In my post on Monday, I mentioned Karen and I are familiar with the signs of “transition”, having cared for my Dad during the last weeks of his life. Transition is the term used to describe the phase of life when one –well – transitions from this world, the world of the living, to the next world, the world of the spirit (or whatever that other world is according to your beliefs). Depending on a number of factors, transition period can be an hour, a day, a week or longer. A doctor or nurse can consider a few factors and make an educated guess, but you never know how long.
Mom was released from the hospital on Saturday evening, 30 September. We had a hospital bed. I stocked up on bed pads, alcohol wipes, gloves, and the applesauce, soup and juice. We were ready.
Please know I am not a doctor, a nurse, nor do I have any professional experience in the field of medicine. All I share here is from my personal experience only. Helping my Dad transition was a blessing. And now, we are with Mom for her transition. Sadly, we won’t need the bed pads, hospital wipes, applesauce, soup or juice.
As difficult as these experiences are, they are even more profound. Helping Dad and Mom has enabled me to see life as the natural process it is. While we might think we can control the course of our lives, any control we may have is limited, at best. Life runs its course regardless of what you do or what you want. The saying goes, “All good things come to an end.”
- The sun rises and the sun sets.
- The leaves fall from the trees at the end of the year and leaf out again the next spring.
- A college graduate is hired, promoted, named CEO, and then retires to have a previously hired, trained and promoted college graduate take their place as CEO.
This isn’t a bad thing, just a truth; a natural evolution. It goes against the grain of our culture to think of or plan for anything other than reaching the next mountaintop, but at some point we all fail to reach the top or we reach the top and then fall down.
Planning for Our Own Transition
As morbid as our culture may consider this, I believe we would all be well served to learn about the end-of-life process and to think about our own. We plan weddings, save for our children’s education, our retirement, who says dying is easy? I’m not sure any of us is a “natural”. Knowing the transition process can make the end of our life less scary and, more importantly, the lives of our loved ones less traumatic. We should all be so lucky to live a full life and die in our sleep. Most of us will not be that lucky.
Talk to your kids, your spouse, or caregiver. Talk about the dying process and the physical changes to be expected. Give them direction as to your preferences – beyond the typical DNR. Should they keep you as aware as possible or keep you as sedated as possible? Should they use oxygen to keep you comfortable or avoid using the oxygen at the risk of discomfort to speed the process? Caregivers, talk to your loved one. Do you know how your loved one feels about these decisions you’ll be asked to make? There are no rights or wrongs.
As I write this just after midnight, early Friday morning on 6 October, my Mom’s breathing is has become more labored and her coloring is pale. We didn’t think she would make it through the night on Tuesday and here we are early Friday morning. Between Karen and me, Mom has not been alone since coming home on Saturday. Knowing Mom, we made the decision to avoid the narcotic pain medication unless she was in distress. We also elected to use the oxygen to keep her comfortable. If you have any questions about other aspects of this journey, or if you’d like to share your own story please do. I’m honored to have been with my Dad for his life transition. I’m blessed to be with Mom now.
The books below are all helpful in directing you to the important areas you need to focus on for practical end-of-life discussions and planning. It isn’t only about the DNR or where the insurance policy is; although those are important. Just having the conversation is a big step forward. We’re providing these links because we think the information shared in them is good.
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