My mother is in the final stages of dying. When we were first putting her to bed last night she was saying she needed to get ready to take a trip. She wanted to get her shoes and be ready to go. My father asked where she was going and she said "Arizona," where my brother Tim lives. My father told her it was very hot there and we would go later. She seemed ok with that. Later we learned from the hospice literature that it's normal for someone in the final stages of dying to feel they are making a journey. Which of course, they are.
My wife and I stayed up most of last night with my mom. She slept a couple of hours but was coughing and had trouble breathing most of the night, so none of us got much sleep. We gave her water and helped her get to the bathroom when she needed to. She is still coherant and knows what's going on. "I'm sorry to be a nuisance," she said at one point. And later on, "I hope you don't get what I've got." She also told me "You've got a real gem there," referring to my wife. Yes, I do.
He breathing was troubled; there is a lot of fluid build up in her lungs and it creates a haunting "death rattle" or wheezing sound. This has been going on for a few nights now. I understand better how hard this has been for my father; he stayed up three nights in a row tending to my mother. He's been very appreciative of having the help.
Around 7:00 am, my father got up and I crashed in the guest room for a couple of hours. I'm glad that my wife and I have been able to come out and help and provide comfort to my mother. It is not easy by any means, but it feels right.
I'd like to ask everyone to keep my mom in their thoughts and prayers during this final stage. If you want to post comments on the blog, please do so and I will read them to her. You can do this by clicking on the link below any posting that says "Comments".
For anyone who is going through a similar process, I encourage you to read through the document below or materials from Hospice to understand the "arc" of dying. I found it very comforting to know what will happen at each stage and that there is a normal sequence to things. There is very practical information that will make things easier and more comfortable for everyone.