On death & dying

My Grandpa passed away peacefully at home yesterday afternoon, surrounded by family. He died in my Grandma's arms, on their 54th wedding anniversary.

His death was peaceful, he appeared comfortable and did not struggle, and his wife and children were by his side as he took his last breaths. I honestly can't think of a better way to pass on from this life.

One of the only few certainties of life is death. I don't fear death, and I don't dread death, and I try to teach my children the same. That doesn't mean I'm ready for death, or to lose my loved ones, but I understand that death is a part of life, and I try to have a healthy understanding and respect for death.

That doesn't make it easy.

It's been a very rough couple of weeks - learning that Grandpa's illness had progressed, then trying different medical interventions to improve his health, only to create new (worse) problems, to learning that there was nothing left to do medically except keep Grandpa comfortable.

Grandpa was discharged from the hospital Sunday afternoon with hospice services, and died Monday afternoon. He understood that he was back home, and talked a little Sunday evening, and then rested unresponsively as he began actively dying.

I got a text message from my Grandma yesterday morning telling me that Grandpa was actively dying and his blood pressure was dropping. I had already planned on spending the afternoon with them, but when I got the message I left my meeting and went straight to their house. I stayed with them all day, joining family that was already there and welcoming family who arrived after me.

I took over the role of giving Grandpa the comfort medications he needed, as I am the most experienced in that role and Grandma trusted me to do what was right for Grandpa.

It is a great privilege to be able to provide comfort to a person who is passing from this life.

As a nurse, I see death often. Particularly since I am a geriatric nurse. I have a lot of experience helping patients as they pass on by providing comfort and support. I always find it a great honor that I am able to serve someone in their most vulnerable moments. I do my absolute best to provide dignity and compassion to all my patients, but especially to those patients who are dying. I also find it a great privilege to support families as they lose a loved one.

Even with the experience I have, it's quite a bit different losing my Grandpa.

I take comfort in the fact that his passing was brief and comfortable. I was able to be by his side, and aid in his comfort. I was able to see the signs of his last few moments and alert my Grandma, just in time for her to see his eyes open one last time as she held him in her arms. I was able to see that his last moments were peaceful, without struggle. I am thankful that I had those last moments with him.

Fly high, Grandpa. You will be missed.


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