Last week I wrote about my husband, Ronald Grogan’s battle with cancer. We were informed on the 1st of December that the cancer had spread, there was nothing they could do. We began living the rest of our marriage day-by-day.
Those days were numbered more tightly then I realized. On Thursday, December 3rd Hospice contacted me and at that point I told them I didn’t need them to do the intake appointment until the following Monday or Tuesday. By the next day, Friday, Ron’s condition had worsened to the point where I decided to call and have them come out that day to get him set up.
The intake appointment was conducted Friday at about 4:00 pm, and we were told that because it is a lot of information to absorb they would send out an on-call nurse Saturday to check on Ron and answer any questions.
Saturday at around 2 pm the visiting nurse arrived. Ron was very weak, hadn’t eaten anything and said he almost fell when using the restroom early in the morning. After some discussion Ron made the decision that he should be transferred to the Blue Water Hospice House immediately.
I got Ron checked into hospice around 6:00 pm on Saturday, stayed with him until 8:00, and then went home for the night, telling him I would be back on Sunday. I went home, made phone calls to inform family, and found out that my sister and her husband, my sister-in-law, and my brother-in-law all planned to visit the next day, as did my daughter, her boyfriend and her three children.
Sunday was a busy day with all the visitors coming and going. As we approached evening and everyone except my sister-in-law had left, the hospice nurse, Holly was chatting with us. I had made a comment about going home to sleep and stopping in the next morning on my way to work. I live and work about 3 minutes from the hospice house, so I thought that was reasonable and convenient.
Holly didn’t question my thought process so much as ask me questions that steered me into making a better decision. She asked me, in my opinion, on a scale of 1-10 how much I thought Ron’s condition had worsened since I had checked him in 24 hours earlier. I said about a 6. Holly then looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to go home that night, and was I sure I wanted to be at work, because two minutes could make the difference in being there or not being there when he passed. I made the decision to stay and my sister-in-law, Cathy, said she would stay with me.
Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up sandwhichs for dinner and a run to the house for me to grab my glasses so I could remove contacts, then back to the hospice house for the night.
I was informed that it is okay for me to get in bed with Ron and sleep with him, they encourage that. At 8 pm I layed down in the bed with Ron for what I thought was a few minutes. It turns out I fell asleep and was there for about two hours. I got back up, but then later that night went back into the bed with him, which is where I slept all night, holding his hand, covering him up when he got cold, listening to his breathing. At 6:20 am I got up for the day.
Ron was still responsive at that time, but shortly after stopped responding to questions. Our son called and I held the phone to Ron’s ear while Patrick talked. Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up breakfast and lunch. In the early afternoon Cathy went over to the family room to lay down and rest. My daughter, Caroline and her boyfriend stopped in with just the baby. The nurse had come in, checked on Ron and said time was getting close.
I was sitting on the bed, holding Ron’s hand, talking to him. His breaths were getting more distant, but every time Alexandria made a sound he struggled for another breath. I told Caroline I thought he was hanging on and wouldn’t let go till Alex was out of the room, so Caroline, Rob and Alexandria left.
It was only minutes. I told Ron that it was okay, I would be okay. Ron took two more breaths with a wide space between and was gone. When I realized he was not going to take any more breaths I hit the nurses call button. When they heard me crying over the intercom one of them came in and rubbed my back as I lay there crying. It was so close they tried to catch Caroline in the parking lot but couldn’t.
I don’t know how long I lay there, my guess is about ten minutes before I asked if one of them could go across the hall and advise his sister. We both called family members to let them know. The people at hospice left me alone with Ron until I was ready for them to clean him up. They contacted the National Cremation Society and made arrangements to have his body picked up.
Ron was wheeled out of the Blue Water Hospice with an American flag over his body because he is a Veteran. He will be buried in the National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan. We will have a celebration of life for him in March where his photographs will be displayed.
So now we turn the page. It has been only two days since Ron passed. I am learning how to come home to an empty house. To move through my days without him here. I am adjusting, slowly.