Laurie’s story begins when he was admitted to a hospital because of severe uncontrolled pain. He was in a nine bed ward and begging the doctor to let him go home as his treatment was not doing anything for him.
The family were helpless and very intimidated after the experience of trying to care alone for their dying mother in the family home. They did this until the day before she died and sadly, as they had no knowledge of what is normal and natural in the dying phase of life, they panicked and called an ambulance. Their mother died that afternoon in the hospital.. All were still grieving the loss under those circumstances years later when they realised the dying moments are very precious. And they had relinquished care right at the very end.
Laurie had prostate cancer which had spread to many of his bones, and, despite large doses of morphine, he received no real relief. Moving was agony for him. We talked about the Dying at Home Program, how this would support his family, teaching them by using the Yellow and Blue books how to care for their father and themselves and, most important, what to expect. I also explained about total pain, the pain that is often worse because of loneliness, fear and being away from home. He leapt at the suggestion that home could make all the difference to his person and therefore to the pain. He trusted that the Dying at Home Program would give his family just what was needed. He asked, “ How soon can I go?
Laurie’s family were all called and although initially anxious after their experience with their mother, they were deeply longing to grant their father’s wishes after learning about the Program and its educational materials.
He went home that following morning and died ten days later. His whole family came together from near and far. There were sons, daughters, their partners and grandchildren all staying in the house. They held a Gathering, embraced their rostered jobs and took in the information and guides on how to care and what to expect as normal. His bed was turned around to let him gaze out on the ocean and in a few steps Laurie was on his favourite balcony where he continued to enjoy a scotch whisky at sundown with his family.
Remarkably his pain diminished and became well managed with minimal medication, so much so that the night before he died he said to his daughter that he didn’t want to take any more pills. He just wanted to drop off the edge of a cloud.
At dawn the next morning he did just that.
The family really did get things right their second time around, all bonded and closer than ever before, enhanced by living together in the house throughout this short but very special time.
It is many years since Laurie’s death. I meet occasionally with family who are my friends. We share a rare bond of friendship where I know that they and I have been gifted by being together in an experience of living life to the fullest.