|Teresa M. Clemons|
Last week I lost a very special man, my father-in-law. For three days, my husband (his wonderful son) never left his side and was there when he took his last breath. Being with someone you love at the point of their death is a profound experience. At times, you feel guilty for wishing it to be over but it's an understandable response to a very stressful situation and wanting them to be at peace and comfortable.
The hearing is thought to be the last sense to go in the dying process, so never assume the person is unable to hear you. Talk as if they can hear you, even if they appear to be unconscious or restless. Our entire family spent several hours with him the day before he died. We reminisced about good times, even asked questions. Though he was non-responsive, someone would answer what they thought he would say. Assuming he could hear us, I am sure he was frustrated that he could not communicate, but at the same time was laughing inside at the responses that we were all making on his behalf. He had an oxygen mask on but a couple of times I saw him yawn and thought "maybe we're boring him!" Even when unconscious or semi-conscious, yawning is a natural response to draw more oxygen into the body.
We tried to create a soothing atmosphere by playing his favorite music, particularly older country. Finding a song from that genre on Pandora, we placed the cell phone next to him and wished he could have sung along. We all gathered around his bed and prayed when the minister arrived. The last words my husband spoke to him minutes before he died, made us believe that he really could hear us. He said, "Dad, it’s okay, we are all going to take good care of mom." And with that, he took his last breath and went home.