Discussion Forums



The Gift and Blessing of Saying Goodbye  
Started by Razz
05 Jan 2015, 12:17 AM

I joined this forum more than a year ago when my husband was diagnosed with a progressive and terminal lung disorder for which there is no cure or treatment other than a lung transplant.  However that’s not what I’m writing about today but instead an unexpected turn of events that happened in November. 

My brother and I were 9 years apart in age and separated by 1000 mi. of geography and an unfortunate family dynamic.  We loved each other and knew it but we seldom communicated with each other over the past 25-30 years.  It was probably a couple of phones a year and a visit once every 4-5 years.  There were valid reasons for the estrangement that oddly weren’t of our own doing.  I kept thinking that once we retired we would be able to “mend” things.  It was not to be. 

My brothers 2 oldest daughters (he had 3) were very good at keeping the family lines open and made every effort to keep in touch with myself and their Grandmother (who is 92).  However when I got a phone call from the oldest early one morning I immediately knew that things were not “right”.  The day was Wed. Nov. 12th. she called to tell me that my brother had been in hospital for 2 weeks already and she felt that she could no longer keep it a secret from me.  My brother had told her not to call me as he didn’t want to make a fuss but she gave couldn’t put it off any longer. He was dying from cancer that had spread throughout his body.  It was the intense pain of bone cancer that sent him to the hospital but it didn’t take them very long to discover the extent of the how much the cancer had spread.  How could this be?  I saw him in August and although he was complaining of a sore back from moving something wrong he seemed totally fine.  We’d had a wonderful visit and he had plans to start physio once he got home.  How could it go from that to this!!   

Our minds rebel at first when we get news like this but I knew in my heart that I had to move fast if I wanted to see him.  I just knew I HAd TO GO.  I was still on the phone to my niece as my husband overhearing the conversation started the process of booking an air flight.  Unfortunately I couldn’t leave until Fri. the 14th as I had a medical test that I had been waiting to have done for a couple of months and really couldn’t afford to rebook it.  Naturally there was a flurry of phone calls back and forth and in the end I got on that plane not sure about any of the logistics at the other end but not caring.  I just went on plain trust that things would work out and in the end they did wonderfully. 

First stop after landing was the hospital and there lay my brother; just a wisp of the man he had been before.  He was dozing and as I sat there with one of my nieces I found myself with an over whelming sense of dread.  He had always looked like my father but as he lay there in that hospital he was the image of my father who had passed away 27 years ago. Those last days with him came flooding back into my mind like it had been the day before.  My heart felt broken that in the end it had all come down to this.  He woke up long enough to know that I was there and would be staying for a few days.  We kissed good night – something I’m not sure if we’d ever done before (he’s not the huggy-kissy type).  

The amazing gifts and blessings came over the next few days as I spent time just talking to him.  When I first got there his family was in denial and they were grasping at straws that he would live for a long time yet.  I just knew otherwise and so I took the opportunity to tell my brother all those things I had always “meant” to say but didn’t.  He too talked to about what he wanted to say and part of it was feeling very guilty for not being a good brother to me.  I was able to reassure him that that was indeed not true and I totally understood why things happened the way they did.  He started to cry and I held him while he did.  While his family had been doing everything they could not to upset him I gave him permission to be upset.  He told me how tired he was of fighting and wanted to know if I thought that his “job was done”.  Of coarse it was and I continued to reassure him that it was perfectly OK if he decided he’d had enough.  That he had done his best and that there was nothing left for him to do.  He cried some more (he to deserved that opportunity to grieve) and as I held him I confirmed that his family was reluctant to let go but that in the end they too would understand.  The angels and our father were waiting to greet him and it was in his hand now as to when he wanted to leave our world and move onto the next.  

For those of you who have been through this type of thing this is the “difficult conversation” and it’s also the most important one you can have.  Five years ago it was I who spoke similar words to my mother-in-law just before she passed and in the end that’s really what she had been waiting for – permission to say good bye. 

Not knowing how long he could linger (the doctor felt it would be another month) I said my final good bye to Bryan on Mon. Nov. 17th knowing that it would be the last time we’d see each other in this life.  I had also been blessed to have the opportunity to have some good discussions with my nieces while I was there and in the end they too had that “hard conversation” with their dad.   Very early Wed. morning the 19th my brother slipped into a coma and passed away the next day.  He was 69.  

I can’t begin to tell you how glad that I followed that inner voice that told me “I HAVE TO GO”.  I had left his bedside feeling a sense of peace and that stayed with me for a long time.  Telling our elderly mother (who has certain amount of dementia) was extremely hard and she has not been herself since then.  I am not surprised as it does not make any sense to her…. it’s like it’s all backwards.   I did not tell her of my visit as I knew that she would feel very guilty for not going herself and she is in no shape physically or mentally to have taken the trip.  She is just now starting to put some of the pieces of it together but I don’t think that mentally she will return to where she was before this happened. 

My point in all of this is to encourage any of you who haven’t had that difficult conversation with your loved one – do it now!  Don’t wait wishing and hoping that things will improve.  Don’t hold back because you think it might upset them – they already know the reality and they need the opportunity to say their own thoughts before it’s too late.  In the end both sides can walk this journey with a feeling of peace no matter how long or sort it is. 

My nieces and I connect more than ever before and I love that sense of family that has come with that.  Because my brother did not want a funeral (no fuss, remember) I set up a Facebook page for family and friends to post their thoughts and stories; you know all those things you would talk about at a funeral.  Many have posted pictures along with their stories of remembered good times.  Even reading that is a comfort and a blessing to those of us that miss him dearly. 

Be good to you  - Razz  

Report this post      
 
Reply by moderator | modératrice
07 Jan 2015, 2:23 AM

Thank you for sharing this lovely story of difficult circumstances, Razz. I am going to take some time to re-read, savour and respond. 
Colleen 
Report this post      
 
Reply by moderator | modératrice
11 Jan 2015, 2:53 PM

I completely agree that denial and wishing it were otherwise can stand in the way of meaningful moments that we can cherish with dying loved ones. I'm so glad that you shared your story. 

As we both know, there are as many circumstances, approaches and family relationship styles as there are people on earth. I can think of a few different scenarios shared here in our Virtual Hospice community. For example:

FloridaSunset wanted to give her husband permission to let go and she wrangles with feeling Guilty Over My Husband's Dying Reaction After Telling Him The Angels Were There & OK To Go With Them.

When CarolynMarie was dying, her close friends and family struggled with changing the language from "you can beat this" to letting her know they would be fine and she could rest easy now. The Virtual Hospice community were remarkable in helping them find words in the thread: Thoughts and messages for CarolynMarie

I love the wisdom shared in this thread: How to accompany someone who is grieving?  

Thank you for your counsel Razz. Cherish the memories.
Colleen
 
Report this post      
 
Reply by Nouce
12 Jul 2015, 7:05 PM

Thank you, Razz. And Colleen. And Glen Horst. A bunch of family are gathering to see Pablo this week and I am nervous about how all the conversations will go, since they're at such different places re Pablo's long slow decline. It's encouraging to hear of others who find their way along these rough paths.

Nouce 
Report this post      
 
Reply by KathCull_admin
25 Jul 2015, 12:01 AM

Hi Nouce,
How did the visit and conversations go?  More importantly - how are you?

Katherine 
Report this post      
 
Reply by Nouce
25 Jul 2015, 1:08 AM

Thanks for asking, Katherine. The visit went better than I expected. Everyone was on their "best behavior" and Pablo enjoyed them--but is also more ready than ever to say, ïm tired, I need a nap. That helps me out because I often feel like a witch when I have had to break in with that comment.


I'm exhausted, and hoping to get some new, more consistent care-giver support in place before I start back to school in mid-August.


Often when I read the posts of others, it makes me cry.


 


Nouce


 

Report this post      
 
Reply by Carlyn
27 Jul 2015, 1:28 AM

Razz, my condolences on your loss. Your post is beautiful and I'm grateful to you for sharing it. This stood out as if in bold print for me - (he to deserved that opportunity to grieve) - that's right and I forgot about that part of being present when a loved one is at end of their life. It's really important I think, comforting for them, easier on them to go.

I'm looking forward to reading the links provided by Colleen.

p.s. I'm not sure why some of my fonts are larger than others. Tried to fix it. 

Report this post      
 
Reply by KathCull_admin
22 Sep 2015, 12:45 PM

Hello everyone,
A new member, RoseB started the thread far from a family member with advanced cancer   yesterday. Could I ask you to consider responding to her post? 

Thanks very much for thinking about it.
Katherine 
Report this post