26 Sep 2012
Chrissy here. These may be the hardest words to write but it seems natural to continue Mike's story. The heartfelt words and responses to his blog have helped to carry us positively through the last 18 months of his life - this I absolutely do not doubt. The waves of love and warmth washed over us increasing our inner strength and resolve. He decided with our blessing to 'go public' and now I must help him with the final entry. I believe he will help me and would want you all to know our experience of the hospice.
Catherine our wonderful palliative care nurse strongly recommended the hospice on Monday 17th September to manage Mike's abdominal discomfort. Medications could be tried and changed more easily. Mike nodded and I felt a tinge of relief so we both knew this was the right time. On Tuesday morning I was able to drive Mike there, Rachel poised with the oxygen if needed. He was calm but anxious. This frown of anxiety melted into relief as smiles of welcome punctuated our wheelchair ride to room 13. A lovely light room overlooking an inner courtyard with water feature, benches and flowers. The next day we did move to another spacious lovely room overlooking decking, pond and trees and more importantly for Mike a better WiFi service!
The hospice proved to be a haven where Mike could relax, retain his dignity and independence safe in the knowledge medical aid was at hand at a touch of a button. They completely respected our wishes and I was able to remain active in his care.
Over the 3 days we made forays around the lovely garden stopping to watch a squirrel, enjoying the sun on our faces and pausing to enjoy the trees around us. We talked about our Devon home, the swing seat and the woods.
Mike made 3 trips to the cafe taking pleasure in a simple cup of tea and beaming like an excited little boy when I suggested an ice cream. Whilst relishing his Calippo lolly we laughed about other ice creams and sweets we liked in our childhood.
He loved the fact that he had a free paper of his choice every morning and even asked for it on the morning of his death. Doing the crossword was always a challenge he enjoyed especially with me or the girls.
Food remained an important pleasure and Mike never lost the desire to eat, ordering a full english breakfast each morning at the hospice. He did manage it once and even woolfed down chocolate sponge with chocolate custard showing he was still a pudding man at heart.
Another particular pleasure for me was watching him shave off 3 days worth of distinguished white stubble. A simple act requiring concentration and calmness. Something he has done all his life but I rarely watch. He was not looking at himself in any negative way just enjoying doing it well and feeling refreshed. It had an intense meditative quality that we both quietly absorbed.
In the last month of his life a borrowed ukelele featured quite highly and the live music and singing it offered was a joy. Mike had a few goes, Rachel lulled us with 'my Bonnie lies over the ocean' and my brother Brian played a few numbers. We sang and played 'You are my sunshine' and 'When the Saints' to Mike after his death. A moment we will all treasure.
When we first arrived at the hospice the nurse mentioned to Mike the idea of rest and preservation of energy. He did of course rest but was not one to lie in bed for long. No surprise he was always striving towards being a little stronger and the equipment, tailored medication, enviroment and loving care allowed him the freedom to remain mobile. It also gave him, I believe, the freedom to die at a time of his choosing with me and the girls by his side. He let go peacefully without anxiety as we continued to talk and hold him.
In many ways it's been the best of times and in others the worst of times. An intense unforgettable 18 months with the absolute best of men. My darling Mike always loved never to be forgotten.
Well, that was not so hard to write after all.
Me and the girls thank you so much for all your letters, cards, flowers and online comments. They are wonderful and will help us enormously.
He will be laid to rest with the best view ever in his beloved Devon.
Watch this space for details about the memorial service in November time in Kingston.