I can not sleep tonight. So many plans to be made. I am always busy in Costa Rica. May need to visit The United States next month to see how my girlfriends mother is doing. She had a major stroke and surprised us all. She is always active and free spirited. You never know when something attacks your body. They say you have warning signs and should be alert to them. Go figure.
My mother died of a stroke and it took her a couple of angonizing weeks to visit the maker. I have a difficult time seeing people suffer this way. My wife died of a stroke caused by brain cancer. I wrote a short story about this experience in my life:
The Last Seven Days
It seemed like a normal week end morning. Marian had made some breakfast and we sat on our favorite love sofa. I wanted to watch the football game; so we decided to have a quiet morning. Her blue eyes seemed to be a bit brighter today. Later, she felt tired and decided to go take a nap. She was asleep for a couple hours when I heard her shout out.
I ran to the bedroom. She was sitting up crying and saying ” Honey I’m scared! I’m scared!” “Help me! Help m#*#*#”
Marian was losing her ability to talk. She was mumbling words.
She got out of bed, walked toward me, holding onto the bed rails for support. I grabbed a hold of her and took her to our couch. She was shaken and perspiring a great deal. Several times she tried to communicate but was making mumbled utterances instead of formed words. I called 911 and had an ambulance on the way.
Marian did not want to go. She kept saying ” No!”
One of the few words that came out correctly. She was afraid to leave her little castle: she had made it a place to escape. She was disenchanted in the world away from her sanctuary. The paramedics were great. They handled my wife with great care. I jumped in the front of the ambulance and we raced to the hospital with the sirens blaring. I could hear Marian crying out for me. I felt helpless as we head towards the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente in Antioch, California.
As we rushed through the doors, the nurses came running to us. I followed them into an emergency room. I held Marian’s hand, talking to her softly; reassuring her everything is alright. They took her vitals and took her to an M.R.I. Machine to take pictures of her head. I was allowed to hold her hand until she was in the machine, but then had to wait in the hall. I called my best friend. He and Marian were close. He couldn’t get there fast enough. I could always count on Steve.
I could not sit down and wait. It was the longest thirty minutes I ever lived through. Finally the nurses rolled Marian out on a bed. I gave her a kiss, held her hand and waited in the hallway. It seemed like an eternity.
Marian tried to talk to me, but I could not understand. I could see in her eyes how scared she was. It took every fiber of my body and mind not to break down and cry. I need to be strong for my baby even though I knew she was dying. Marian was my life for forty-one years. I knew in a few days I would be saying my final good byes.
Finally the emergency doctor came out to tell us the results. He gave Marian a shot. Something to help break the bad news. He said the news was not good. He asked Marian if she needed to hear it from him.
Good or bad. She nodded yes and he looked at me. I told him yes and moved closer to Marian to hold her head and hand. I told him not to sugar coat it. Marian would want you to come straight out with it. “I am sorry. Your brain is bleeding out. You have twenty- four hours to live. We have hospice care in the hospital and are setting up a room for you. I am sorry.”
Marian cried for a minute; then turned to me and said, ” call John now!” She smiled at me and said ” I love you!! It was the last time I would her those precious words. I kissed her and went to the outside. I called her brother John and broke down on the phone when John began to cry. He gave the phone to his wife and I explained to Liz that Marian only had twenty – four hours to live. You need to come immediately. Liz would call Marian’s siblings and my sister, who would call my family. Both families would race to Marian’s side. It took Steve ten minutes to get to the hospital. Probably breaking speed limit laws.
Steve would be with me throughout Marian’s death. He is a special person. Very shortly we would be taken to the hospice room. The care was phenomenal. They showed a lot of compassion towards my wife and I. They put a bed next to hers, so I could be beside her. Steve would stay most of the night. I had to tell him to go home. He refused to go. There would be no sleep that night. Her family would arrive early in the morning.
Steve left at three a.m. He owned his own business and had to leave. He would catch a couple hours of sleep and go to the job and let the people know he would be leaving early. He was at the hospital by eleven a.m. to give me support. By seven a.m. Marian’s family arrived. John ,Rob, Kate and Fran would huddle around the bed. John and Rob hugged their sister. I stepped back and watched from a distance. John had an unfortunate accident. It left him unable to cope at times. He had to leave the room as he began to cry. Marian was a surrogate mother to the younger kids. Her mother was working as a secretary for her father so Marian spent a lot of time taking care of the twins(John and Fran) as they grew up. Marian was a remarkable person and gave her siblings lots of love and care. Rob spent a lot of time telling Marian he loved her and not to worry. Rob’s wife, Lisa leaned over Rob and tried to comfort her as much as she could. Liz, John’s wife is very similar to Marian. She is the kind of person who gives of herself without asking for anything in return. She new how to comfort Marian. Fran and Kate spent most of the afternoon with Marian. Taking care of her every need. I do not know what I would have done if it wasn’t for Marian’s family. They gave me strength.
Marian was diagnosed five weeks earlier. She had driven herself to her doctors’ office. She had double vision and a severe headache and managed to arrive there safely. Her doctor examined her and told her she needed to go to emergency. The doctor wanted her to take an ambulance
but she refused. Instead, she called my best friend Steve who dropped everything he was doing and took her to the emergency room. Once there, Steve called me. I was at work. To this day I do not know why Marian did not call me. I worked forty-five minutes away; I guess she thought I would take too long. I did not think it was important to ask her. I was happy she thought so much of Steve as to ask him for help.
I arrived at the hospital, Steve and Marian where in the emergency room. The nurse called out Marian’s name and we went in. Steve waited in the waiting room. I remember walking in to meet the nurse and doctors, I was nervous and apprehensive. The last five years had been scary for us.
She was misdiagnosed the last time we were at a hospital. We were told she was allergic to Ibuprofen. She had flu like symptoms and her body was swollen. We were given antibiotics. It seemed to work. A year later Marian developed the same symptoms. I rushed her to emergency. X-rays were taken and we found out the tube connected to the kidney was disconnected. She was being poisoned with waste products. They did a great job with the surgery, but was sent home with a staff infection. She almost died from this mistake. Three weeks later another surgery was performed to take out the infection. They cut out the infection which was four inches deep by twelve inches wide. I had to stuff strings of gauze in here stomach for three months until the opening would heal. They could not close it with stitches for fear of infection. You can understand why my hands were sweating.
They took her vitals and went in for X-rays and M.R.I. Marian came out of the X-ray rooms and it seemed like a lifetime before the Doctor came out. Finally we’re taken to his office and he explained the X-rays. Marian had a tumor over her left ear. It was almost two inches in size. He said he called the hospital in Redwood city and they had a surgical room reserved on Friday. There was no danger in waiting two days. Only apprehension, anxiety and fear. I lost a brother from brain surgery. He died at the age of twenty-one; after three surgeries over ten years. Marian’s surgery went well. Steve and I waited outside the recovery room and waited in the hallway as she was rolled out of surgery. She was awakened right after the surgery, saw me, and told me she loved me.
She never forgot to tell me she loved me. She was released from the hospital on Monday. She was dressed and ready to leave at five in the morning. She would undergo five weeks of chemo therapy. Her sister Kate would take care of her for that whole time period. I would have been lost without her. I was able to work and not worry about my wife. Kate would leave after Marian was finished with the therapy. A week later Steve would rush Marian to emergency.
I looked over towards Marian. Her sisters are laughing. Marian is smiling. The girls always had great rapport. Even when there was a great divide. They seemed to repair their differences and moved on in life. Marian
showed them the way. She lifts her head towards me and gives me a big smile. I walk over and spend a little more time with Marian as other family come into the room. My family has arrived.
My three sisters and nephew and his family arrive. They all give me condolences and love. I left Marian’s side once more and let them talk to
Marian. She can still say a few words and there is some laughter. She was close to my family, especially my nephew’s kids. She loved them as if they were her own children. It will be hard on the nieces. The nephew is a strong little boy but will miss Marian a great deal. I called Marian’s co-worker. There was a lot of strife at her job. Alice seemed to be the only one with loyalty and kindness to Marian. Alice said that others wish to say goodbye, but I said no. I hate hypocrisy! One minute your a friend, the next, you are stabbing her in the back. No thanks! I believe I would have lost it if they showed up. Steve was stationed at the door to keep the unwanted visitors out.
It is late afternoon and everyone has gone for dinner or has taken time at their hotels. John and Rob are at the visitors lobby. Steve is still with me. I am not hungry or sleepy. My wife is dying and I can not do anything about it. I sit and hold her hand fighting off the emotions. Steve puts his hand on my shoulder and says she is resting why don’t you get a bite to eat. I tell him thanks but I do not wish to leave her side. I told him to go home and take a break. I fall asleep. With my head on her arm. Maybe forty-five minutes. I hear Steve. He brought me a sandwich and a Doctor Pepper. I thank Steve and sit at the end of the bed and eat. It is the first meal I’ve had in forty-eight hours.
It is midnight and I am lying next to Marian. She is awake and I kiss and hug her. She turns her head and says love me. I am confused. Is she saying love me or do you love me? I am frighten at the suggestion and hug her tightly. She tries to hug me but does not have the strength. Then I hear a garbled thank you. I cry the cry nobody hears. Just tears, knowing my lover and friend will be leaving me forever.
I grabbed an hour of sleep. Marian was sleeping quietly. Long breathes, like she was taking in all the air she could to survive this ordeal. I prayed to God all night to take her pain away. Why do you make this beautiful creature suffer? Did she have another life were she made people suffer and you gave her her own little purgatory the last five years? Marian woke at five- thirty a.m.. The nurse was giving her a new bag of morphine and a drug to keep her calm. She squeezed my hand to tell me she loved me. I talked to her about our vacations to Cambria and Pacific Grove, California.
Just a few hours from home. How we played scrabble on the beach and in our hotel rooms. Took long walks up and down the ocean boardwalks in Cambria. Searched the beach for ocean art as she called it. Rocks changed by the ocean: ocean shells left behind by it’s creatures. She looked for kelp and seaweed to make her baskets and decorate her gourds. We laughed because she needed a permit to take away the seaweed and kelp(cost $10.00). How we walked the bikeways in Pacific Grove to First Awakenings across from the Aquarium. We would stay at the Borg Hotel. It was our favorite place to stay,about one and an half miles to the restaurant. It had a view that was tremendous(only $150.00 a night)and only fifty feet from door to ocean. We loved going there.
I told her I loved her and family began to arrive once more. Her close friends began to arrive. Even Steve’s wife who was terribly sick gave me her condolences. They were in a middle of a divorce. It must have been terribly difficult for her to come. Marian’s best friends Linda, Chris and Kathy were there. Marian smiled when she saw them and they sat with her for quite a while. The room began to fill. There must have been fifty people there. Soon they began to talk about everything but Marian. Steve came to me and said the nurse on duty wanted to see me. I went to the desk and she said it was time for everyone to leave. She believed it was too much for Marian. I was in a glazed coffin. Oblivious of what was going on around me.
I went to the middle of the room and ask everyone to leave, except my immediate families. I thanked them for coming to see Marian and the kindness they showed. Every person passed by me and gave me their last condolences. Soon the room was quite. Only Steve,my sisters, her sisters and brothers and her best friend Linda stayed. Everyone stood by Marian’s bed for her to see. There was so much love in that room today. All the people who showed their love for Marian and it was done by word of mouth. It was amazing the reach she had even in death.
I sat next to Marian and put her hand in mine. The little smile was gone. Her eyes seem to be black instead of her sparkling blue. I felt an emptiness in the pit of my stomach. My legs felt faint as I realized she did not recognize me any more. Her breathing seemed to be more shallow. Her skin a little more cooler. Her color a little more pale.
My shoulders sagged a little more deeply. My sister rubbed my head. I stood up and hugged her. I told my family and hers they need not stay any longer. Marian doesn’t recognize you any more. Suddenly Marian sat up in bed and threw off her covers and started to take off her clothes. I asked someone to get the nurse as I gently laid her back into bed. The nurse gave her a shot and Marian fell back to sleep. She would never wake again. I asked the nurses to give her enough morphine so she would not be in pain. The nurse explained when people are dying they make one last effort to escape death. It happens when they are coming to the end of life.
Days four,five and six
My family went home. They had jobs they needed to return to. It was not necessary for them to stay. John and Rob stayed, but they sent their families home.Fran lived in San Diego and had a family she had to take care of. Kate took her home. Days four, five and six are blurry to me. I know John, Rob, Steve and Linda kept vigilance with me. We watched as Marian withered away. We did not sleep very much. We wanted to see her as long as possible. We were tired but not sleepy. We talked about Marian and realized how lucky we were to have her in our lives and what a vacant space there will be when she leaves us. I was alone at night. It was what I preferred. I laid down beside her and watched her chest go up and down.
Felt her body get colder and colder as her breathing became less and less.
Fifty breathes a minute on Thursday to thirty- five on Friday. Saturday morning it was at twenty a minute. My brothers kept up the idle conversation. Anything to keep the facts from breaking us down. Never was an anger word or a frustrating word said. Never a negative word was said about Marian. In forty- one years of being with Marian could I remember anyone saying terrible things about my wife, lover and friend. Opposite is true about me. I am sure there will be people waiting to lower the boom.
The brothers are sleeping and Steve went home to wait my call.
My pulse is speeding up. My mind is going one hundred miles an hour.
What am I going to do? Her breathing is twenty breathes a minute. It is eleven p.m.. I can’t sleep. In my mind I ask Marian was I a good man to you? Did I keep you from harms way? Am I being punished for my early life with you? He is taking you at such an early age. We have so much to live for. So much to live for and I pass out asleep. I suddenly waken. It is twelve – ten a.m.. Her breathes are ten breathes a minute. I jump out of bed and get the nurse. She hurries over to Marian and listens to her chest. She steps back and says her breathes are five a minute. Gently she tells me she will expire in an half hour. I go wake up Rob and John and call Steve.
At twelve – forty a.m. On the twenty first of September two thousand and eight my wife’s life expires. John and Rob hug me and I tell them thank you. The doctor called the time of death and said we could stay for three hours more. My wife was gone. I kissed her cold lips and told her ” I will love you forever. Save a spot for me in heaven. Say hi to your mom and brother for me.” With that, Steve and I left the hospital. Steve drove me home and asked if I wanted him to come in. I said no thank you. I took my keys and went to the front door. I entered the house, turned around and locked the door. I could hear Steve drive off in the distance.
I went into the bedroom and put my keys on the vanity. I turned and saw our cold empty bed and cried into hysterics. There was no need to be brave anymore. My baby was gone. It was as if everything in the world went sour. I threw my clothes in the laundry basket and looked at Marian’s
Side of the closet. It was empty. I asked her sisters to take out all her clothes and shoes from the closet and dressers and do with them what you will. I could not bear to do it myself. They showed a lot of courage and followed my wishes. I began to cry again when I realized they never took the jewelry. That Christmas I would hand out the jewelry to my family. I kept only the wedding and engagement rings. I would take them to a jeweler to make a ring for me with her initials. I was afraid I would forget her. It was a constant reminder I had a wonderful woman in my life.
All night I went through her jewelry boxes. She had many great pieces. I remembered the fun we had buying silver jewelry. She never did like gold.
We had pieces from Cambria,Carmel,Monterey, San Diego, and Pacific Grove. She had a charm bracelet that must have weighed three pounds.
She would look at it from time to time remembering all of our adventures.
I stopped and took a shower. Went to bed and cried myself asleep. I would dream of my beautiful wife. She smiled and said “I love you ! Do not forget that I love You!”
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