Thursday, June 26, 2014

Goodbye My Love

Ted passed away peacefully on January 24, 2014—a scant 10 months after diagnosis of Stage IV duodenal cancer.

Our daughter, Rashida put together a beautiful video with words and music from friends and family telling Ted just what he had meant to them.  He was not well on Christmas morning but he was strong enough to watch the video.  He sat in the middle—I was on one side and Rashida was on the other.  Rashida had gone out by email and asked friends and family to share some thoughts about Ted.  She took those thoughts, wrote them onto large index cards and held them up to the camera—the background music played some of Ted’s favorite songs, Happy Feelings by Frankie Beverly and Maze, Sentimental Mood by Ellington/Coltrane, Kiss of Life by Sade, I’ll Be Loving You Always by Stevie Wonder—his favorite songs—his favorite artists—words from the people who loved him.   It was a beautiful tribute.

Ted is not an emotional person but this day—this Christmas day, he was full of emotion.  He did not cry but his breathing got heavy and I asked him if he could get through it—he said he could.  When the video was over he said “That was the greatest Christmas gift I ever received—my heart is full”.  Coming from Ted, that was quite an accolade. I am so very glad that we got to share this with him—many people don’t really get to know their impact on people before they leave this world—Ted did.

After Christmas, Ted’s health started to take a dip and we went to the doctor for another CT scan.  We got the news that the cancer had taken over most of his liver—there was nowhere to go now but hospice.  And so started the most compassionate part of this journey.  We were assigned a staff of nurses, nurses’s assistants, grief counselors and psychologists who were on call night and day.  These people were so caring—they made Ted’s last 10 days much more manageable than they’d otherwise be.

On January 14th 2014 Ted went into hospice at home. My minister came and prayed and family and friends started making what would be their last visits.  On January 24th in the early morning it became apparent that Ted was leaving us.  I called our son, Lateef and told him that he should come—he got to us at around 3 pm. Ted’s mother and sister were on their way traveling by train from New York. When hospice advised us that they probably would not make it, we put the phone up to his ear.  His mother and sister talked to him—I know he heard their voices—his eyelids fluttered.   During the day, we played Ted’s favorite music (Sade) and kept him comfortable with lavender lotion on his face and swabs for his mouth.  Early in the morning as I passed his bedside, I’d call his name and his eyes would pop open, though he could not speak.  As the day went on, his eyes continued to open when his name was called but became more cloudy and by early afternoon, he no longer responded to his name.  We talked to him and held his hand.  He was never alone. During this entire time, hospice was with us. 

At 10:45 pm, Ted took his last breath.  As I had promised Ted, I was holding his hand—Lateef and Rashida were at the bedside.  He left us very quietly--It was the most peaceful exit I have ever seen and I’ve seen a few.  Lateef collapsed on the floor in grief and Rashida and I joined him.  

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