It was just last evening, about 21 hours ago as I write this, but the memories have a detached, surreal quality to them, as though I’m watching them happen to someone else.
I was sitting in the cheap wingback chair about four feet from Jacquelynn’s bed and had been texting back-and-forth with the hospice nurse/case manager about getting Jacquelynn evaluated for 24-hour observation and care, due to her declining status.
Awaiting the arrival of the weekend nurse, I was beginning to doze and decided to give up waiting and take Sky home for his evening meal and walk. So I rose creakily from the chair (which is more comfortable than it looks) and stepped to the bedside to kiss my beautiful bride before leaving. Just as I approached, she gave a small hiccup of a final breath, and left. I noticed her silence immediately, as she was not breathing quietly in her 3+ day-old sleep, and I listened closely for another breath before pressing my ear to her still and silent chest.
Telling Sky to stay with Mama, I strode quickly to the nurse’s station and brought the duty nurse back to her room, explaining that I think she had passed, which she confirmed after a brief check. Respectfully and tearily, she excused herself while I knelt by the bed and wept. Sky crowded in next to me after the nurse left the room (he adores her and always sniffs the evidence of her dogs all over her clothes). But, just as the nurse was calling the hospice for me, I had calls to make myself, which I did robotically and almost tearlessly.
Then the texts.
By now the weekend nurse was there and cleaning Jacquelynn up so I was sitting in the hallway with Sky, texting and answering calls nonstop while residents strolled by mooning over the cute dog (they’re going to miss him for sure) and staff expressed their condolences (a word I’m growing to dislike). All the while, I have to keep a grip on Sky even while texting because my normally chill dog wants nothing more than to get back to his Mama’s bedside. Every time I drop the leash for a second, he’s on his way back to her room.
When my patience with the telephone runs out and I just can’t spend another moment trying to talk without losing it, we return to room 321, and the nurse has just finished cleaning Jacquelynn up. I notice the remnants of her catheter in the trash can then loiter a few moments at her side, noting with detached concern that her eyes won’t quite close all the way, which is how she had slept these last few days as well. Sky whines a little and lays resolutely at her bedside, where I will soon have to order him to stand up to leave. His loyalty and dedication to her astound me. The nurse tells me that the chaplain will be in soon, and she’s going to call the mortuary for me.
But I’m finished here. Jacquelynn left the room an hour or more ago, and it’s time for me to do so as well. With a final, truly final kiss, I put on my coat and all but drag Sky from the room.
It’s real. It’s one hundred percent real.
When my heart and brain finally meet on that truth, I’m in for a rough few days.