Posted by: Rob | August 16, 2008

Wednesday August 16, 2006

This is a continuation from yesterday.

It was a little after midnight when I awoke to Shelley calling me over the baby monitor.  I got up, put on my robe and went down to see what she needed.

I found her sitting up and wide awake.  The pain meds had apparently worn off and she’d had enough sleep for the time being.  She wanted to talk.  No, she needed to talk.

During her post-op stay in the U of A hospital for repair of a perforated duodental ulcer, she had a visit from some palliative care folks.  They had asked her if she had her affairs in order and, if not, suggested that she do so.  “While you may not be leaving us imminently, sooner or later we all go and it’s good to have our affairs in order.”  I had brought her some writing materials then at her request and she had started writing out what would ultimately be her last wishes.

Now she wanted to finish those last wishes up.  She didn’t write all that much really.  She didn’t want a funeral home involved, except for the minimum of cremation.  She had a couple of specific places where she wanted some of her ashes placed.  When I asked her if there was anywhere else she wanted her ashes to rest she didn’t really know and left that up to me.

We talked a little about specific things of hers that she wanted our girls to have.  That was essentially her rings.  When I asked if there was anything else she wanted to bequeath, she simply replied, “No.  You know me.  I’m not about stuff.”  We left it at that.

We talked about other things through the night.  Then she announced, “I’m tired.  How much longer do I have to hang on?”  Dr. Janssen, the ND, had told us that people near the end will hold on.  They will hold on to the loved ones they will be leaving behind.  But, Dr. Janssen said, this holding on causes additional pain.  If you didn’t want to be causing additional pain, you had to let the dying person know that you were letting them go.  So, I told Shelley, that I didn’t want her to suffer unduly any longer.  I told her that, though I didn’t want to, I was letting her go.  She need not hang on any longer than she wanted to.

We continued talking until it started to get light outside.  “Well”, she sighed.  “Looks like this isn’t my last night after all.”

It was after I had helped her move around a bit and then get back into bed that, with her arms around my neck, she said the last words she ever said to me, “I love you so much.”

I moved my chair up beside her and tried to snuggle a bit as she went back to sleep but she couldn’t get comfortable.  I stayed with her a bit longer until her mom got up and came in to sit with her.  I went back up to bed to grab a little more sleep.

Later that morning I called Shelley’s doctor to apprise her of the results of our trip to Calgary.  I described  my latest observations of Shelley’s condition to her (the jaundice mostly).  Her doctor had done palliative care for a while and so I asked point blank “How much time does she have?”. The doctor replied, “We’re talking days.”

The Home Care people were wonderful. They came in and got us set up with all that we needed* and continued to stop by as needed to be sure we were doing all right. I mandated that from then on Shelley was not to be left alone. I wanted someone to be with her at all times, holding her hand and talking to her.

The girls both came home, Shelley’s mom was here, my mom was here.  Phone calls were made to all other family members and friends.  Those who could come were coming.

After lunch Shelley’s colleague – Diane** – called.  She was calling to see how things were. I told her not good; I told her what we needed, what Shelley needed. She said she would arrange to bring a wonderful lady to our house. This lady is a Reiki master in addition to being the palliative care chaplain at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.

Diane and the Rieki master – I’ll call her ‘O’ – arrived at our house in the early evening.  Diane, O and I sat down in the front room.  O wanted to know about the nature of Shelley’s spirituality.  I told her we were not members of any organized religion; we were more spiritually aligned with nature and natural places.  O then moved into Shelley’s room, introduced herself, talked to her for a bit*** and then everyone at the house was invited to join in for the Reiki session with and for Shelley.

I had never done Reiki before, had never really heard of it.  We all lay our hands on Shelley’s body and we each did our own visualization.  O led the session verbally and verbally visualized what it would be like for Shelley.  For her to find the door.  The door to the other side.  Finding the courage to open the door and then to move through it.  Shelley had always been afraid of dying.  We all did what we could to help her overcome that fear.  I must say that I’ve never experienced anything quite like this before.  I had my hands on Shelley’s right leg above and below her knee.  And, crouching there with my eyes closed and the image of a mountain meadow in my mind’s eye, I could feel energy.  I don’t know if it was the group’s energy or Shelley’s energy or both, but I could feel it flowing around and through my hands and part way up my arms.  It was an indescribable, yet amazing, experience.  And when the session was over I felt very much at peace.  And I fervently hoped that Shelley did too.

Afterwards, we broke up the evening and night into “shifts” for each of each to sit with Shelley.  I wanted to cover the 2 am to 6 am shift.  I went to bed a little while later to try to get some sleep in preparation for sitting up with Shelley through the night.

* They got Shelley going on an IV to keep her hydrated and set her up so I could give her morphine for pain every 4 hours.  They also took care of personal care, changed the bed sheets and left sufficient supplies for us to manage wound care.

** It was the same Diane whose name popped into my head the previous day at the ND’s office in Calgary.

*** Shelley was very tired and was essentially not responsive most of the time by now.


  1. Keeping vigil with you…

  2. You tell people about that energy, and they don’t believe you. But once you feel it, you know. It was the group’s energy, Shelly had none to give by then. You are a good man.

  3. beautiful…

  4. It takes courage to revisit these days, though I know it’s impossible not to. Hugs, and wishing you peace.

  5. […] August 17, 2008 Thursday August 17, 2006 Posted by Rob under progressively terminal illnesses, remembrance | Tags: Cancer, Dying |   This is a continuation from yesterday. […]

  6. Thank you all for continuing with me and being here.

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