In the wee small hours of the morning after my love had died, I felt a strong compulsion to write everything that had happened in his last week. I have posted it here so that if you want to know the details of his last days, you can.
The beginning of ‘the dying process,’ as it is called, really began last Friday 25th November, after the last attempt to insert an nj tube into his stomach.
At about 5.30pm that day, Dr. Srimali (Gamma Ray Man) told him:
‘We have tried everything, and nothing has worked, not one thing. I am very disappointed, especially when you had everything going for you in terms of your attitude and your strength of spirit.’
He looked downcast. There was nothing more he could offer.
‘My recommendation is that you move to Elgin hospital and from there, you will more easily be able to make the move to home’. He knew how much Philip had wanted to come home if he was going to die. Later Philip told me ‘Bar a miracle, this is the end then’. I reminded him about the vision I had experienced only a week ago.
‘I woke in the middle of the night. You and I were somewhere, don’t know where, and there was a warm, glowing light everywhere, and an atmosphere of indescribable love. I watched you walking away from me more into the light, walking as you used to when you were strong and healthy, walking in a purposeful, calm and conscious manner. To see your strong shoulders and long legs like that was just beautiful. But the best thing was that it was perfect that you were doing this. And it was perfect that I was staying where I was. And I knew that you knew that it was perfect for both of us. And I knew that too. And there was so much, so much love. I stayed lying in the bed in that state for at least half an hour. It was so beautiful’.
‘Can I have one of those, please?’ was his response.
By the time Monday came, we had another step to take. Dr Srimali said, in talking abut the practicalities of moving to Elgin,
‘Would you want to be resuscitated?’
I held my breath, waiting for Philip’s answer. With tears in his eyes, he looked at me.
‘No. Is that OK?’
I had tried to talk to Philip about this before we left home for the hospital, but he wasn’t having any of it then; and I was hugely relieved to hear his answer. I looked at him lovingly and agreed. I knew this was another step towards him accepting his death. I rang our dear friend Barbara in Los Angeles and asked her to come over.
On Tuesday, when we had been hoping to move, there were no rooms available in Elgin. Another apparent setback. We geared ourselves up for a move on Wednesday, when we were assured there was a single room. In the meantime, my poor darling Philip was trying to cope with increasing amounts of black bile being regurgitated. Very distressing. Barbara’s arrival brought some compensation, and although he didn’t say this to me, I think he would have known that this meant he was near the end. She has been so instrumental in his life (they have known each other for 32 years), and she was the instigator of ‘The List’, our attempt to face the practical realities of death before it happened.
Wednesday morning arrived.
‘I’m really sorry but because of the strike there are no ambulances available to take you to Elgin’. The nurse looked apologetic. Later in the morning, Dr Srimali visited.
“I’m sorry, Philip, but I can’t recommend you move now. You are too ill. You have gone down fast in the last few days’.
My poor darling – he had wanted to go to Elgin Hospital because it felt like home, being so much nearer, and he knew it would be better for me, being based at home while visiting the hospital.
In a side room, the doctor told me, ‘His kidneys are not functioning very well; nor his liver’. I told Philip.
‘Oh. So my body is giving up’. He sighed and looked resigned. I guess at this point we both knew the end was near.
In the wee small hours of Thursday 1st December, I was woken by a text from Barbara. ‘P is having a difficult night. Can you come in?’ I shot out of bed, and was up there within ten minutes. I arrived to discover my dear husband in considerable distress as he tried to cope with the huge amount of dark brown liquid coming out of his mouth at regular intervals, assisted by coughing. It was foul-smelling and had a horrible taste. With further medication, he calmed down, began more regular breathing, and clearly was out of pain, but I was clear. This was enough. I stayed with him while he slept, all the time his breathing being hampered by the liquid in his gullet, making a rattling, raspy sound. Horrible to hear.
Barbara told me:
‘You know, something weird happened. About midnight he asked for the remote control!’
‘But he’s never watched the TV in hospital” I exclaimed.
‘I know – but I asked him if he wanted to watch the telly, and he said yes. So I got him the remote and asked what channel he wanted’.
‘Channel 5 – I want to see Countdown’.
Countdown used to be a favourite TV programme of Philip’s. He would pit his wits against two teams on the TV as they tried to make the longest word possible out of a series of letters. He loved that stuff. So when I heard this, I knew he was telling us the end was near – he was literally counting down. I called Jackie, his daughter, and told her to get on an earlier plane than she had intended.
All Thursday during the day, he was more or less sedated, the pain being managed with various medicines, and others to help dry up the secretions.
‘I want you to take him off the intravenous feeding; and please can you do whatever you have to do so that he is not conscious of what is happening anymore’, I told the doctor who was visiting.
The doctor looked at me. ‘Have you said all you want to say to him?’
‘I’ve had lots of opportunities to say everything. I don’t mind if he never opens his eyes again, I just want him to be out of this agony’. I was really clear.
During that day, Philip was aware of conversations; we could tell because occasionally he would murmur or grunt; and even more occasionally would come round from the drugs enough to speak a little. Christopher Raymont visited, and together he and I softly sang some of his favourite Taize songs, particularly ‘In manus tuas, pater’ (Into thy hands God I commend my spirit). Although it appeared that he did not know we were there, I’m sure he did.
Later still, he softly murmured ‘I love you’. Then he put his shaking hands into the prayer position.
With that I knew that he had let go; he was giving himself up. My dear, lovely, brave man.
Leaving Jackie and Daniel, his grandson, at Philip‘s bedside, I returned to where I was staying to get out of my pyjamas from the early morning start, have a shower and supposedly sleep (not much of that happened, mind you). Returning a couple of hours later, I joined River and Barbara, Jackie and Dan having left, and I saw he was lucid once more.
Even with slurred words, we could understand this plea. We got more medication into his body, spoke again of the angels waiting for him, I told him my vision once more. River suggested having the nurses move his body, as it looked as though it was falling out of bed. A small globule of brown liquid oozed from his lips. I left the room in tears – I couldn’t bear to see him suffering so much.
The nurse returned.
“We’ve moved him, and his breathing has changed’.
Barbara and I went back in to be with him and River. He had changed, his breathing was no longer a rattling sound in the back of his throat. I sat down and held his hand. His eyes were shut, and he occasionally took a big breath – and then a long gap. Within minutes, he stopped taking these breaths. Never having seen someone die before, I was unsure what was happening, but I noticed at one point a change in his face colour. That was when he left his body.
The dear, courageous, loving, gorgeous man. He stayed for so long trying so hard to not succumb to this illness and it’s corresponding side effects. Looking upwards towards the ceiling, we each took turns to speak to his spirit, telling him what had happened, reassuring him he was loved, blessing him. It was very beautiful.
My darling did not want to die, not one little bit. He felt he had lots more to give to others. And yet in his dying, that is exactly what he has done.
‘Why are you afraid of dying, sweetheart?’ I asked him some weeks ago.
‘I want to give more’ was his simple reply.
Well, he has given more. Given in the manner in which he approached the impending death of his body, which was in full consciousness. Never for one minute was he not present in his mind’s abilities during his stay in hospital. Even through all the drugs. He was very conscious about everything, what the doctors were prescribing, what for, the amount he was taking; what was going on around him, his body’s needs, even aware of my needs to the last moment. He has been an amazing example of conscious dying.
Thank you, my dearest one, thank you.