TEARS IN HEAVEN

handsI heard many stories later in the evening, while we were sharing remembrances of her, stories of the two of them while they lingered together, of her beloved Henry as he sat smoking his pipe in the far corner of the couch with her curled up next to him.  After 60 plus years, they would still be spotted walking hand in hand around town, “like teenagers”.  She had nursed him during the last few months of his life as cancer slyly stole him away from her.  They said she was inconsolable for a long while after his death, but strangely life moved on, as did she.

Now it was her turn.  After her own cancer diagnosis, there was very little treatment that she wished to pursue.  She told me more than once that her life had been “fully lived”.  A special person came to stay and helped care for her, and many friends visited who would miss her when she was gone, but she was eager to see Henry again and spoke of that as she openly talked about her plans to use her Aid in Dying pills.  She looked at me intensely at one visit, stating emphatically, “I am not suicidal; I just want to decide for myself when the time comes”.

A day arrived when she knew that it was time.  I had watched her slowly shrink away, becoming more detached; less excited about leaving the house, and taking less nourishment in.  And I wondered if she would decide to forgo using the medications to hasten her death, as it appeared she would soon begin the last venture into active dying.  But I arrived one day, and she stated clearly: she needed people called, she needed to make arrangements, and it needed to happen NOW.  We were caught up in the urgency that she felt, and in fact everyone arrived as had been discussed, in a flurry of support.  She took her medication after telling all of them how much she loved them, and would miss them.  They told me she was no longer talking within 10 minutes, as they watched her eyes close along with the rise and fall of her chest: the slowed rhythmic breathing until it stopped.

When I arrived to take care of the business that follows a death in the home, I told the family how strange it seemed, to see her sitting there, where I had left her that morning, in the exact same manner, but now with marbled skin and lifeless pose.  Then I was told, it was only natural that she should be there, in that very same location on the couch that Henry had always sat, enjoying his pipe.  She had taken over the spot shortly after he died.  I felt tears sting my eyes, as I recalled all the times I had sat next to her in that favorite corner, where they two had spent so many years together.  I realized how she had come full circle, now exactly where she wanted to be, holding hands with Henry again.

“Would you know my name

If I saw you in heaven?

Would it be the same

If I saw you in heaven?

Would you hold my hand

If I saw you in heaven?

Would you help me stand

If I saw you in heaven?…

Beyond the door there’s peace I’m sure

And I know there’ll be no more tears in heaven.”

Eric Clapton

About Amy Getter

MS, RN, CHPN
This entry was posted in Aid in dying, end of life care and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to TEARS IN HEAVEN

  1. Ally says:

    Loved this story. Heartbreaking, but beautifully written.

    Like

  2. Josie Varga says:

    Hi Amy, What a beautiful story! Thank you.

    Like

  3. noreen says:

    A sensitive subject, written with Amy’s special sensitivity. Thanks once again , noreen

    Like

  4. Jennifer Laris says:

    Very poignant, especially for me at this moment.

    Like

  5. Helen says:

    Thank you, Amy.

    Like

  6. Beth says:

    Beautiful…

    Like

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