Saturday, September 26, 2009

Attending a Death

(Written October of 2004)
I have spent the last two days doing something that I have never done before.
My mother’s only brother, Uncle “Buddy” had a stroke at home and was taken to the hospital, where he had another stroke. The attending physicians in the ER sent him to ICU, where they put him on a respirator.
He had previously signed a document that said not to resuscitate him. The attending physicians were given a copy and there was one on file with his regular physician. They still wired him up with all the machines available to keep him “alive.”
After giving him test after test, they declared him as having no brain activity.
Pegi, my sister called me, crying, and said to please come to Saddleback Memorial. I went.
Buddy was a guy that everyone loved. He was a comedian. He loved cigars and Budweiser and his family. Last year he kept Pegi’s boys while she was in Hawaii. I went to visit them at Pegi’s house. Before I left to go there, I called to see if he needed anything. Buddy told me that he would sure like some “Bud.” He said he had tried to drive Pegi’s SUV but found it too big so he “just put it back into the garage and propped the fenders up against the wall and shut the garage door.”
He could always make me laugh.
Yesterday, I went to the ICU and found him alone in a room. I went in and kissed him on the forehead and took his hand. I began to talk to him. I told him that I was here and that I loved him. I asked him to squeeze my hand if he could see Mimi. (His mom, my grandmother, who is on the other side.) He squeezed my hand tightly for about fifteen seconds. Now, I know that a person who has no brain activity cannot do this, so I know something else was at work here.
Peg and Cathy, his wife, came into the room and reported that they had been in a meeting with the doctors about taking him off of life support. Someone would be coming in soon to take the respirator tube out of his lungs.
After three hours of waiting, this finally happened.
The cable TV station in the room was playing The Green Leaves of Summer while they pulled the tubes out. I always notice the music involved with events. My life has a sound track.
The doctor said it wouldn’t be long. He began to breathe on his own the way a person with pneumonia might sound.

Today his breaths were short and labored. All day long we talked to him and petted him and wiped his forehead.
His doctor said he would have another stroke and he wouldn’t live through it.
He was right on.
At 4:20 his eyes opened but I could see that he was not seeing anything. His head came up off of the pillow. He gasped for air and then his head went back on the pillow. He swallowed about twelve times and then I closed his eyes and kissed him on his head and hands and he took no more breaths.
I have never attended a death before.

I told Pegi that he was dancing with Mimi.
I just knew it.

On the way home that night, They played an old song on the radio;
"Another One Bites the Dust."
I smiled through my tears.

Because,

Not two weeks earlier, I had told my daughter, Martie that when I die I want "Another One Bites the Dust" played loudly as everyone is exiting my wake. I told her I meant it and made her promise. I still mean it!

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