Part 4: Lou Goes Home
“Happy Birthday, Babe! The day this blog posts will be your first birthday in heaven, and my first without you. I think I will go to Dana Point with Bella and April if she is free. Then have the family over for pizza. You know we lost Molly the first Sunday in March, so it’s just Bella and me now.”
Part of my healing journey is journaling fairly regularly to Lou. I also let him journal back to me through my fingers on the computer keyboard.
But . . . I am a year ahead of myself . . .
Let me tell you something of those last weeks we had Lou. They kept increasing his medications and he hallucinated quite a bit. Some of the medications were totally wrong for him and caused terrible side effects. Also, Lou fell several times. The nurse took everything away and said it was time for him to remain in bed.
It was 4/15. I was trying to finish our taxes on the computer before midnight. Lou fell, trying to get to the room where I was working. If he could not see me it became a huge source of anxiety for him. I strapped him in the wheelchair, so he could be with me. When he was too exhausted to sit, I helped him back into bed. I tried to get him soothed enough for me to finish. We were both so stressed. None of his medications worked that night. He could not sleep. The nurse on night call told me to increase the one he was having the psychotic reaction to and someone would come soon. Lou got much worse. I panicked and became hysterical. That immediately caused Lou to find the strength to become normal & sane and overcome the effects of the medication.
During that time of him calming me down and holding me beside him in his narrow bed, Lou spoke to me and gave me what I have come to think of as his final benediction over me: Wonderful words from God through him, that will carry me the rest of my life. We finally fell asleep in each others’ arms.
About 5 am a nurse came and told me they were changing the medication and making him “comfortable”. They put him into a “medical coma” which he never really came out of, except once. He had had no water to drink for 8 days by then, because they said he would choke if given any. When he decided to talk, he fought and fought to find and loosen his tongue. “I am dying!” he cried out. That was all he was able to say.
On Lou’s last night, my girlfriend took the night watch while I got a medicated sleep. I woke with a start that morning to the song rolling in my head by the Kinks: “So Tired of Waiting for You.” Was it Lou trying to get my attention? I flew out of bed and to his side. His hand was warm but most of him was cold. I spoke to him and told him over again and again how I loved him and to go with God.
That was it. He was gone. It was 0830 on April 25, 2013.
I had no training as a celebrant, but I knew it was important that Lou’s service do him justice and share his story. I figured I needed to be the one to do it. His unfailing love and care for me had been unparalleled. Outside of me, no one was more important than his loving, faithful daughter April and his grandkids. I simply couldn’t just do facts and statistics. Lou was not that kind of a guy. He deserved more.
I ended up giving a eulogy that helped people see the man, the one who existed behind closed doors, the one our family loved and respected so much. Then, it was important to show him visually from a child on up in a video tribute with meaningful songs in the background. Our pastors spoke, our loved ones sang: “It is Well with my Soul” (and it was: He went straight to the arms of Jesus), and “Mansion over the Hilltop” (his favorite, and where I know he is living today.)
We ended with everyone singing together: “Blessed be your Name” The words described perfectly how Lou and I chose to view this horrible, shockingly short ordeal of pain we lived through together. The Lord gives and takes away. It would have never been our choice for this to happen to us. Still, our hearts chose to say “Blessed be the Name of the Lord”. As I am writing this, I am thinking of Easter. Because of the resurrection, I know Lou also lives.
Four short months of suffering together, has been followed by the hardest year of my life. But make no mistake: It is my pain, for MY Loss, not Lou’s.
Still, I am getting by. I have my family, my faith, people who care about me and my occasional Lou sightings.
So, Happy Birthday, Babe. And thank you… You were amazing! I truly had the best!
How have you commemorated anniversaries like these?
What practices have you found helpful in your grief journey?
You gave a beautiful eulogy of Lou, I learned so much about his life through you, Anne.
Thank you for sharing this painful journey with all of us.
Thanks for reading, and responding. I guess I wanted a combination of the plain truth about a regular, ordinary guy, yet telling enough to make sure everyone understood why I loved him so much. I wouldn’t have if he wasn’t worth it.
Hi Anne –
I cannot believe it has been a year since Lou has died and has gone to heaven. Your struggle throughout Lou’s death has amazing. Amazing lessons in love, friendship, compassion, patiences, persistences, frustrations, sadness, loss, memories, joys, pains and heartache, and so much more. I know you have been a great example to me, your family and many more about how to love all the way to the end of life and beyond. You planned and delivered an amazing funeral of Lou and for us. I believe the best practices are, exactly what you did, you engaged your self deep into Lou’s end of life. You planned a very thoughtful ceremony that allowed us all to participation and you evoked emotion in all of us. Your ability to keep Lou’s memory & story alive is so powerful, that is healing. Thank you for reminding of the importance of life, faith, compassion & love! I love you dearly, XOXO
When one loves deeply and for many years, when they are loved back unconditionally there is no possible way to turn one’s back and let the hospitals or agencies do it. I couldn’t comprehend going home at night and leaving Lou in a hospital, never knowing if someone would come right away if he had a need in the night. And even if they did respond quickly, would they care like I did? Even if they did a better job because of their skill set, would he rather have them or me? We both knew the answer to that. We did it the only way that seemed right to us.
And even though I would have continued if it took a lifetime, God and Lou knew I was already close to the end of myself and God took him.
You are still young compared to me and have many years to deepen your bonds beyond what you can imagine now at this age. So that when your time comes, you will find within you that same strength and persistence needed for the moments of truth you face.
I love you,
Dearest Anne with an “e”,
I saw only small glimpses of Lou’s final days. What I did see was the dedication to the marriage vows that most of say, “in sickness and in health”…”’til death do us part.” or some variation of that sentiment. Watching you “live it out” right before our eyes brings great perspective and challenge. Thank you for being vulnerable, open and accepting of help during even the darkest of time or perhaps, especially in the darkest of times would express it better.
I love you and am thankful that we have been connected because of our work for so many years. I pray for our journey ahead as death awaits each of us and its path is yet to be revealed. May we each have someone as passionate for our healing, prayerful for our comfort and diligent over our needs as you were for Lou in his dying hours. I am grateful for your living it and now writing it for us to reflect upon.
Blessings and comfort in the days ahead.
You also are so dear to me. Your own faith and saying the right things when you visited with Lou and your prayer over him and us, will always be a wonderful part of the entire memory. The way you put it truly capsulizes the progression of the ordeal. Since we had had personal experiences and believed in God’s promises of healing, although not all are healed, that was the first request. When it became obvious that was not in the plan, we moved to request prayer for comfort. Finally, as long as there was a breath in my body and the ability to put one foot in front of the other, I tried to give myself completely and lovingly to Lou’s care and comfort. Was I 100% successful? Of course not. Sometimes exhaustion or panic overruled my best intentions. If this helps another suffering person, either now or in years to come, as someone surfs the web, then it was worth the vulnerability offered up to complete this series.
Great Words and great story. I will be thinking of you today as you celebrate Lou. Thank You for sharing your Journey Anne.
And thank you, Elsa, for reading it and for the friendship and caring I receive from you.
Anne….Thank you for sharing from your heart…..you are a tremendous testimony of love and compassion….the words of the song are true… the Lord does give and take away…I pray he continues to give you comfort in the days, weeks, and months ahead…Mark
All I felt and gave was nothing more than Lou always gave me. I could do nothing less. I know the Lord still has abundance for me. Part of it is up to me, to quit looking back so hard that I can’t see His present and future blessings. I am not there, but I am getting there.