Holding pattern

So Julie fooled us, or maybe we fooled ourselves.  After about seven hours of “end-of-life” breathing, Julie hiccuped a couple of times last night and went back to a more normal breathing pattern.  Earlier in the day one of Julie’s medications was no longer working for her, so the doctors ordered a different one to help provide comfort.  It seems like the change in breathing pattern was as a result that change of medications.

Pretty much everyone who’s been involved thinks that the Julie we know and love is gone.  We haven’t seen any sign of conscious thought for two days.  If the eyes are open, they don’t track anything.  There’s no response to speech or touch.  There are no indications of pain or stress, even though we’ve stopped giving her medications to combat these.  The mind isn’t functional enough to recognize pain anymore.  It’s as if the body is only alive because Julie forgot to switch it off as she was leaving.

The animals know something is up now.  April is our 18 year old tabby cat.  April believes that any idea is a bad idea, unless it’s hers.  If I put her on our bed (which she loves), she’ll immediately jump off.  If I want her on the bed, I have to put her on the nightstand, which she’ll promptly reject by leaving it for the bed.  So I wasn’t expecting much when I put her on Julie’s hospital bed.  April was the only animal in the house that hadn’t had some contact with Julie recently.  To my surprise, rather than immediately jumping off, she wandered around a bit and then settled down on what would be Julie’s lap if Julie were sitting up.  She stayed there quite a while.

As most of you know, Robin is our 6 year old sheltie.  He has a strong “weird” detector.  If anything is weird, he’ll shy away from it.  Things that are familiar can become weird, just because they’re in a different place or turned a different way.  Being picked up is extremely weird.  Being on furniture is not allowed.  So when I picked him up and put him on the hospital bed next to Julie, I also didn’t expect much.  Instead, he walked up to her head and sniffed her.  Then he gave her a couple of small licks on the end of her nose, and paused.  He repeated this a couple of times around her nose and face.  I left him there, and he stayed another minute or two. Being picked up, being on the bed — all definitely weird.  But still, instead of jumping down he stayed to pay his respects.

People are asking about me.  Yes, I’m getting enough sleep.  And I’m eating.  Emotionally, I’m probably in the same holding pattern that Julie is in physically.  I’m not sure what to expect of myself once the body dies.  It might be a crisis where I’ll be useless for days, but probably not.  I’ve been considering the possibilities since Julie first found the lump.  I’ve been mourning since we first got the terminal diagnosis.  Recently I’ve been trying to reduce the things I have to do right after Julie passes, so I could have the room to feel whatever I need to feel.  However it goes for me emotionally, I know I’ll get through it.  I have lots of friends and loved ones watching out for me, and I think I’m pretty well prepared.  You don’t need to worry.  Many of you are quite close to Julie.  Take care of yourselves, too.


5 Responses to “Holding pattern”

  1. 1 Susan Murphy
    October 9, 2010 at 5:08 am

    Life is so beautiful. I was invited to visit this site on October 5th I think. I spent that morning and the next with my coffee, reading this gorgeous story of our lady Julie. I get to read all your comments and expressions of love and it builds more of a picture. I was sitting with Julie and Brian the other afternoon, I smiled as I watched her sleep peacefully, and I told Brian that Julie had taught me some things. He was so pleased with that, that his beautiful wife was helping me. I have watched them love each other and now read more and it is amazing! It is an incedible story of a beautiful survivor and her love and you guys are awesome too. Love to you all, peace and comfort, Your Susan the nurse.

  2. 2 Uncle Dick
    October 9, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Hang in there Brian, We’re all with you and Julie,

    Uncle Dick

  3. 3 Pam Lambert
    October 9, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Hi Brian,

    Laura has been sharing your blogs with those who are close to her. Her twin brother, Kevin, is my husband. I have been following your path for a few weeks now. I have never met you nor Julie, but I have been moved by what you are going through. Your love and devotion are so touching. Julie’s illness is so unfair, but you already know that.

    I have been uncertain about when to let you know I’ve been with you each step of the way. Then today I read your statement, “I’m not sure what to expect of myself once the body dies.” I felt compelled to write you today.

    I am an RN. I have been with families during the passing of their loved ones. Sometimes, after a long battle as you have had, when the person is completely gone, the family feels a sense of relief. Relief that their loved one is no longer in pain. Relief that their taxing vigil is over. Relief that they can start to pick up the pieces of their own lives. What comes then can be overwhelming guilt. They wonder how they can be relieved that their love one has died.

    If you find a sense of relief when Julie’s body dies, try not to feel too guilty. You have both been through a lot for a long time and it is time for both of you to move on. She is poised for her new journey, if that’s what you believe. I believe she will not feel guilt over relishing her new disease-free path. I also believe she will want you to grieve her fully then move on to your new path and to live with gusto and awe.

    Thank you for sharing you journey and putting it out there so it could be shared with those of us you haven’t met. You will never be the same person you were when you started this part of your life. I won’t either. Reading of your peaceful devotion to Julie has touched me deeply.

    All the best,
    Tucson, AZ

  4. 4 Mary Jane Greenlaw-Essary
    October 9, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    I know that when you first decided to post this blog your intent was to inform not teach but you need to know that you and Julie have provided an incredible life lesson. To accept, respect, love and let go. None of these are easy but a necessary part of the overall plan. Thank you so much for having the strength and the willing heart to share this journey. We pray for you every night and are sending you our love. Mary Jane

  5. October 11, 2010 at 10:29 am

    When you wrote, “that the Julie we know and love is gone”, I was deeply saddened and also a little relieved (thank you, Pam, for reminding that we shouldn’t feel guilty for that). The fact that she is no longer feeling pain was also comforting to me. I had to smile at the idea of her forgetting to turn her body off as she left it. I don’t know why, but all weekend, I imagined that, just as she might forget to log off the computer or switch off the light in her office, her body waits, while the Julie we know and love is not with it. Thank you for thinking of all of us who love her, Brian, shows how big and compassionate your heart is. Of course, we already knew that. Thank you for continuing to share the final stages of Julie’s journey. Thank you also, for those commenters who don’t know Julie and who are sharing how she’s touched them. It’s nice to know that Julie’s story can continue to reach and inspire others, and that the love and loveliness of this woman will leave a legacy for friends, known and unknown. Knowing our Julie is already gone makes the waiting and wondering about her a little less painful. I wish the same for you, Brian, though I know there are some dark nights ahead. I pray you can find some comfort and peace. Sending you all much love!

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