Love and Strength and Being Present

Original painting with quote you are stronger than you feelToday I read that being fully present with someone who is dying is the ultimate act of love.

We can never know what’s to come, and dying is the ultimate not knowing, for all of us, but most immediately for Larry and me.

He’s said he’s scared when he’s in the midst of gasping for breath, but mostly he seems sad.  But this morning when I got close and looked him in the eyes and asked  if the effort was still worth it, he said yes.  We smiled and kissed.

Joe, the hospice chaplain came for the first time today.  We talked for awhile and at one point he asked Larry what he wanted, and he said “air.”

I was taken sideways, moving from what I thought was going to be a religious answer to what I thought was a physical one.

Joe, however, commented  that in Hebrew the word for air is the same as the word for spirit or spirituality, I think.  (Hospice chaplains are trained in all faiths.)  That the human need for air which Larry knows so intimately better than Joe or I, is like the human need for the greater spirit.

I move from moment to moment, exhausted but unable to sit quietly. I feel so weak but others say I’m strong. Last night was another rough one.  Gurgly breathing, bathroom, transfers to and from the wheelchair, gasping for air, gasping, gasping.  I asked if he was frightened and he said yes.  I am too.

I gave up trying to make anything better and just sat in the bed next to him, holding his hand, doing nothing but being present.  It was finally enough.  He quieted and fell asleep, and eventually I did too.


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