breathing again.  And this time he didn't take another one.
I shared another look with the one holding his hand and we shared the same look.
He was gone. We knew it this time. 
He had waited.
He had waited until his wife was laughing, until we were all laughing at a seemingly stupid topic.
He had waited until it seemed like we were all okay.
He chose that moment to leave.
And it was a good moment.
We were normal, we were okay, we would be okay.  And he knew this.
We would take care of his wife, and he knew that too.
He stopped breathing and the room stood still.
I didn't know what to do.

"I think you should come kiss him while he's still warm," the one holding his hand said.

"He's gone, isn't he?" his wife asked, already starting to cry.

She got off the bed from her spot next to me and was at his side in seconds.
She began to cry.  We all cried.
After the tears slowed down, I went and got a bottle of his favorite whiskey from the kitchen and we toasted him and his life.
We drank to him, lifting our glasses.
It was a nice, quiet, final moment before the house was filled with others.
With the coroner, and the funeral home director, and family members that came as support.
It was a final, silent moment that was ours with him.
It was one that was sacred and understood between the three of us.
We were in that moment together, we had been through it together for so long and
we had been there in the end together.

For months, I had trouble with this.  I didn't think I was supposed to be there, to witness such an ending.
When you watch one die, you are reminded of all of those you have seen pass.
When I got home at about five the morning he died, I cried into the shoulder of someone I would lose, unexpectedly,  just one year later.
It would hit me the hardest of all and it would remind me of losing everyone I had lost all over again. 
That death was not easy.
Death is not easy.
It is not easy to watch, it is not easy to be a part of.
But it is a part of life.
And sometimes for those that are going on that final journey, it is easy.
It turns out, I was supposed to be there.
For whatever reason, I was supposed to be there, to witness that death could come quietly, calmly.
It did not have to be violent.
It did not have to shake everyone to their core with shock and screams.
It could be okay.
And being there, witnessing that final breath, could be okay as well.
It would take time, of course, but it could be okay.
I was there, and somehow I had helped him cross over at just the right time.
I had helped things be a little easier on him, on everyone in the room and I like to think that's why I ended up being there that night.
I didn't want to be, sure, but I was supposed to be.
And that's okay now.  I understand now, and I accept it.
It's okay.


1 comment:

Avery Tingle said...

This is an awesome, powerful, haunting read. Sorry if this posts twice.