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  • Dr. Susan Rose

Our Last Days in the Hospital

After the meeting, I talked to the nurse about preparing to go home. He then realized that I didn't understand or - I know now - couldn't grasp how truly sick you were. He explained that it wouldn't be safe to go home, because you would probably go to be with Jesus within an hour after they stopped giving you the medicine that was helping or controlling your heart rate. I had thought up until this time that the new heart rate medicine was just that - a new one we were trying. He explained that this one was what it is given to pull as much blood as possible to the heart so that it functions appropriately. It can't be given a long time as it pulls blood away from the extremities. Your heart was so frail that the doctors and nurses thought that it couldn't function without the medicine.

So, the palliative nurse and your ICU nurses arranged to have the chaplain meet with us. The chaplain arranged a service. At this point, I told the nurse that we wouldn't choose between our children as to who would be there for the last time that we could speak with you. She understood. As I had been there from the beginning, I had been registered before and wouldn't technically be counted so Lauren could be the other visitor for today. She came in, while Tony stayed with the children.

That service was so special. We sang a couple of your favorite hymns, then everyone told you how much we loved you and how wonderfully amazing and special you are. We closed in prayer, then the Chaplain took your finger print and hand prints to make special cards for me, the children and grandchildren to have as memories. Those are in each of our scrapbooks. (You always loved those and were so proud of me for making those memories.)

We then visiting with David and Lauren a bit in your room, then they came in and removed the IV drip containing the medicine. Yet, you proved even in the end how strong you are. You held on!!

All the talk of the hours time had been away from your bedside, so I believe that you thought the same as I did about palliative care. A little bit after the medicine was removed, you asked, "Am I dying?" The broke my heart. I was adjusting your pillows to make you comfortable and flung myself across your body and just said, "Yes, but I so wish you weren't." I should have been less selfish, explained about the medicine, and told you once again how much I loved you. Yet, I think I was in shock at the time. I just truly couldn't believe that I was going to have to live without you. We had talked about this moment - even joked that you were going to walk on streets of gold while I was going to be stuck here, but I don't think I had really allowed myself to believe it was going to happen.

You were restless most of the afternoon. At one point, you said, "What's taking so long? I'm scared." Again, I didn't handle that correctly either. I didn't know what to say. I just took your hand. I should have prayed with you or anything to relieve the fear. I know you were assured that you were going to heaven, but you were afraid of death itself. Would it be painful? What happens between here and heaven? I didn't know and was just as afraid. I was losing you - the love of my life - so I didn't say anything. I will continue to regret that until I get to see you again. As it got toward evening, the nurses said that David and Lauren needed to go.

It was just us again. I pulled a recliner over to your bedside and tried to rest, yet I didn't really sleep. I was so afraid you would go on. I didn't want you to go alone. I wanted you to know that I was there. Around 2:00 am, you woke very alert and asked to speak with David. I know that God made me aware that this was important as I called David immediately and told him that you were asking for him. He came right in and your ICU nurse met him to bring him to you as soon as possible. We realized later that this was your "rally". As we waited for David, you reached out to hug me. You held me and kissed my hands, and I got to look into those beautiful eyes for the last time.

When David arrived, you told David how proud you were of him, how much you loved him, and then you began to take your ring off to give to him. I interrupted and said that I wanted you to keep it on. (I just wanted you to be wearing it when you met Jesus.) So, you told him that you wanted him to wear it when he met and married his "Suz". Then, you said, "David, you take care of your mother; Suz, you take care of David; Tony and Lauren will take care of each other and those kids; and I'll be looking down on all of you from Heaven." Those are the last words I remember you saying.

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