Everyone turned to me. It was ultimately my decision. Would my husband die in a hospital or at home?
My in-laws, my brother, a couple of friends and the social worker all looked at me expectantly.
We were standing on the back deck where only weeks before we had gathered with many friends and family to celebrate my daughters third birthday. My husband was in bed at the other end of the house, drifting in and out of consciousness. This was it. His last few weeks of life.
I was tremulous. We had been on the brain cancer rollercoaster ride for three and half years. How many more weeks before the ride stopped? What would the next few weeks entail? I had never envisaged that our family home would become a hospice.
I took a deep breath. I didn’t want any more pain or suffering for myself or my children. I was not sure I could withstand it. If Mick went to a hospital perhaps I would be able to protect myself and the kids from some of the pain and heartache?
For Mick to die at home we would need to put several things in place.
- Our bed would be moved to a friend’s garage and replaced by an electrical hospital bed that we would hire.
- Palliative care nurses would visit twice a day. My in-laws would become the prime carers of Mick while I focused on maintaining a routine for our children and managing everything else.
- I would sleep in the guest room. My father in-law would sleep on a makeshift bed. My mother and mother in-law would sleep at our friends place across the road.
- We would limit visitors to very close friends. They would come and sit with Mick every day.
If we did this it would mean that the people who Mick dearly loved would be by his side until the end. He would be able to hear the voices of everyone that he loved while we went about continuing life. He would hear the laughter, the tantrums and the games. We would take our teary conversations outside to the garden.
If Mick died at home I would not be torn between being with the kids and travelling back and forth to the hospital every day. It would help our kids understand death. They could watch us all tenderly loving and caring for Mick and each other as best we could. They could pop into his room to hold his hand or place a toy next to him on his bed.
The decision was clear. “Mick will die at home”, I said. Everyone wanly smiled. It was the right decision.
For three weeks, Mick gradually withdrew from his body until his last breath. It was the most intense three weeks of my life but also the most life affirming as everyone banded together to make it possible.