The calm before the storm
October 31, 2010: Annie woke up this morning not feeling very well. All the anxiety around getting blood and platelet products the past week was taking its toll on her. But, as always, she found a way to bring out her beautiful smile and made the best of each day. Annie was never one to dwell on the negatives. She was always trying to stay on the positive side of life. I think in this case, Annie was starting to accept the reality that she’d soon be leaving this mortal coil we call earth.
The newly found child inside of her, Little Annie, was really excited for the trick-or-treat event. I can honestly say, throughout our marriage, that Halloween night was never a big deal. We gave out candy, made sure our children had a good evening and that was about it. For whatever reason, this was a big night for her, and it appeared she was going to make the most of it.
That evening Melissa took the lead in picture to this article of her sitting at the dining room table in her wheelchair. She was wearing this frightening mask, playing with the grandchildren—happy, and making them laugh. Annie had the uncanny ability of making each and every-one of them seem like they were her favorite. But the truth is, she adored them all, and was so elegant in communicating such happiness and love to us all that night.
Maybe her mannerisms on that night speaks to God’s grace. I wondered if this was what it’s all about. Does that mean it allowed Annie to be so graceful in her final days? Sure seems that way. Annie knew her death was imminent, and although very excited, there was a very strong sense of calmness around her.
I try to imagine how she must have been feeling; and deep down in her thoughts, what must have she been thinking? Getting platelets nearly every day and being told they weren’t working. Annie knew, if she could have successfully taken life sustaining platelets a couple months ago, none of this would be happening now. But for this day, she seemed to be putting all that behind her, and intent on, “Having fun with the grand kids.”
Later on in the evening, she went back to her hospital bed, and I propped her up on the bed by putting three pillows behind her back. I then went to the cupboard, pulled out three large boxes of gum balls I had stashed earlier, and gave them to her. I told her not to give them to the grand kids until they were in costume. She stuffed them under her pillows and sat on the bed, so excited and beaming over the fact that she had those boxes of gum balls for the grandchildren.
At that moment, she was so much like a child. Over the years, Annie always got down on the floor to play with the grandchildren, trying to get down to their level. That isn’t what Annie was doing tonight; and for this moment in time, she was “Little Annie,” one of them. The three grandchildren came in the room, made her laugh, and played with her. It was fun watching her excitedly dig those gum balls out from under her pillows then passing them on. It seemed to be one of those “Look what I’ve got for you moments”—full of excitement and love.
Once we were on our own, I sat in the wheelchair beside her bed. We chatted about the evening and how much fun it was. My daughters and grandchildren all participated that night in such a positive way, it made me proud. I knew the grandchildren were worried about their nanny too; but sometimes, we as adults have to be strong and make the best of a bad situation. We do it for the children.
She had her medications, and shortly thereafter fell asleep. As it’d been over the past several days, each time I checked her Ostomy bag, I always had a nervous anticipation about what I was going to see. I was living on hope too. That night when I checked her Ostomy bag, it was still filling with blood, which always gave me one of those helpless, breathless feelings. I changed the bag while she was resting peacefully, knowing that this beautiful woman I’d known, loved, been loved by and married to for thirty-nine years would soon be slipping away, from my grasp.
It’s a difficult place to be, when you’ve traveled a journey through cancer with someone you really love, who fought an epic battle, and in the end it all comes down to two lingering question. How long will it take for her to bleed to death; and would I be strong enough to let her go gracefully? At that moment, those were simply questions without answers. I knew there would be no more blood or platelet transfusions, no doctors or hospitals; and I also knew she’d be going home soon to what she felt, would be a better place.
Regardless, she went to sleep happy, and I can say from the bottom of my heart, “That was a good night!” We were all so blessed, to have her in true form, for one last time. We had the added gift of seeing “Little Annie!” She was a blast—so full of laughter, love and spirit. As I watched her lying on the bed, I knew this night, that I loved her more than life, and would have gladly traded places with her or went with her if I could. She’d suffered enough!
My emotions and imagination were trying to get the best of me; but deep down inside my soul, I knew these were just thoughts, and not possible. My sad reality was; “I would soon have to learn how live on my own without her.”
Annie passed on Nov 2nd, 2010, of complications from low platelets, due to a rare blood cancer of the bone marrow, multiple myeloma.
“Because of Annie” is sold in all formats on Amazon. All proceeds go to cancer.