One week left in tax season and John is home from the hospital. Clients are coming to the house to see him and are shocked at how thin he has become. When I say clients I should say friends because that is who they are. They have been part of our lives for over 30 years. John rarely lost a client. Sometimes they might go to another accountant thinking they would save money but then they would come back because they knew John always gave good service and sage advice.
John was not strong enough to go upstairs to our bedroom so he slept on the sofa in the living room. We now had a nurse that came daily to change his IV bag and give him medication. He was now in palliative care. She was awesome. She explained to me how to give him his morphine, codiene and other pain killers. John always had a problem with taking pills so everything was injected into a port. He had a separate port for pain medication, one for his antibiotics and one for miscellaneous drugs. Every morning he got up and got dressed so people thought he was ok. The doorbell would start ringing around 10 and people would arrive to talk to him. Most would cry at the door and hug me and tell me to stay strong. Stay strong. Everyone would say that to me. Inside I was dying but outside I was smiling and telling people that we were going to fight this disease.
I worked hard trying to get the work out and take care of John. He was weak and I’d try and feed him several times a day. He needed to be walked to the bathroom and his medication had to be given to him several times a day. He was sleeping on the sofa and I was right next to him on the love seat.
May 1st came and the nurse and I finally talked John into getting a hospital bed put in the family room. He was very worried that people would see the bed. But once the bed was in he was happy. I would go in to see him and I’d say “shove a bum chum” and he’d move over. He’d hold me, we would talk and I’d just listen to his heartbeat. I would sob in his arms and he would hold me telling me that he’d always be with me. He said if there was any way he would be besides me the rest of my life.
John had a few corporate clients and they still needed to be serviced but he was not strong enough to sit at a desk more than a few minutes at a time. I worked as hard as I could writing up the records of the client and getting their year ends done. He would review them and then I would get the tax returns done and print and assemble everything. He would meet with the client and I’d have to do most of the talking. He was exhausted easily.
I didn’t want to leave John for a minute. The nurse kept asking if I would take a personal care worker in but I wanted to take care of John myself. He would shave using an electric razor, I’d bathe him, change his clothes and take care of him. I was sleeping on the love seat near him. I just wanted to spend every moment with him. But he just slept more and more and ate less and less. I started having panic attacks and he would calm me. He kept telling me I’d be ok and that I was strong and could manage on my own. He would go over things with me, how to run our business, how to take care of our finances, what he wanted me to do in the future. All he wanted was for me to be happy. I was his primary concern.
During his last few weeks he had lots of time to talk to our children. John had two daughters from his first marriage, Julie and Laura and we had two of our own, Amanda and Adam. Everyone came as often as they could. Adam actually still lives at home with us.
My nephew Stephen came every weekend and visited. Sometimes he just sat in the same room with John so I could have time to run some errands, take a shower or simply go to the bathroom.
May was hard. I was exhausted, sleeping only a few hours at a time and listening for whenever John needed me. I was afraid to sleep. I could see John’s life slipping away. If there had been any way we could switch places I would gladly have done it with him.
John ate less and less. He’d have a little rice pudding now and then and some canned fruit. His belly was huge and full of fluid. He hated looking in the mirror. To me he was still John but all he could see was a gaunt old man. To me he was my handsome husband.
One day John woke up around 4:30 am and had a to pee. I helped him into the bathroom and then went to get his needles ready. While I was getting the medication out of the fridge I heard him fall. I yelled for my son and he came running. He was able to get John up and we got him back to bed. He cut his forehead but seemed fine. He asked me for a bowl of Special k. He hadn’t eaten solid food like cereal in weeks. I was praying that we would have a good day together. Maybe he could get stronger. Maybe … Maybe.
That bowl of cereal was the last food John ate. He stopped eating and drinking that day. When the nurse came she told me not to offer him food or drink, to wait and see if he would ask for it. He was still lucid, he was still talking to me and he was still my man. I told the children that John would not last many more days. My nephew Stephen arrived immediately. He was there for the long term now … He was there to help take John to the bathroom, helped me with everything I needed. I would never have been able to function those last weeks without Stephen. He was my rock.
John went almost a week without food or water. But he was still peeing. This confused the nurse and the palliative doctor. Where was this fluid coming from? We figured it must be coming from his belly fluid. He drifted in and out of consciousness. By the weekend he was becoming more and more agitated. He would insist to walk to the bathroom but his heels had huge pressure sores on them even though I constantly changed his position in the bed. My heart was breaking. I didn’t want John to die but I knew it was time for him to pass on.
On Monday morning John woke up very agitated. He wante to get dressed and go to work. He had an errand to run that was urgent. He was difficult to handle. I knew this was his turning point. When the nurse came it was decided it was time to sedate him for his own good. I curled up with John one last time by saying “shove a bum chum” and cried in his arms until he slept. And I stayed listening to him breathe.
I didn’t leave John’s side that last week. I did finally relent to having a personal care worker come to teach me how to care for him now that he was no longer conscious. John was barely breathing. Stephen and I would wake up several times a night because John took so long between breaths. We were both sure he passed away several times that week.
On Sunday Stephen went home. He had to go to Halifax for work and we both knew there was nothing that could be done for John now. John would have wanted Stephen to go. I slept holding John’s hand that night.
On Monday afternoon the personal care worker came and we bathed John and made him comfortable. Laura just arrived and Julie had taken Adam out to pick up some groceries. I let the PSW out the door and sat in the front room with Laura for a moment. I heard a sound and ran in to check on John. He opened his eyes and looked at me as I took his hand … I called for Laura and I told her I think he just passed. He took one last breath and died.
Earlier that day I put my Fitbit on John to see what his heart was doing. I was surprised to see it was heart was beating quickly and the nurse explained it was working hard to keep his body going. A couple of hours after John passed away my Fitbit died (without warning). It shouldn’t have been out of battery because it was fully charged the day before. I charged it up and looked at my heart rate and realized it recorded the moment my heart broke. John’s heart rate and my heart rate were almost the same. Two hearts were broken.