Friday, November 5, 2010

deja vu....again

Photo from Background

A local stable burnt down last week. Now as I drive past the ashes where the barn once stood, I see the surviving horses milling around their paddocks...looking slightly lost.
When I read an article in the local paper about the event, I could imagine the throat choking smoke, the flames licking the sky, the sounds of crashing timbers and sirens. I thought of the horses wild and wide eyed screaming their fear into the night. I imagine how terrifying it must have been for them as something so new, fearful and unexpected happened to and around them.
It made me think of Jeff and his last moments of life.
It brought me back, yet again, to the moment of his death. His wide eyes. The shock and fear exposed within. My screaming. The confusion and the finality.
I imagine what he must have felt like. I torture myself with the question of whether he felt comfort in the fact that I was there and trying to save his life. I worry over whether his death was physically painful and just how much pain was felt - tooth ache amount? giving birth amount? Did he lose consciousness with a floaty cottonwool head comfort that I have experienced when passing out after exposure to too-graphic surgeries on television?
It makes my heart race and my stomach contract everytime I remember these surprisingly short last minutes with him. It seems that I use these trips back in time as a barometer with which I measure my pain threshold and my 'recovery'. Like checking if an element is still warm a few minutes after boiling a pot of water, I don't know that this practise serves any 'real' purpose...but I do it anyway.
Although the fire took hours to burn out, I do so hope that Jeff's fear and pain was short. And for me, I so hope that eventually every news story involving death does not bring me immediately to that place again.


  1. Thank you Jackie, I to have had these same thoughts. My husband also died of a pulmonary embolism. He was in the parking lot of the hospital. I was with him for a few minutes before he died. The day goes through my mind, even though it's a bit over 1 1/2 years. Reading your post, was just like my words.

  2. I would also like to say thank-you too. Like the previous poster my husband died of a pulmonary embolism. He was at the hospital due to injuries he received after being hit by a car. I was at home sleeping. At 2am, he died. I wasn't there for him. I wonder all the time what was going through his mind, the fear, the anger or anything, but I'll never be able to ask him. It's been 2 1/2 years, and I still have moments when I feel lost without him.

  3. Many thanks Jackie for helping us realize going back to that day is okay. I, too, go back to horrific night that my husband's life ended. When I went up to bed he was still breathing but by the time the paramedics arrived he was gone. Only over an hour had passed since he had said good night and when I found him. But I do wonder if he was in pain and/or scared and didn't have the strength to call out to me. Eight months later my struggle to save him is a constant memory.

  4. It's bad enough that I can somehow vividly picture Matt during his last moments when I wasn't even there with him, but for you to have held Jeff in your arms and experienced every excruciating moment in detail? My God. My heart aches, my pulse races, my stomach churns and my eyes water for you, my sweet friend. Love you.

  5. I'll never know if Jeff suffered although I'd like to believe he didn't. He suffered an anoxic brain injury during surgery, but for 8 days he lingered in a coma. His eyes were open and it almost seemed he was pleading with me at times although I'm told that's not possible with the amount of brain damage there was. The anger boils over when I imagine how frustrating it would have been if he somehow did know what was going on and was just unable to communicate. It tortures me as well. It's not a bad thing to go back and remember vividly - I think it's perfectly normal (whatever that is).


  6. Hey Jackie,

    I had a lot of fear that Elias was aware that the doctors weren't doing anything to try and save him . . . . that he may have heard them say 'it wasn't worth it' and my subsequent screaming.

    I found reading The Vital Importance Of Death by E. Kubler-Ross to be very helpful as she studied thousands of near death experiences and said that in each and every case, though the person was very aware of what was going on around them, they were at absolute peace with it all. No pain, no fear - just love and peace. I sure hope that's the case . . . .


  7. post traumatic stress reaction...
    I have been told it will stay with me forever. not be as strong - but it will still bite me in the butt.

    every time there is a plane crash, local, in cuba, anywhere. I read, I wonder. I know way too much. Every little plane that flys over head, every time I get on a plane. Those last moments. 20 minutes of him knowing that things sucked for him. TWENTY MINUTES! I don't know what to do with those 20 minutes. I can only hope he was hopeful, in some type of euphoric stressful mode. The WE CAN DO IT mentality. It has taken until this year for me to even think about it. It took going to Camp Widow to actually think about those 20 minutes. I go to the pain now and just deal with it instead of running. Not much better, but I hope it lessens it over the years. Love to you!

  8. Holding my husband hands as I watched him in the hospital bed, as I did for months, days, hours before, now knowing any minute was it. Immediate family gathered and we watched as the machines went silent, I remained holding him, talking to him saying it was OK.(when it wasn't) I didn't know what to expect and then watching his color completely change, I was told clinically there was no blood & oxygen going thru him any longer, others have said that is when his soul/spirit leaves his body. Those hours, minutes will last in my memory forever for as long as I live...glad I was there for him, but terrible to go thru this. For months afterwards I would have nightmares of those times in the hospital all I witnessed, all the suffering, all of it....It's 14 months and nightmares are less frequent now but I still can't go near a hospital....It all rushes back. God I miss him!!!

  9. As I was driving home today from work my mind went to the last few days of my husbands's life...and I let myself think about it and remember it. Sometimes I skim over the surface of those memories but tonight I let myself feel it. It always makes me is so, so painful. My husband was diagnosed with cancer, he died 11 months later. When I think back about my life in those days I can't even believe that I functioned as well as I did. I tried so hard to take care of him. I learned so much about cancer and I still worked and took care of our children all along with great fear in my heart. It's only now that he is gone that there's a kind of peace in our home--maybe not peace, but not fear anymore--but it has been replaced by sadness and pain. Undescribable pain. It has been six months and I still cry every the end my husband slipped away in his sleep. I was being prepared by hospice as to what I should expect in the next couple of weeks and it never happened. I thought he was taking a nap and he passed away with us in the room and we didn't even know it. But even then I knew that was a gift...for my husband to go so peacefully. I regret that I wasn't holding his hand or talking to him but on the other hand i'm glad there wasn't a long and heartbreaking wait for his death. He was so brave and he tried so hard to live...

  10. I go over those last minutes, especially those before I realized he was in danger. He was very focused, and I know he didn't let himself panic. He only called out at the moment he couldn't hold on anymore, and I looked up to see him fly back in the water, and the rapids take him away. I think about the moment he realized he couldn't get himself out, the moment he called to me, how long it took, how hard he fought to get to safety. I know once he realized it was ending, he forced his mind to peace, sending love to me, to our family. but still, those moments leading up to that, what he may have experienced and felt - I can't know, and have force myself to imagine him being okay, somehow; choosing to believe it was relatively fast and painless. He only had to live through it once. I live through it over and over and over, and it is so easy to imagine suffering.

  11. I always think of those last days. He died of cirhosus of the liver. He had been in and out of the hospital for weeks. We finally asked is there anything you can do - they said no and gave hime six weeks. So we went home and were on home hospice. After a week he was sliding out of bed - no muscle control - I was cleaning up after him and giving him his showers. We bought one of those chairs for the shower. We even managed to go out to dinner that week. But after a week he slid all the way out of bed and I couldn't get him back in bed. Had to call 911 for help. They were wonderful. My sister came over and said we really couldn't take care of him at home anymore so we had him moved to the hospice center. They gave him a week. I was prepared to stay the entire week. Unpacked my stuff. They had him on morphine then. He really never did wake up. I went to sleep at 11:30 and a half hour later heard the nurses say he barely has a heartbeat. I leaped from my bed and ran to his side and held his hand. For the next several minutes I was at his side while he slipped into heaven. I could not believe that could happen so fast. I sat by his side for 5 hours holding his hand laying on him - it did not seem real. Finally I started to pack up and was heading out the door when they asked me if I got the wedding ring. I really hadn't thought of it so went back and by then he was getting stiff. I was hard to pull it off - if was awful. Then I saw his cross earring and took that too. It was a night I will never ever forget. I miss him so, even though the last six months were the absolute worse. He didn't know what he was doing or saying. He was mean and left me - but it was all to do with the affects of alcoholism - ammonia on the brain. It was not the real him until he finally went into rehab. That was the start of his trip to death.