I thought, for just a moment, that this morning’s goodbye was the last one.
Jacquelynn was up in her wheelchair when I arrived, sitting up straighter than I’d seen in a while, and she greeted Sky and me with a smile. However, her energy and cheer wouldn’t last long. Though she had barely eaten since yesterday’s breakfast, she would take only a small serving of yogurt and a little pudding before losing interest in food at all. The ten or so ounces of cranberry juice I was able to coax her to drink was of little comfort, knowing that she’s shown signs of dehydration since her hip surgery just over two weeks ago.
As she tires, Jacquelynn slumps in her wheelchair, and she isn’t able to hold her head erect for long. This gets uncomfortable very quickly, slouching in the chair with her head lolling to the side, and she was quickly making a lot of pained vocalizations. As the nurse and aides are busy serving breakfast, I decided to help her back into bed myself. I’ve done this many times, and frankly do so with more efficiency and compassion than many of the professionals there, so she’s soon laying down without further discomfort.
Within minutes she was snoring peacefully.
As is my habit when she’s sleeping, I spent some time just kneeling by her bed, holding her always-gently-twitching hand and speaking quietly to her. Sometimes I’ll sing along with the music playing from the I Heart Radio station I created with some of her favorites. I know most of them by heart now. Today, I just held her hand and stroked her head while her soft snores serenaded me. I whispered to her that I love her, and so does Sky. “It’s okay, My Love, everything is okay. We love you so much…”
The twitching in her hand calmed and stopped at the same moment that her snoring silenced. I slowly rested my forehead on her chest. After only a moment, a short snort was followed by another light snore and a solid push from her hand, and I exhaled, realizing I had been holding my breath.
I called Sky to me, and he hesitated, an uncharacteristic response, especially where Jacquelynn is concerned. I patted the floor next to me, and he peeked around the foot of the bed, looking unwilling to come any closer. When he finally approached me, he kept his distance from the edge of the bed. Looking first at her then at me, he started whimpering, only stopping when I let him move away from the bed.
I said my goodbyes, as I do every visit now, and we left shortly after that. In another unusual move, Sky left the room eagerly where usually I have to drag him out. His attitude and body language didn’t settle until he was in the car. Even now, almost four hours later, he will occasionally cry gently, calming when I hold him close. He’s not normally a cuddler, but I’m not going to complain; I could use the comforting myself.