The Final Decision
by Karen Fredrickson
John on his 30th Birthday
“I am not going to do this anymore”. John said the words, the words echoed in my brain. You would think after 13 years of dialysis I would have been prepared for this. But I was not.
The nurses had shocked expressions on their faces. Right away they put a call through to John’s doctor. Within minutes the doctor was standing next to John’s bed. John said again, he did not want to do dialysis anymore and asked his doctor if he could do this pain free and die peacefully. He had just turned 49 years old. The doctor said we can give you medication to keep you comfortable. He also told John and
I that John would have about 2 weeks. As I was hearing his words, my brain was saying can’t you talk him out of this!
John was released from the hospital. We were very quiet on the drive home. John took my hand and said he felt such peace with his decision. That his burden had been lifted. All I could do is squeeze his hand. I was thinking how can you be so calm? How does one make such a final decision?
It all really started 3 days before John’s 49th birthday. Normally John does not ask me to make much of his birthday, especially when I have worked the night shift the night before. I asked him what he would like to eat or go somewhere to eat out for his birthday. He said nothing special. A while later he came to me and said he would like the whole “Thanksgiving turkey dinner”. I was very surprised and called my twin sister and told her about it. I started to cry saying I think this is his last turkey dinner.
The apartment smelled like Thanksgiving Day. It was March 11th, 2011. Three days before John’s actual 49th birthday.
The dinner was perfect. Turkey was so flavorful, the dressing just like my mom makes. The company was the best. John’s step children and grandchildren Becky, Jerry, Alex Conner, Justin, Kayla and Taylor, My twin sister Kathy and her husband Larry. Cody, John’s youngest step son, could not be home. Those who were closest to John, those who loved him, were there.
That following Monday, John went to dialysis as he always had for the past 13 years. He called me and said they couldn’t dialyze him because his graft had clotted. Which means he needed to go to the clinic for a de-clot. It didn’t work. We both knew what that meant. He would have to go to the hospital and have surgery. Through the 13 years, John had so many surgeries and hospital stays. The hospital at times seemed like our second home. As he was being wheeled in to surgery I told him,” Don’t go into the light”. It was a running joke with us since he had been put under so many times. As far as we knew the surgery went well.
The next morning we found out something was not right. His doctor said he would have to go in again. The de-clot worked, but was so painful when they had to stick the large needles in; in fact they had 3 needles instead of the normal 2 needed to dialyze. John had decided not to dialyze the next morning if it hurt that badly. To make things worse, John discovered he had peripheral arterial disease and was looking down the road at amputation of his legs. His body was tired. John was tired.
I called the kids. They all came up to the hospital that night. It was a very tearful visit. John told the kids he loved them, and hugged the grandkids.
So this is where I started the story. I took John home and we had family over that night. John seemed to be doing really well. I thought to myself ”He is going to change his mind and dialyze tomorrow”. Those words were never spoken. During the early evening John and I were on the patio and he turned to me and said ”I am kind of scared”. My voice was full of tears and I said “I know”. That was on a Friday.
By Saturday John wanted some special people called so he could say good-bye. Bill and Honnie, Joni, Elizabeth. He was able to say goodbye and tell them he loved them. John had taken a turn for the worse, he wasn’t responding. I was desperate to see his eyes open and let me look into them and tell him I loved him. My prayers were answered. He opened his eyes and I told him I love him very much. John turned to me asked “Am I getting bad?" I couldn’t speak and just shook my head no. He asked me to let his brothers and sisters know about his condition. There had been a rift between many of them for many years. I called Honnie and asked her to let them know.
Two of John’s family showed up to say goodbye. The two that showed up at the exact moment, were John’s brother and sister who had not spoken or seen each other in 26 years. A coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences. The Hospice Pastor came and asked John some questions. One was ”Where do you get your strength from?" He said his family. He asked if John believed Jesus was the Son Of God and that Jesus died on the cross to save him. John replied “yes”. He then said the Lords Prayer with John, me and my brother-in law Larry.
I knew things weren’t looking good. We called Cody to come home Sunday and not Tuesday from Las Vegas. Unfortunately the airlines were having computer problems and he could not get home until later Monday night. When Cody arrived he spoke to John. John knew who Cody was.
The kids went home. But around 12:30 in the morning Kathy, Alex and I thought we should call the kids back. John’s breathing had changed. We continued to tell John that it was ok to go now. We loved him. For him to go and not be in pain anymore. I laid down beside him in the hospital bed knowing I would not feel his arms around me again in this world. I cried and didn’t really want him to go. I knew it was selfish, but did not care.
Kathy, my twin sister said I needed to let him go. He would not go unless I was at peace with him leaving. So I touched his face and smoothed away the frown line and told him I would be ok. I am so grateful that my children were there. I needed their strength. I thank God for a wonderful sister and brother-in-law for being so great to John those few days. That is what we had, just a few short days.
Through the night we would change John’s position and wipe his face with a nice warm wash cloth. We gave him ice chips to moisten his mouth. At times John appeared to be to be talking and smiling at someone. John was even softly singing. It was an amazing thing to see someone so at peace to leave this world. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted more than anything for John to stay with me. It was a blessing to watch someone you love so much to die in peace.
The Hospice nurse came over because Becky, my daughter, called and said we are not sure how much medicine we should give John. The nurse arrived and told us it would be sometime today that John would pass away. It was March 29th, 2011. The nurse called in a prescription for John, so Becky and her husband left to get it. I went into the bedroom to find John some clothes to put on after he had passed away. My sister Kathy and Matt , my nephew, Tobey the Hospice nurse were with John. Suddenly they both looked at each other and knew John’s life was coming to an end. Tobey quickly came and got me. We called Becky and her husband to hurry back home. I woke Justin and Cody. I walked into the living room and heard John’s shallow breaths. I knew from experience as a caregiver for 28 years, what someone dying sounds like.
I wanted to say ”no don’t go!!!” But instead I said ”It is ok; go where you won’t hurt anymore. Go where people love you.” At 9:50 AM He took his last breath, peacefully going into the next world.
I guess what I would like for people to get from this story is, yes, our life of 21 years together and the last 13 years had been very trying. But it made me a stronger person and I saw a loved one make a huge decision to leave everything he loved to trust in something bigger than we are and go into the next world with such peace. I hope all who read this have the same experience as I did. It gives me comfort knowing John was so at peace. May the Great Spirit Bless you and keep you in his loving arms.
A Hopi Prayer
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet white doves in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.