Confessions of a Grieving Widow

I haven't written about the death of my sweet husband.  My heart has been heavy in that area since 9:00 am on December 23, 2008.
The 22nd had been a busy time. Children coming in and out of the house to visit with their dad because we all knew that time for him was getting shorter by the day.
I had cleansed his wounds, and tucked him in, then I had lain down on the sofa next to him to rest.  I apparently fell fast asleep, because I was awakened by my son and his wife as they prepared breakfast in the kitchen.  I sat up and immediately noticed that Ned wasn't breathing right.  I ran over to the side of the bed, and saw his oxygen had slipped off.  I quickly put it back on, but he wasn't responsive to my touch or to my calling his name.  I could tell he was in a Cheyne-Stokes breathing pattern.  I called to my children and then reached for my phone to call the Hospice team that he was dying.  While I was on the phone, he took his last breath with my son holding his hand and trying to coax him back to us.  I was not by his side.  These events have bothered me so much.  I fell asleep and didn't catch his oxygen mask had come off... I was calling the nurses and wasn't by his side when he passed to the other side.  From there, every thing then moved on without me.  I hope he knows that my heart was heavy and so sad, because I really didn't want him to go, and I was so sorry I was not holding his hand when he left this world.  I pray that he does know.  I look forward to seeing him again some day.  He is a special part of me and will be forever.
My forever sweetheart

Now I have let this piece of my guilt at having let him down out, I hope you all understand.   


Wendy said…
Oh Fran - he does know. He knows how much you love him and just couldn't let go of this life, couldn't separate from you while you were holding him. It hurt too much. With your son holding his hand, he left this earth surrounded by love (and you weren't far away).

This post is so dear to my heart. I know that survivor's guilt so well. During my husband's last minutes, while it was obvious that his lungs were not functioning, but his chest was still rising and falling, I took off his oxygen mask. I don't really know why except I got this feeling that the force of oxygen (it was set very high) was hurting his nose.

He had been on oxygen for 8 1/2 years - for the last 3 months he was in hospital (palliative care) on a very very high flow of oxygen and absolutely would not survive without the mask.

But afterwards I felt awful. I worried and cried. I carried that guilt around for months. Then I went on a retreat and there happened to be a hospice nurse at that same retreat. With tears running down my face, I told her my story.

"Did I kill him?" I sobbed.
"No," she assured me. "Once we know for sure the patient is engaged in the dying process, we advise the family to remove the oxygen mask. It only hinders what Nature is trying to carry out." You can't imagine how relieved I was - as if a great weight had been lifted from my soul.

I'm almost certain your dear hubby was ready to go, and this is why his mask was off. That you woke up in time to alert your son was perfectly timed as well.
Fran Ellsworth said…
Thank you Wendy. I remember when you were going through that with your husband. I appreciate your insight