The Healing Trip (Part 23)
From my journal dated Thursday August 15, 2019
Three of Van's old friends came by. I happened to be in the lobby at the time--I'd just talked to Dennis on the phone--and heard the receptionist give Van's room number. I stopped them with "We're not allowing visitors," I told them.
They were upset, but I wasn't budging. No one needs to see him like this.
Sam came again. Of course, I don't mind her coming in because she has helped me care for him. Then Carla came. Again, I allowed her to come in because she has been with us all along and because of her nursing experience. Jo-Beth and Bob also came but they only spoke to me in the hallway. Rene Forehand also came by, brought me some sweet gifts. I love her!
We had moments--bad moments--throughout the day that I thought were our last.
He wants to go "out the window."
I told him to go.
But he stayed.
Friday, August 16, 2019
We have been here over a week.
Last night was awful.
4:30 and I thought, "This is it." I went and got his nurse, Libby. She stood behind me as he struggled.
"I need to get back to Georgia," he said to me.
"You're in Georgia," I told him. "You're home."
"No," he said. "I need to get back to Georgia."
"Then, go," I told him. "It's okay to go, Van. It's okay."
He nodded. Gasping. For every breath, gasping.
"I love you," I said. I wanted him to hear that. Know that. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too," he said.
I reminded him of a promise he'd made to me over the past few weeks. "Remember," I said. "You promised to return to me in a dream. Tell me what heaven is like. Tell me that you're okay."
He nodded. "I promise."
And then, as Libby and another nurse and I watched, he slipped into a peaceful sleep.
Libby patted my shoulder. "He's not quite ready to let go," she said.
I stepped out into the hallway with her.
"It won't be long," she told me. "Just let him know it's okay."
Again, I thought . . . but no.
Off and on, for the last few days, I have given him a little juice, using an insulin syringe, pushing the liquid in slowly so he won't choke. But now he is asking for it less and less to not at all. The catheter bag tells me his organs are breaking down. Water. In the end, we just break down to water.
Another almost and then ... not yet.
He opened his large brown eyes, looked at me, and said, "I need to sit up."
I had been sleeping next to him in the chair and I stood, reached for him. "I've got you," I said. His hand went to the bed railing so he could push himself up, but it slipped. He is too weak now. "I've got you," I said. I pulled him into my arms, swung his legs around to dangle on the side of the bed. They are so bone thin now. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders as I straddled his legs. His head rested against my shoulder. "I've got you, Buddy," I said to him. "I've got you." And then I rubbed his back, slick with the morphine sweat. He moaned. It felt good, the moan told me.
A nurse came in to take vitals, but I shook my head. "He's okay," I said. "I've got him." She stood and watched for a moment, sympathy worn as her expression.
His head came up and, again, he looked out the window.
"Is that a window?" he asked.
"I need to get out of that window," he said.
I kissed the top of his head, inhaled the stale scent of the sweat. Of the dying. Of his death. "Then, Buddy," I said, my voice trembling with the memory of Jessica's words about letting go and running into heaven if we only knew the joy waiting for us there, "Let go and run!"
He nodded. "I will in a minute."
He pushed away to lie down. I scooped his bare, clammy legs into my arms and swung him around. Settled his head against the pillows. Patted his bare, clammy chest. "Are you cold?"
He shook his head, no, and fell into a deep sleep.
The nurse left and I returned to my chair . . . and began to cry.
Do you see us down here? I asked God. Do you even care that we are suffering ... him with his dying and me watching him? I mean, if he is going to die anyway, why can't you take him now? Why does he have to suffer? Do you see us? Do you care?
Within a minute, my phone's notifications went off. One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . and on and on. My gosh, who is the world is texting me?
I dried my eyes and looked at my phone. Nearly a dozen messages from friends and family all stating the same thing: The Lord has placed you on my heart. I am praying for you right now. One in particular stunned me. My friend, writer Susan Simpson, sent a quote from C. S. Lewis's classic The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:
But no one except Lucy knew that as it [the albatross] circled the mast it had whispered to her, "Courage, dear heart," and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan's, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.
When we had gone to Scotland, Clare left her car at home along with her brother, Alistair, who is twenty. Maybe twenty-one. An adorably sweet and kind young man with a hilarious sense of humor. When we returned, of course, it was a little after midnight. We found the car parked exactly where we'd left it.
However, when we had gotten into the car to go to St. George's Marketplace, I found a bag of large marshmallows peeking out from under the passenger's seat. I pulled them out as Clare slid into the driver's seat. "What are these?" I asked.
A distinct look of recognition and understanding fell over Clare's face. She grabbed the bag from me, opened the driver's door, and headed back toward the front door of their home screaming, "Alistair!!!"
Sure enough, Alistair had driven the car to get ingredients for S'mores, which he planned to take to a bonfire/cookout . . . but then good sense had taken over. He returned the car, left the keys right where Clare had placed them before leaving for Scotland, and then took his own car to the bonfire. But now, he'd been found out.
It was hilarious!
But not nearly as funny as his telling about it that night on the way to dinner at The Lady R Bar at Corr's Corner Hotel in Newtownabbey, County Antrim. This place was a favorite of the family's and I was about to find out why! I don't remember what I ordered, but I'd be willing to be that, since this was my last night in Northern Ireland, fish and chips were on my mind, even as Alistair told his "I cannot confirm nor deny my involvement in the taking of Clare's car." (I recorded the entire thing on my phone and, periodically, I push PLAY just for the laughs!)
Dinner was a lovely affair for the five of us. I especially enjoyed the banter between Clare and Alistair. At one point I looked across the table to Diane and said, "Their bond must warm your heart all the time. Bring you such joy!"
She admitted that yes, it did. Blessed art thou, Diane Campbell, among women!
After dinner, Alistair wanted to drive us to an overlook, The Horseshoe Bend, so we could see the whole of Belfast lit up like a Christmas tree. I filmed several one-minute clips of this ( To hear one of the clips of Alistair showing off the city of Belfast, click HERE).
Too soon it was time to return home. The night had been magical. Not only had we enjoyed good food and drink and laughter and conversation, but I truly felt as though I had become a part of this remarkable family--David, Diane, Clare, and Alistair.
Grá go Deo.
The next day I would fly westward . . . and back to the reality of my life and the settling of my brother's estate.
(I didn't drive FAR, but I did experience driving on
the "wrong" side of the car and the "wrong" side of the road.)