The ambulance arrived. They brought Bob inside and got him into the hospital bed. Bob didn’t like that bed, and actually spend most of his time in the twin bed that was also in the playroom. I didn’t blame him. I didn’t like the hospital bed either.
The next 11 days are a blur of meds, oxygen and dread. Bob had 2 good days after he came home. Those were the two days that his family came to visit from TN. He was up and able to talk and enjoy time with his family. After that there was a steady decline. His breathing became more labored. He didn’t eat. He would only drink when he took his meds. And then there was the “terminal restlessness.”
Ohhh, if I never hear those words again it will be ok. By the end I felt like I was going to scream at the next person that tried to explain “terminal restlessness” to me one more time. I told one nurse “Oh, I’ve seen terminal restlessness. I’ve lived it for the last 11 days. There is nothing new that you can tell me about it.” Terminal restlessness can have several causes and several extremes. Basically, Bob was not ready to die and he fought it until the end, and he fought hard. I believe that was the cause of his restlessness.
So for about 8 days we all dealt with the restlessness which consisted of these things: confusion, agitation, pacing, insomnia, meaningless tasks. During the worst part Bob was up for 36 hrs, took a short nap and was then up for about 8 more hours. And by up I mean UP, and walking. Taking oxygen on and off. Trying to go outside. And because he was confused we had to stay with him every second. No amount of medication would help. We even questioned if the meds were making it worse. Physical and emotional exhaustion took over, we were running out of options.
Inpatient hospice. We didn’t want it. The nurses mentioned it to us for days and we said no. We made a commitment to Bob, we would bring him home to die, with his family. As two firstborns Nate and I don’t like to break a commitment. In fact we will go to any length to avoid it. We prayed and begged for another solution. We prayed that the decision would be taken from us. And it was. We reached a point where Bob was suffering, and there was nothing we could do for him. He deserved to be peaceful and free of pain. So, there it was, there was no decision. We do what we have to do.
Again we go through the motions. Phone calls, insurance, nurse visits, signing papers. Then, we wait for the ambulance to come for transport. We had already gone through all these emotions when we left the hospital, but while we were at home it had turned into “work” mode and we were able to ignore the emotions. But now, we were removing Bob from the house, and I knew he would never come back. It was hard to hold back the tears. I felt like I had failed. I failed my father-in-law, and I failed my husband. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
We get to the hospice facility and wait while he is being checked in. Nate and I were sent to what looked like a cozy library to wait. We sit huddled up on one end of the couch. I felt so empty. This room, it bugged me. They tried to make it seem so inviting, a warm fire, shelves full of books, dim lighting. Ugh, it was fake and we knew it. It made us angry that they thought they could trick us. The fire was even fake, just an orange light that “danced” on the inside of the fireplace. I went and stood in front of it. The sensation was odd. To my eyes it looked like a fire, that it should be warm. But as I stood in front of it my legs stayed cold. Just like the room, cold. I told Nate, “I would feel the same inside if this room had concrete walls and bare metal chairs”. He agreed. It was one of our lowest points.
Bob received the help he needed. Within about 24 hrs they were able to get him comfortable. This was a relief, but short lived. Nate and I spent almost all of Thursday, and all of Friday until Saturday morning there with Bob. Those were some rough days, and nights. There will never be words to describe what happened and how it impacted us. But, by mid day Saturday things got back under control, and Bob was again as peaceful as we could hope.
Bob passed away on Monday night, Feb. 8, 2010. Nate and I were with him for his final breath. In a way there was relief. Relief that he was at peace. I knew where he was, and that brought some comfort. But, the finality of it all was almost impossible to take. And then, I had to go out to the waiting room to tell J1 and J2 that Grandad was gone. They wanted to see him, so we let them. There were two things worse than my own pain. The pain of my husband, and the pain of my kids. If I never have to see the look in my kids eyes when they realize that someone they love is gone, it will be too soon.
Honestly, the rest is business. Packing for 6, sending everyone in separate directions. Nate and I head to TN the next day to make arrangements. My parents come the next day to bring J1 and J2 for the service. The days after are spent cleaning out his room, going through pictures, taking care of details. We return home on Saturday and spend the entire next week being sick. Being sick was awful, but in some very needed way it helped us to catch up on some physical rest. The emotional rest is still in progress.
At the visitation Nate said a few words to the family that was there. He said that there may be several opinions of who Bobby Arwood was. But he said that as a father and grandfather, he was flawless. Flawless. I agree. I think Bob would have been honored to hear those words. As a parent I could only hope to someday have that legacy. He was a great man, and he was very loved.
Thank you for reading about the journey that forever changed Nate and I. I would imagine that losing a parent is one of the hardest things that you can go through, no matter the age. Nate and I have endured trials over our almost 10 yrs of marriage, but this was one of the hardest. I plan to write a post soon about Bob, and who he was. How I will always remember him. Until then, don’t assume that you have no earthly limits. Say what needs to be said, love who needs to loved, and be with the ones who are important to you. Start to finish, Bob’s illness was one day shy of 3 months from diagnosis. Only 3 wks and 1 day from the time he came to GA, to spend time with his family. But, we will see him again! And for that we are very thankful!