Friday, January 1, 2010

Cherished End of Life Self-Disclosures

Not knowing when Francis will lose energy to speak (Weakness to do so was evident many times today,) I cherish every self-disclosure my dying husband Francis shares with me, and, -- aware as he is that I'm not keeping them to myself, I can honestly say, -- shares with you too, dear Family and Friends.

Except for a brief breakfast and a short supper when he ate only a bit, -- though his home health aid came to bathe him, and Jane McGillicuddy his niece came to help me with the list of people to call at the end, and Dr. Kevin Zorsky, DO braved the roads to give Francis a cranio-osteopathic treatment, --one could say Francis slept through it all, all day.

During Bill Gregory's healing visit, Francis lay in silence, eyes closed, but his increasingly beatific smile showed he was listening and responding to Bill's and my singing two hymns, "Dona Nobis Pacem," and "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say." interspersed with Bill's reading the gospel on the Beatitudes (Matt 5:1) and the apt "Good Shepherd" Psalm 22, "Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness, I fear no harm, for You are with me." (Since I don't have Bill's version I'm using the "New Translation according to the traditional Hebrew.")

So when Francis agreed to take supper, having refused lunch because he felt so tired, I was most gratified! In between bites of a healing Hot and Sour Soup Meg Wolff had prepared which I spoonfed him, I occasionally took a spoonful from my own bowl as I jotted down his words for which I was even more hungry.

Though grieved to see him, and his voice too, so weak in such a short time, I was relieved to witness, as he talked, a growing spiritual strength. Before my eyes, in the last three months, I've witnessed the truth of St. Paul's observation: "....we do not lose heart. On the contrary, though this outer man of ours may be falling into decay, the inner man is being renewed day by day." (II Cor. 4:16)

Francis' New Year's Eve supper comments:

When Francis accepted my invitation to take supper with me he said he needed something very easy on his stomach.
Me - E: I'm so glad you're eating! You wouldn't take lunch. So why did you change your mind?
Him - F: Partly because I don't want to give up. I don't want to go back to sleep right now.
E: For me?
F: For us.

E: Maybe this is our last supper? We've had many last suppers.
F: Sometimes the last supper starts off to be a little spark and when you carefully embrace the little spark it might turn into something bigger. We'll just have to wait and see. We have to be very patient....
I've never thought of myself as a poet, but I have a poetic soul. If a distinction can be made between an actual poet and having a poetic soul, I have a poetic soul. And that's one consistency I have. It's been behind a lot of my decisions. Somehow my poetic soul was there to steer me.........
E Yes, you do have a poetic soul. I remember the time when I had had a bit of car trouble returning home from some trip with a friend. When I came into the house flustered to tell you about it, I found you in tears, listening to Mahler's Resurrection Symphony.

F I remember it well... It's Bob who got me into Mahler.........I never forgot, when I was working for Portland Housing Authority, on my way to a funeral service, Gustav Mahler's Resurrection Symphony was playing on the radio. I worked it into the service I gave at the funeral home.

E I hope I'm not wearing you out.
F: It's not a question of wearing me out now. All I'm doing is using the little energy that comes my way. And tonight that energy is very very precious. It's not in abundance tonight. Let's put it this way, -- it's not in abundance. But whatever measure of it I have can help me with whatever thoughts come in my direction................

E Are you enjoying your soup?
F Yes, and getting a bit stronger from it. Today the struggle has been to get me awake long enough to eat. It was a real struggle. At least temporarily I overcame the exhaustion to get something in my stomach, finally having gotten enough rest. If I hadn't made a supreme effort of the will, I would have collapsed.

E When did that happen?
F When Kevin was leaving. I made this act and you encouraged me, -- "Want to try?" You led the way by tempting me to try some supper, and it went on from there. I'm glad I did.

E Why? Because you're feeling stronger?
F It's not to be downgraded.
E Want another bite?
F Let me just sit a bit......................You're a very good person to help to draw me out. You're excellent at that, helping to motivate me..........So, is this New Year's Eve?
E Yes.
F Wow!
E The music (again the Armenian Middle Eastern music played at Francis' 75 birthday party) -- ...The music tears your heart out, doesn't it? .....................
When you awakened this evening, were you sorry?
F No, not sorry.
E How do you feel now?
F I'm becoming reconciled to it. I don't expect to go on forever. Unless I'm mistaken, this is more of a supper tonight than a feast, minor in energy and content. It's a very small window that I'm allowed to have into the world.

E Is it joyous?
F There's less joy tonight because my energy is less. Nevertheless there's some comfort because I can relax. I'm back into the comfort zone. I'm not bereft.
E The terror is leaving?
F Yes, it's okay. I'm not totally bereft. I'm granted comfort.

And hearing this, I was granted much comfort too!



  1. Thank you for sharing this, Elaine. It's a deeply touching conversation. Good to know there's some comfort because Francis can relax. Sweet poetic soul.

  2. I posted a comment with an idea on yesterday's post, please don't miss it. You can contact me at 949-240-8676. Jai! Margaret