I’d been struggling as to whether I should write this piece and put it out there. Since you’re reading this, it’s obvious that I decided to go ahead with it. A warning to those who are sensitive, the final hours of my sister’s life were not peaceful. This is a continuation of Lea’s story and follows a previous post titled She’s Gone.
As she is no longer alive and available to ask, I was uncertain if I should tell about Lea’s final moments. After much consideration, I realized that she most definitely didn’t believe in sugar-coating and leaving stories unfinished. As I had no idea what hospice care was truly like, I admit that it didn’t match the peaceful and fuzzy picture I had painted in my mind.
Am I mad? The simplest answer, how would you feel? Wait, don’t answer that until you’ve read what I have written.
At this point, I will say that I only have myself to blame and be mad at for not being properly and fully informed and for having ridiculous expectations that weren’t reality (I’d hoped for a painless transition to death…that said, most information I discovered was mainly fluff). All of this falls directly onto my shoulders and no one else’s. When I say that life has made a fool of me, I definitely mean that it was my own fault and I own it. I should’ve got off my tired, beat-down ass and retrieved real and honest information to the answers I sought and not expected that the false story I created in my mind of what I wanted to believe so badly, would be the experience that I’d hoped it would be, my bad.
The moments following that fateful phone call
I hung up the phone after my mother informed me of Lea’s passing and Clem and I pulled our vehicle back into the driveway. We decided that the best thing we could do was to let the girls know that their aunt had just passed away and be with them. I couldn’t bring myself to go and see her now that she was gone. I don’t think I would’ve been able to walk into the building, down that hallway, and into that room where her body, finally peaceful, lay.
I didn’t want that to be my last memory of her. Although my last moments weren’t under the best of circumstances, they were moments encompassed in love and that odd feeling of peace that I’d left with. Knowing what I know now, what had occurred within the final hours before her death, I’m happy with not having to forever recall her stillness as my last memory of her because that would’ve added to the things that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
The anger and call I feel to possibly help be the change were ensured from the buildup and subsequent fall of my sister and the final years of her so-called life. Her final hours specifically have helped to define the emotions, thoughts, and views I now have of this world and everything in it. I may seem jaded and cynical compared to my former self and no matter how much I’d love to go back to being the old me, I can’t.
Her death was horrifying
I only wish I had the false sense of security and safety I once possessed but I know better. I am thankful for this awakening but I curse it at the same time. It protects me from a very possible reality in the future while robbing me sometimes of the comfort I seek now, but I know that willfully going back would be very ignorant of me. The world is a very different place, especially now, and learning to thrive within it is proving to be extremely difficult and stifling.
My parents arrived on my doorstep about 2 hours after Lea had passed away and the things they said, horrified me. My sister suffered immensely in her final hours. She suffered in ways that humans couldn’t soothe…another unfortunate lie and a different reality for us.
Those brave enough to answer their calling in life in the form of helping others, who were present that day (I’m certain), were also experiencing a pain that many of us who aren’t within the ranks will ever understand. I see the many sides to this story, despite writing mainly about the one. It’s not just my pain, my family’s pain, and what was once my sister’s pain that I am concerned about, but those willing to take care of our loved ones during this final transition and every single one of us that may encounter this at or near the end of our own lives.
Humans cannot evade death, but can we make it easier?
Many, such as I once upon a time ago, are convinced that humans can provide a humane or painless death/transition. I can say, that that is definitely not the case all of the time. As I’ve mentioned before, we are still very limited and the façade placed in front of people is exactly that. My warning is, do not let other’s illusions fool you and prepare fully for the worst…you might pleasantly be surprised with the outcome, or at the very least, be somewhat prepared for the worst.
My mother claims that the nurse looking after my sister, tried desperately and urgently to ease her pain. A doctor never made an appearance, and the precious moments in the urgency of attempting to quell this pain was lost on phone calls to this alleged authority who was nowhere in sight. We were under the impression that a physician was on site at all times, as this was hospice care, and due to the fact that people within the facility could die at any time of the day and may require the potent medications that are reserved for use by specifically licensed professionals.
This was not the case and we cannot confirm if he or she was even on-site (it was a Sunday evening after all). The only one present and able to carry out orders was the young nurse, who may have in fact been younger than Lea herself. I wonder how this young lady copes, especially since knowing what she has to deal with daily. I cannot imagine how I’d feel having to run back and forth to a phone while trying to help another human being while they experience a horrible and terrifying death with no one present to provide me with appropriate assistance. This, to me, is a heavy burden and one that shouldn’t be handled alone.
It makes me sick just thinking about it
My sister was calling out for help and thrashing around in her bed. She was begging for someone, anyone to get a handle on the pain she was experiencing. My parents tried to be there and reassure her that things would be alright while this young nurse floundered to find something to help Lea. One round of medication, and nothing. She had only a subcutaneous line to put these drugs into and after seeing how little fluid was actually absorbed previously, I wonder if it did anything at all.
I thought hospice care would be able to handle this pain and much better than had we been at home on our own or in a hospital. That illusion was incredibly false in our case. My hopes of Lea slipping into a coma was obviously a pipe dream and not a reality too. I understand that truthful stories (which may be terrifying) can cause harm, but for the love of all things furry, a healthy dose of reality should be available to those who seek it.
As I wasn’t there, I can only share what my mother relayed to me, and even then, I don’t know if she’s said everything. I don’t know if I could handle hearing any more about it but know that my parents will be forever scarred by what they experienced. I know that I am.
Causes of death are much more complicated than just cancer
We don’t know what actually caused Lea’s death. Many will just plainly say cancer, but there’s much more to it than that. My mother believes it was blood clots which makes sense because Lea was under the influence of whatever medications they were administering, causing her to be bedridden. I often wonder if something happened to her liver (not that I really want to know at this point) due to the extreme pain she experienced (my mom said that Lea’s legs had been really bothering her, which could also make the case for blood clots).
Mom said that they had administered a second round of medications which also provided no relief and Lea continued to spiral downward rapidly. The nurse was doing her best and we appreciated her effort and care but where was this doctor? I understand they’re human and have families of their own, but really, shouldn’t one have been there that day regardless? The nurses were there, why not one of them as well (I am in no way underestimating the capabilities of nurses and think that they are sometimes superior to some of these so-called physicians)?
Lea was in so much excruciating pain, that the nurse finally came in with one final dose of something (no one knows exactly what it was). My mom said that the nurse told Lea something along the line that this could possibly be it or that this dose could kill her, and if Lea was okay with her administering it. Lea of course accepted as the pain had been unbearable.
The images did not reflect the reality
I don’t know an exact timeline, but that was indeed the final dose and Lea was gone shortly thereafter. I think she eventually became unconscious (probably from whatever drug was administered) and her breathing finally slowed and came to a stop. I cannot imagine the things that go through my parent’s heads after witnessing their child suffer like this. I can’t imagine anyone. I can’t imagine the nurse who cared for my sister in her final hours either.
The things we’ve witnessed and experienced compared to the images we had seen prior to walking this path, was completely different. It’s so different that when I try to explain what we’ve endured after someone has asked, they cannot accept nor comprehend it and end up rejecting all I’ve relayed entirely. Believe it or not, this really happens and in some cases, it’s much worse as I’ve heard.
As I’ve said before, I was one of those people once and just because I hadn’t experienced these things, I’d dismissed them, even going to the point of thinking of these particular people as being overly dramatic. I’ve come to realize that perspective and perception play a huge role and that seeing what we want to see and perhaps not the reality, does as well. When I finally stepped back and evaluated my own experiences critically, I saw that I wasn’t wrong in what I’d finally concluded and from this, I no longer dismiss other’s accounts.
Where do experiences such as these, leave someone?
There’s just no going back after this. This event was the final nail for me. As I can only move forward and cannot deny or discount my past experiences, where does this leave me exactly?
I could sit and write page after page to try and explain just how I feel and why but I won’t. I fully believe in honesty and will go as far as saying that it’s not that I don’t want to share this with you, it’s because I feel that I can’t. I will also say that when I reflect upon the final day of my sister’s life and because it is filled with the horror of knowing that she suffered greatly and didn’t make the transition to death easily, absolutely everything in my life has changed.
I feel that this part of Lea’s story is important and should be known. She suffered and I admit that I was willfully ignorant, and because of that, I now refuse to sugar-coat and fill heads with fluff. Believe me when I say that sugar-coating and fluffing leads to mistrust, regret, anger, and a pain that can never be forgotten…I live it, every single day. This is my reality.
4 thoughts on “Reflection”
Dear Hopeful, Writing is therapy.C. R. Ayers
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I couldn’t agree more 🙂 . Much cheaper than therapy and I’ve found the self-discovery alone to be more rewarding than anything else.
I am sorry that Lea’s final hours were so horrid and so sorry that you and your parents are left with such devastating memories. 🥀
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Thank you. It is heartbreaking and I hope my parents find peace one day. I hope things change in regards to hospice and end of life care. We really need to do better.
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