Miriam’s Last Days

This is my first day with a new computer. Purchased, in light of a suggestion made by my therapist, because I might be finding it hard to write on Miriam’s old computer.

It was a logical conclusion. I had mentioned several times in therapy how much it hurt that Miriam was unable to use her computer towards the end of her life. She had to have me start DVDs for her, because she was unable to click on anything.

This did, indeed, cause me great pain. But not nearly so much as seeing Miriam deteriorate so quickly. I was panicking, because it was becoming obvious to everyone but me that I was going to be losing her soon.

When Miriam decided to enter Hospice, I didn’t object. I simply asked “Are you sure?” She said she was, and a few hours later, I was signing the papers for her while she slept.

Later, though, she said she wanted out of hospice again. I asked the nursing staff about it, and they told me the Miriam would have to have a primary doctor to sign her out of hospice. She didn’t have a primary doctor before going into hospice, just the fellows from the Beaumont clinic. I did not bring this up to her, however. I simply said “But Miriam, you’re going to get to go HOME.”

It was a problem, communicating with Miriam at this time. she would only be awake from a half-hour to an hour out of every twenty-four. She sometimes didn’t remember what had happened the last time I had talked to her. And my emotions slid further and further into denial. If we stayed in hospice, Miriam would get to live with us at home. We would have a chance to talk about what was happening to her.

Well, she went home, all right. She got to lie in her own bed, in our bedroom, next to where I slept. she woke up once, at home, on the second day. “Where am I?” She asked. “You’re at home, sweetheart,” I said. She nodded, accepting this, and asked for water. Dennis quickly went and got her a glass of water, and held it to her mouth so she could drink. I had crawled out of my bed and onto hers, trying to be as close to her as possible without hurting her.

And that was it. Shortly afterwards, she fell asleep again. She would never wake. Later in the night, Dennis heard Miriam having labored breathing. Together, we repositioned her so she was further upright in the bed, taking weight off her chest. Her eyes opened once while we were repositioning her, saw that it was me and Dennis, and closed again. I didn’t think to put fresh batteries into her pulse-oximeter and put it on her finger. How many times have I punished myself for this oversight? More than I can count.

In the morning, I woke up and saw that Miriam was very still, and slightly blue. NOW I thought of the pulse-oximeter, and I quickly put fresh batteries in it and put it on her finger.

It registered nothing.

I tried it on my own finger to make sure it was working. Sure enough, it said my pulse-ox was 97%. I tried it on Miriam again. Nothing.

In the days that followed, I was numb to the world. My Miriam was dead. What was I going to do now?

Four and a half years later, I still don’t know the answer to that question.

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