“Please sit down. There is no easy way to share this with you.” Courageous pause. “The staff had been monitoring Mr. Petersen throughout the night. His blood pressure continued to drop. The nurses continued to check on him, and at 05:30 when the sister came around again, he had passed away. I am so sorry. There is no easy way to share this news with you. I am so sorry.”
My son on my left, my mother on his left. The sister standing behind us, the young doctor on duty, sitting across from us. A glimpse of sadness in her eyes as she holds herself together. Her professionalism at its most trying moment. Informing the family.
And then I hear it. The heart-wrenching wailing of my mother.
Silenced no more. The flickering of my son’s lashes as reality sets in. Staring at me in absolute disbelief, his silent tears streaming down his cheeks. My own vision blurred by my tears as I lift my son up onto my lap and place my arm around my mother.
Silence. The stillness of shattered hearts.
“Can we see him?”
A few minutes later, after my brother, his wife and daughter arrived – I shared the news with them while holding onto my son’s hand and resting my hand on my mother’s shoulder as she sat in the wheelchair, watching my brother – a glimmer of hope that it may be a sadistic dream.
Tears of silence. Slowly we enter, and there upon the bed he lay. Peaceful, as if in deep sleep. The only remnants of life, the dry marks of a teardrop from his right eye as it slowly made its way down the side of his cheek.
Overwhelmed by the fragility of it all. Here today. Gone tomorrow.
Twelve days after the unexpected diagnoses of stage 4 pancreatic cancer, his notice of death listed the causes of death as:
- Sepsis and Cholangitis – Immediate Cause
- Pancreas Cancer and Head of Pancreas Mass – Underlying Cause
I’ve always read of those who survive, those in remission, those in therapy and fighting. What I’ve not read is what I am sharing with you through my experience. Those who had no chance of survival, remission or therapy.
My dad lived a great life, he was well loved and his life was celebrated. He accepted his diagnoses and chose his time of death. A life well lived.
I share this on my blog, because I don’t want to forget. And while my mother can’t remember what the doctor said to us that morning – I do.
Reading this to my son, his reply. “Mom, this is just too sad” – this memory, a poignant moment in our lives.
My dad was diagnosed, unexpectedly, with stage 4 pancreatic cancer on 16th May 2017. He died 12 days later, there was no battle, only dignified acceptance.