You Never Forget the Breathing


Imagetoday I received word that a friend of mine was in ICU and that they were moving him into Hospice.  He suffered from 4th stage stomach cancer that had moved to his liver and lungs.

I went to the hospital and walked into a very small room on the Oncology floor and he lay in the bed, the ashen grey pallor told me a lot.  I leaned down over him and said, “Mike, it’s Patrice.”  He was deeply medicated but rallied a bit at my voice and reached out as to hug me.  I kissed his cheek and held his hand and he started to talk….but the drugs were doing their job and he rambled something about not understanding the program and if they would tell him the program he could work it.  I stood holding his hand as he fell back asleep.  

I looked around and saw the bags of dextrose, morphine and haldol.  I knew.  They were medicating him to keep him out of pain and to wait.  Death was close.  I knew it by his color, and his breathing.

You never forget the breathing.  

I have seen several people die, actually in the room when their live’s passed over and it is a frightening, fascinating experience  Each type is different.  But the breathing is always the same.  

Mike was 50 and had stomach cancer that spread to his liver and lungs.  He was amazingly strong and fought the good fight…always sure he would win.  

I went out to the waiting area while the nurse changed the bags and noticed he had no kidney output.  

His mother sat on the sofa in the waiting area and I sat with her and held her hand while she talked to me.  I felt that I couldn’t do anything for her son but say goodbye and thank him for being such a good man and such a fighter.

I sat as she gripped my hand and listened to her.  The nurse came out and told his mother that if she noticed any discomfort or moans, to let them know and that they would increase the drugs.  This is the part where those of us that have been trough it know…he’s going…and they are going to make it as easy as possible.  Haldol and Morphine.  One to eliminate pain, one to eliminate agitation.  He wouldn’t be coming back from that.  

I went back to his room and gathered my purse and put my hand on his arm….and I said, “goodbye” and then I closed my eyes still holding his arm and prayed that he would go quickly.

Three hours later I received the news that he was gone….gone to a better place…out of pain and free.  And the horrible breathing….the sound of life leaving a person…is gone.  

I asked my sister if because we had been with so many family members when they died, if that made us immune to breaking down.  She said, it makes us unafraid of death and empathetic to those going through it.

That is it.  That is what my heart told me….comfort, comfort, comfort.  Touch his family and him.  Hold their hands and listen to them.  I asked them if they were ok, if there was anything that I could do.  

Life is hard and wonderful and so is death.  Nothing brings back their loved one, but surrounding the dying and the family with love is the best legacy.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.Image

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