Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pausing For Breath 2

After a frantic few days, I have now made all the funeral arrangements for my brother. The funeral will not be till the end of next week for logistical reasons to enable many of his friends to travel down, so only now I can actually pause for breath and take stock of the last few days.

Parts of this may be very distressing, so I will understand if you wish to skip this post........I apologise for any typos; I wanted to post this tonight but am feeling weary and probably haven't seen my mistakes :-)


The Phone Call on Saturday morning was not unexpected.

Mum and I had been with Mark on Friday evening, and he was struggling to find the strength and to actually be able to formulate any words. He was just about able to whisper to my Mum that he loved her when she kissed him goodnight and that was all.

By the end of our visit, I noticed that he was starting to exhibit "posturing". This is never a good sign, indicating quite major brain deterioration. If you want to be technical, he was exhibiting decorticate posturing. When we got home, at 9pm, I said to my husband that Mark would be dead within 24 hours, and he was :-(

The Phone Call came whilst we were at the Big M's treating the children to breakfast. We just bundled up all the food and sped back home so I could pick up my prayer book and the holy Oil from St John's shrine, and drop off the young ones at a relative's house, then we raced off to get Mum and head over to the hospital. All I could think was how incongruous it was that the weather was utterly glorious when my brother's life was ebbing away.......

As is absolutely typical of Murphy's Law, I had plenty of talk-time paid for but my mobile phone battery suddenly went from full to virtually empty. Mum's phone was fully charged but had no talk-time left, as she had recently bought a new phone instead. Luckily we found this out before we started the journey to the hospital, so we were able to go back to her house to pick up her other phone so we had both functioning battery and paid for calls. It was not the time to be without a phone to make calls to relatives !

At the hospital, we were so glad to see that my Mum's favourite staff were on duty. Mark had been moved to a private room, and they told us that although he was unable to speak, he was still aware that people were with him.

I don't think I will ever, ever forget my poor mother, hobbling over to the bed, wailing "Oh my son, my son. My beautiful son!"

It was a truly Biblical lament, and our grief was overwhelming.......

We talked to him, held his hands, rubbed his chest when his breathing became laboured, and I asked the staff for swabs and Vaseline to be able to moisten his lips, mouth and tongue to keep him comfortable, which I continued to do throughout that long, long day. His eyes were open but he was now showing decerebrate posturing and his gaze was completely non-focused.

I phoned various family members and friends; DD1 and 2 and their boyfriends hastened over to be with us, and one of Mark's close childhood friends came too, which was a comfort to us all.

By 12.15 he groaned once or twice, and knowing that he had been written up for diamorphine, I asked the staff to give it to him. He had been promised by the medical and nursing staff that they would ensure his passing was pain-free, and they were true to their word.Within one minute he had received pain relief and he settled almost instantly, though his breathing became more noisy and his secretions were increased.

Family continued to arrive, and the nursing staff said there was no problem with however many of us wanted to be with him. There were never less than two of us with him. He was never left alone for a moment.

As the nursing staff went off shift, they all came to say goodbye to Mark, stroke his cheek and also hug Mum, who has visited him daily for the 21 weeks of his hospital stay. They truly are an amazing and wonderful group of people, and more than one of them said to me that they considered Mark to be part of their family too.

By 4.12 pm he gave a few groans again, so his diamorphine was repeated. His breathing was much more laboured now. By 6pm, staff came in to change him and the bed, and they also changed his position to make him more comfortable, so he was now lying on his left side, facing Mum, rather than lying propped up on his back. I anointed him with Oil from St John's Shrine lampada.

By 7pm, his breathing was no longer loud and causing the pillows to move with each intake of breath, rather it was calmer, quieter, and it was obvious to me that he was shifting far less air into his lungs with each breath. His body was beginning to cool significantly and his skin colouration to change. At no point was it scary, just sad to see him quietly slipping away from us.

I said to DD2 that he would not be needing his scheduled 8.15pm dose of pain med.

He didn't.

By 7.30 his breathing was slowing significantly, and becoming ever shallower. By 7.45 he was only breathing seven or eight times a minute, by 8pm he was only breathing three or four times a minute. Gradually, the gaps between breaths lengthened to 45 seconds, then to a minute, then to a minute and half, then one last tiny gasp, and he entered into his final rest at 8.15pm.

Words cannot express our grief and feelings of loss. He was my beloved big brother, upon whom I could always depend, and he always made me aware of how much he loved me. He would do absolutely anything for me, and it was so ironic that when I spoke to the doctors about the possibility of me being a living liver donor to him, many months ago, I was told that it was simply not possible to operate due to his desperate fragility.

Even more ironic was the fact that I was not compatible to donate to him, though he would have been able to donate to me if the situation had been reversed, due to our respective blood group antigens.

I hope he knows just how much I love him. I prayed so hard for a peaceful ending to his life, painless, blameless, unashamed - and God in His infinite Mercy granted this.

I continue to beseech God that he may have a good defence before the Judgement Seat.

He was brilliantly clever, articulate, funny, kind, compassionate, so big-hearted that he could not ever leave anybody unhelped who needed help. He never said a harsh or unkind word to or about anyone at all, and would give someone the clothes off his back if they needed them.

Everyone he worked with or met loved him dearly, as has been demonstrated by the multitudes of cards, letters, emails, text messages, phone calls and visits he has had from legions of people since he came home in December. He lived the Gospel, although he was not religious in the conventional sense. In fact, he understood and lived the Gospel on a level that I certainly am very far from achieving.......

Memory Eternal, my precious, special, wonderful brother.
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Michelle M. said...

I've been wondering how you are holding up. You are in my prayers.

DebD said...

I've been wondering about you too... take all the time you need.

Mimi said...

Oh hon, when I got to your mother's lament, I lost it. Thank you for typing this all out, and please know that we are holding you in prayer and love. Hugs

Philippa said...

My dear Elizabeth,

Please accept my sincerest sympathy and condolences upon the repose of your precious and beloved brother. He was truly a man of God because one cannot do the good deeds Mark did without being so. May God have mercy upon him and judge him according to the goodness in his heart. May we all be so good and giving and kind and loving as your dear brother.

My tears are yours. Sending many hugs across the pond.

Love, Athanasia

thegeekywife said...

Oh Elizabeth. May Mark's memory be eternal. Praying for you, your family, and Mark.

SacredandtheProfane.com said...

May his memory be eternal. Thank you for sharing this lovely, heartfelt post.

elizabeth said...

I can feel the grief - thank God that the Church gives us the ability to lament. I will continue also to pray for your dear brother Mark. Memory Eternal.

My love and prayers.

Grief takes time and I will be praying for you in the coming weeks.

Meg said...

Most sincerely praying for you and for your mother, as well as for your brother's soul. When you feel up to it, I would like to know what it was that made him so fatally ill, and also what "posturing" means.

Please do be sure to tell your mother how many of us mothers are keeping her in our prayers. Hugs to you both!

Ian Climacus said...

What a most beautiful reflection and remembrance, and thank you for sharing his final night -- exceptionally moving.

May his memory be eternal!, and my continued prayers.

s-p said...

St. Paul says "for the good man someone would dare to die"...This is the "give you the shirt off your back kind of person". It is these who Christ died for. May Mark find compassion and mercy from the one who dared to die for him.

Laura said...

May his memory be eternal. God be with you and your family as you grieve.

Susie Hemingway said...

I am so sorry for your loss. May perpeptual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace Amen