A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Hello always follows Goodbye

by Anne Kerrigan

“For the Christian, hello always follows goodbye in some form.There is new life, although it will be different from the life we knew before. The resurrection of Jesus and the promises of God are too strong to have it be any other way.”
Joyce Rupp, OSM, ‘Praying Our Goodbyes’

“Oh, you have loaned us to each other for so short a while.”
An Aztec prayer

In March 2020, my husband was diagnosed with Covid19. So many, many people were dying at that time, but somehow, he survived. It has now been two and a half years since that initial diagnosis, and since that time, he has continued to battle through the after-effects of that horrific virus. He battled again and again against the endless assaults. 

He miraculously survived major emergency surgery for four blood clots in the right leg, with a follow-up of six weeks in a rehab facility. He has had pneumonia three times, with hospitalisation required twice. Endless physical therapy, occupational therapy, home nursing visits, lab tests, x-rays, MRI’s, CAT scans followed by multiple MD visits. He really liked his in-home and out-patient caregivers, and felt very grateful for all their support and encouragement. 

The Covid-19 weakness and lethargy never really left him, even as he struggled to get well. In the midst of this, he needed radiation for skin cancer on his forehead! 

His faith sustained him through all these various ordeals. My husband has been a man of faith all his life, and often he needed to draw on the strength of this faith as he went from one health situation to another. His wonderful physicians also offered him a measure of hope and solace. He knew that if he could get better, they would be there to help him achieve that goal. 

Yet, that long Covid had him in its grasp, and didn’t seem willing to let go. The ever-increasing Covid lethargy chased him like a long shadow on a summer day; always present and relentless. Finally, after much thought and many long conversations, he came to the conclusion that he wanted no more hospitalisations, rehabs, or even testing. He just wanted to stay home.

He said he had struggled to beat it because he was not yet ready to leave us. He said, “My family is the source of my joy, and I don’t want to lose it.” Through it all, it was this drive to remain with his loved ones that drove him forward. He maintained his sense of humour as much as possible. Sometimes, the exhaustion would just overwhelm him, and he didn’t have the strength to give forth with his usual witticisms. 

He never complained about his situation, but every once in a while, he would say that he missed feeling well, and he had hoped to eventually get better. It was not to be.

The weakness continued, and even became more persistent. His ability to ambulate had become less and less safe. Even the walker had now become insufficient. His ability to move on his own started to become more challenging, and at times, almost impossible. His appetite barely exists. Thankfully, he has always had the ability to get a good night’s sleep, but now the sleeping patterns changed. He slept for hours and hours. Covid brain fog persisted.

As I reflect on my husband’s physical decline, I am so glad that we had those serious and consequential discussions about end-of-life care while we could. At this point in the journey, I am not sure he would be able to articulate his deep feelings and convictions concerning future care. 

When St. Paul was in prison, facing death, he wrote in 2 Timothy, “The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 

Now, my husband’s time of departure has come.

As human beings, we intellectually know that death will come for each of us. Yet, we hang onto hope; in some strange way not even visualising death for ourselves or our loved ones. Denial is a powerful thing! Yet, over the course of our lives, we have seen death come to our door again and again. We saw it up front and personal when we buried a daughter, and now we can only hope and pray that we will have the courage she had!

Both, my husband and I will need strength and courage as we face the loss of our lives together. We had our first date when we were sixteen years old and have been a couple since that time. We have now been married for sixty-three wonderful years. Our children and grandchildren have brought us immeasurable joy, and we are so very grateful.

Now the challenge is to prepare for loss and separation; it is a painful space. We must now depend on each other, our family, our friends, and our faith, hoping that the prayers and positive thoughts and energy coming our way from so many of you will support us as we go forward. In times of sadness and pain, we will depend on your prayerful support to strengthen us. We are really striving to have gratitude remain our operative word through this last part of our journey.

The hospice admission nurse was just here, and my husband is now officially a hospice patient. We have opted for comfort care only, and we are at peace with that decision. The hospice program will give us the ability to do what both of us want which is for my husband to stay home and to die in the comfort of the home he loves with his family and friends close by. 

“Father, the hour has come. I am coming to you.” (Jesus’ prayer approaching death. John 17:1, 11)

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