22 April 2017

On March 15, I had a reading with Dr. Pam. Richard had visited her virtually earlier that day and told her that he couldn’t do it and that he wanted to go. His plan was to choke to death. He told her he thought I would be better off without him. That part isn’t true, but that was his opinion.

For whatever reason, he couldn’t make the leap to healthiness. God gave him the chance, and many angels and archangels were there to help, but he wasn’t able to. I forgive him for that. I just pray that he is at peace. My goal was to land the plane safely in this life, so he could be at peace in the next one. That was my only goal.

I had a terrible cold and cough, as did half the population of Tucson. The cold that killed my husband.

Richard caught my cold on Friday, March 17, and in typical fashion it was dramatic. Thankfully none of the caregivers got sick. Just him. An omen. Michelle, his Friday night caregiver, said this one was different. She didn’t like the sound of it. And she’d seen him sick many times before.

He continued to get worse and had a chest x-ray on Monday, March 20. I was so grateful that Dr. Bravo ordered the chest x-ray to be done at our condo. There would have been no way to get Richard out of the house. Sitting in offices was difficult even on the best days.

On Tuesday, the results came back showing a lower respiratory infection, and I knew it was the end. Just the day before, I had a feeling I should reread his living will. It had an amendment that told me exactly what we had to do. Richard had insisted we have our wills done back in 2008. I’m so grateful that he did.

In part, here is what the addendum said.

If and when I am no longer mentally competent and there is little or no likelihood that I will regain mental competence as determined by my physicians, I not only request but demand that in the event of infections, including pneumonia or other serious infections, I do not want parenteral antibiotics or oral antibiotics that in any way could be interpreted as life-saving…I wish to reemphasize that when I am no longer mentally competent, it is my wish to die in a normal course of events without benefit of medical intervention.

Pretty damn clear. No arguments about the path forward. Decision taken.

Richard was too sick to get out of bed. He was basically dead weight, and Elsa and I couldn’t get him up by ourselves. He still weighed 160 pounds. On Tuesday, Joey came on his day off to help move him. Together we—mostly Joey—got him to the shower, where he had a gigantic poop. An Argentinosaurus. We cheered, once again grateful for poop. It seemed strange at the moment. But even if you’re dying, you need to poop. All the caregivers were so wonderful. We were blessed with such a great team.

On Wednesday morning, Dr. Bravo came and was concerned about Richard’s oxygen level, which was 75–80. She ordered Casa de la Luz hospice that day, and everything was set up that afternoon—hospital bed, oxygen tank, morphine, that horrible but wonderful sucker machine to get the phlegm out of his throat, pills, and so forth.

He got progressively worse, and on Thursday the hospice nurse told me that he probably wouldn’t make it until Monday. I was grateful for the warning.

Our dear friends Mike and Cathy came on Thursday and left on Friday morning. Brother Jim and partner Sophia arrived on Friday afternoon, and family Steve, Sandy, and Anna came for the day on Saturday. It was wonderful that they were here to say goodbye. It was March, and we often have out-of-town guests that time of year. Another blessing. All were planned visits, but Jim and Sophia hadn’t planned to come for three more weeks. I told them Richard won’t be with us in three weeks. They dropped everything to get here the next day.

Richard completely stopped eating and drinking by Thursday. The hospice nurses said to let him take the lead. If he wanted to eat or drink, he would. Tacoma stayed on the bed with him, and that was a comfort to Richard—and probably for Tacoma too. Tacoma knew his job was to be there for Richard up to the very end.

The hospice nurse came again on Sunday morning, March 26, at 9:00 a.m., and said that this would be the day. His oxygen level was down to 60. Hospice nurses are angels on earth. Richard’s eyes hadn’t opened for days, his breathing was terribly labored, and the experience was beyond surreal. “Today’s the day,” I said to Richard, holding his hand and gushing out tears.

On Sunday around 10:35 a.m., Richard opened his eyes and stared out, looking directly at and through me. I was so grateful to see his beautiful blue eyes again and to tell him how good our life together had been and how much I looked forward to our next life together. We were all there in his bedroom together—me, Kathy, Jim, Sophia, and Tacoma. All crying, of course. Then my dear Richard died at 10:37 a.m.

Once Richard passed away, his face looked so peaceful, and he was back to his handsome self. I found great comfort in that. The hospice nurse and Kathy dressed him in his best Washington Husky clothes. I wanted to take a photo but thought it inappropriate. But I don’t need a photo. I’ll remember that moment forever.

The funeral guys, very nice young men, took Richard to the funeral home to be cremated, and then we were left alone. Poor Tacoma was forlorn, and we were all very sad. I prayed that Richard was at peace. I was sad but at peace knowing that this was what he wanted and that he no longer had to suffer.

Many have since told me that pneumonia is an old man’s best friend. For us, that was true.

Richard wasn’t old, but it was his best ticket out of town.


This is a chapter from my book Parkinson’s: A Love Story with Dementia for Dessert.  You may find it on Amazon.  https://www.amazon.com/Parkinsons-Love-Story-Dementia-Dessert-ebook/dp/B07K4RLC2D/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542135434&sr=8-1&keywords=Parkinson%27s+A+Love+Story+with+Dementia+for+Dessert&dpID=41xS3edPH0L&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch  Your feedback and reviews are most welcome.

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