Cynthia has gone home (updated)

My wife of nearly 48 summers (as of July 1, 2011), Cynthia, passed away at 5:18am on May 12, two days after her 79th birthday. I was there with her all the way in her final hours and told her over and over that I loved her and that at last she could “go home” and have rest. This was Cynthia’s final preoccupation in life, to get to “go home”, even from the beautiful house she herself designed in Denmark, Maine, and where we had been living for over eleven years. Perhaps to her conscious or unconscious mind going home meant “get me out of this horrible Alzheimer’s disease”. She got her wish and much sooner than people expected. I’m both terribly sad and terribly relieved.

Her last night at her real home in Denmark, Maine, was Monday, May 2, 2011. She was very agitated that night and kept trying to get out of bed. She repeated over and over her wish to “go home” to “get out of this house”, so, I at one point offered, “Can’t we wait ‘til the morning?”, but this she ignored. Finally the morning came and I got an early call from Corinn, our wonderful hospice nurse. She said there was an opening at the Hospice House in Auburn and suggested Cynthia spend a couple days there to give us a break and get her medications adjusted. So I said Yes and right away an ambulance came for Cynthia. Kate and I followed it all the way to Auburn; it took about an hour and a half. After Kate and I left we were told that Cynthia became very upset and agitated but it turned out this was the last such occasion. In the following days she became very unresponsive, even when all subduing medications had been removed. Was this her way of giving up, of accepting her fate, and wishing for the one thing that would release her from this terrible unnatural state, this Alzheimer’s disease?

She spent her final nine days of life in this beautiful Hospice House in Auburn, Maine, where in her largely unresponsive state she received wonderful loving care. On Wednesday, May 11, I decided to spend a few nights there as her caregivers felt Cynthia hadn’t long to live. She was in a lovely private room with a large sofa which could be made into a bed. I settled in Wednesday evening but was awakened about 11pm by Cynthia’s loud coughing. From then on I slept very little and checked her often, telling her I loved her. About 4am the night nurse, Carol Ann, told me she thought the dying process had started. This shocked me. Was I prepared for this? Her breaths were very rapid and shallow. I stroked her head and told her I loved her. Then the breaths slowed and suddenly her eyes opened wide. They had been almost shut for several days previously with only flickers of the eyelids occurring. I was happy to see her lovely blue eyes and told her so. Did she hear or understand me? But the breaths became more infrequent and Carol Ann finally said she could not detect a heartbeat. Her eyes had partially closed again and yes, she was dead.

She was dead. Could I believe it? Could I understand it? I felt terribly uncertain as I viewed her lying there motionless, but it was all over. Her pain was gone. She was at rest and at last at home where she wanted to be, rid of this terrible disease

  1. MadPriest’s avatar

    May the Lord be with you in your grief and in your relief.

  2. Mardé’s avatar

    Thank you, MadPriest.

  3. Susan H.’s avatar

    Found you via MadPriest. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May you be comforted in your grief, and sustained by love and joyful memories.

  4. Mardé’s avatar

    Thank you very much for your words, Susan.

  5. JCF’s avatar

    [Also here via MadPriest’s]

    May Cynthia rest in light “at home”, and may you, Marde’, and all her loved ones find comfort and peace in your memories.

  6. Mardé’s avatar

    Thank you for those nice words and thoughts, JCF.

  7. Dragonstar’s avatar

    I’m so very sorry not to have been here before this. I’m sorry for the loneliness you must fee, but I can also sympathise with your relief that Cynthia no longer has to suffer the death-in-life that comes with Alzheimer’s. I’m glad you were with her.

  8. Mardé’s avatar

    Thank you very much for your understanding, Mererid. Yes, I do feel a loneliness, an emptiness in this house now. And it’s so true that we are fortunate she did not have to go through that death-in-life. It was less than three years she had the disease. She may have opted out of it on her own by shear force of will and eating very little.

  9. Jen Wixson’s avatar

    I have been thinking of you alot and wondering how you were doing. Thanks for sharing this with us, Mardy. Thanks also for sharing Cynthia with us! Amen to you both.

  10. Mardé’s avatar

    Thank you, Jen, for thinking about us. Cynthia was a remarkable and strong person and I think she — whether consciously or unconsciously — was determined not to suffer long from this disease.

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