Everyone arrived, we were all there for the long haul. By the way Joan was breathing we knew it wouldn't be long. Praying the morphine was doing its job the nurse found me and pulled me aside. She looked at me and said, I can give her another morphine injection on top of the drip, just to be sure she doesn't suffer during these last hours.
Her words said pain management, her look said, it will help her stop fighting, it will ease her transition. The word traitor again flashed in my mind. The emotions, a deep breath, there was no coming back from this massive of a failure in her body. Anything that could be done to help her move on, not be stuck in a failing body should be done. My needs were not important, hers were. I told the nurse to please do it.
Shortly after the injection her fighting had slowed. Joans body was done, she needed release, needed the freedom to move on. Over the next half hour things were fairly quiet, at least that is what I remember. A friend Joan had met at a local restaurant came in, apparently she was heading to church and felt the need to stop. She only stayed a moment, she could tell Joan was in her last minutes. Howard came in and paused, Joan took about two more breaths and it was over. She was gone.
The next several minutes were a mess, emotions from everywhere, everyone. Crying, hugging. The nurse came in, I could hear alarms at the nurses station. They had a job to do, they had to verify her passing and call time of death. Her phone went off, she responded, "No, do not bring the cart." Then a bit of a pause and louder, "NO! Do NOT bring the cart, she has a DNR." Another pause, "Her husband is here." She then apologized, I told her it was ok. They called time and people were going out into the hallway. There was no reason left to be in the room.
We contacted the funeral home, I waited and Grandma Pam waited with me. I needed someone there and she was the most level headed, the most experienced. The funeral home arrived, I gave them instructions. The nurse came back in and mentioned to me that Joan was an organ donor. That just about set me off, I could not picture anyone cutting on her. I knew it was her body and she was no longer there but I could not bear the thought of anyone cutting on her. She was very good, I give her credit, I wish I had written down her name. The nurse understood, gave me space and asked me to stop by the desk before leaving. Once the funeral home had taken her, Pam and I gathered whatever things were left. The nurse and I talked, I told her to give the group wanting to talk with me my number. She warned me there would be lots of questions if I agreed and that I needed to be patient.
I thanked her, already my mind was saying, Joan wanted to be a donor, Joan wanted others to benefit from anything she no longer needed. Again what I wanted, what I felt I needed was not important. It was about what she wanted. I kept reminding myself of that one thing.
Pam drove me home, I think I was still in a daze, but my logical part was running and I needed to do whatever Joan wanted me to do. And that my friends gave me a very long list. She was specific about so many things, things she wanted to happen should she go first, things I was to do, things I was to do with her things. And by God, I am damn good with lists!
Once home, everyone was there, everyone but Joan. My phone rang, it was the donation center for body parts. I went to our bedroom, I could not yet call it my bedroom. I was on the phone for nearly an hour. Yes there were very detailed questions, a great sales pitch, I gave in, not because of the sales pitch, but because I knew what Joan wanted and the lady was patient with me. I required one thing of them, and that was communications. They must call me when they picked her up from the funeral home, when they arrived at their surgical center, when she left the surgical center and when they arrived at the funeral home again. I also required the funeral home to call me and validate she was there. Not that I expected her to be lost in transit, but I wanted accountability and my doubts covered. By the way they did everything I asked of them.
The rest of the day was pretty much a blank to me. I know I insisted on my brother and his wife having my bedroom. I slept on the couch. I didn't really want to be in our bed anyway. That was going to take a few days at least.
As a closing to Sunday, I feel compelled to add. Howard who had come in just seconds before Joan passed, told me something months later, and Howard I hope you don't mind that I'm telling this.
When he walked into the room, he felt like he was talking to Joan or she was talking to him. He was telling her that she needed to relax, it was time to go. She was concerned about us, about everyone there. He told her they will adapt and our concern was for her. She seemed a bit confused but I think he said she understood what was going on. Then his vision expanded, what he saw was amazing and gave me great comfort. He said, Keith, you don't understand, or I don't think I can explain, she was here, with her body, with us, worried about us, but at the same time, she was already with her Father and some people he had never seen. She here and she was there at the same time. The part of her that was there was already clear, understood and happy, the part of her that was her just needed to let go. He again told her we would all be fine, it would take time, but we would make it and she needed to let go. His vision ended. I don't know if I got it all correct, the way he told me but this is what I have in my memory, my interpretation.
Howard was given a great gift, something I would have loved to been a part of. Joan has always cared for Howard and I am not jealous that he saw her, that he was given that experience. I am happy he shared it with me. I will keep the picture in my mind forever. It answered my question about when her spirit left and yes she was there while we talked to her, held her hand and prayed. That she after that last breath let go and all of her is now with God, with those who went before and when it is my turn I will see her again. We will catch up, be happy and I will find out what my next task or purpose will be.
Joan is now timeless and eternal. Why God took her first I won't know until it is my time. I am sure things will be clear at that point. Until then, I have things to do, tasks to accomplish. I have worked through the bulk of the list she left me. There are personal things to work out, things she wanted for me and made me promise. I will accomplish those things over time, maybe not in any way we expected, but they will be accomplished.
We were married, 38 years, 4 months and 1 day. She passed on my fathers birthday. I know he loved her and accepted her early in our dating. If you count our dating months, Joan and I were together from a bit over 39 years. Nearly four decades. God brought her to me, he took her away. I thank him for every moment we had, the good, the bad, it is all a part of life. We made it to the end of our vows. I was supposed to go first, it was expected, it was how I planned. God obviously had other plans.