Last night I went to training for Eleventh Hour Vigil for hospice.
This is when the patient is actively dying, and the family needs a break or the patient is without close or caring family or the family wants support through the dying process.
There were four of us who were there to be trained to participate in this activity. When I told my sister what I was doing, she said, "That's wonderful--I think."
One lady said her family said, "Why would you want to watch someone die?"
When my father was dying, the nurse would come in and check on me as I sat by my father; George would then tell me what to expect through the stages of dying. He also would send in trays of snacks and drinks for me. Despite being in the room by myself, I knew I wasn't alone. We brought my mom in every day, and she would say to my father, "Wait for me."
He held on for a week, despite no food and water. My sister and I gave him permission to go. The nurses came in to say goodbye, and still he was there with us. One nurse even asked, "Donald, what are you waiting for?"
Finally I realized that, while my sister and I had said goodbye, my father was waiting for my mother. So my sister and I told her that she needed to be clear about what she meant.
We took her in on a Friday afternoon, and mom sat at Dad's head, with him looking into her eyes. She said, "I was wrong when I told you to wait for me. I meant that you should go ahead and I'll be along before too long." And she talked to him while he looked into her eyes. I didn't hear what she said but stayed quietly at the bedside, leaving them to this most private of moments.
Within an hour, he had slipped away. It was so very powerful to witness, and it was definitely my mom's finest moment.
To be able to be there with my father as he went on to the new part of his journey was a privilege, and to be able to witness my mother's act of selflessness was an honor. I would not have been able to do this if it hadn't been for the support of the nursing staff, especially George, and the care they gave to me as well as my father.
I didn't think of it as "watching him die." I thought of it as being there for him so he didn't go through this alone.