TITLE: Her Illness
By Jim Oates
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The last few months in the life of a wonderful lady.
We had been thinking of buying a pair of new bicycles for some time now. Although the old ones were still serving us well; they were one speed and showing their age. Maybe six speed bikes would be easier to ride.
It was late April of 2001, we ventured out for our first ride of the season, checking the direction of the wind; we headed west as we wanted the wind at our backs on the return trip, making it an easier ride on the way home. We had only gone about a half a mile when I noticed Wilma was beginning to flag. I kidded her about not keeping up and her reply was, “I think I should go back home.” We always rode our bikes in the evenings throughout the spring and summer months. On our first trip of the season we usually just went to the corner and back. We would gradually work our way up to riding around the block and then expand our limits from there. This time we only went half way.
She’ll feel better tomorrow. We’ll go bike shopping next week; the six-speeds will be easier to ride.
Earlier, she had mentioned that she thought her stomach was a little larger and asked what I thought. I passed it off as a little winter fat and that her tummy still looked good to me. “All the more to love,” I said, “it’s natural for people of our age to put on a few extra pounds.” We thought no more about it until she began having uncomfortable feelings. A little constipation and gas, we thought. The doctor gave her something to make elimination easier. That worked fine for a few weeks.
In June, Wilma began experiencing pain in her lower abdomen in the mornings. Twice the doctor gave her medication for an infection; this seemed to ease the pain some. July and August came and the pains increased but were bearable. We began a series of tests, X-rays and ultra-sounds that seemed to go on and on.
Our forty-fifth wedding anniversary and my seventieth birthday were both in August so we planned to celebrate both on August 05, 2001. It was a fun time making arrangements. It was to be garden party with all our kids and in-laws. A big cake was ordered with “Happy 45th Anniversary” and “Happy 70th Birthday Jim,” inscribed on the top with big icing flowers.
Toward the end of August and into September she was having more severe pain in the mornings before having a bowel movement. After this she was fine for the rest of the day. Our doctor made an appointment with a specialist but this wasn’t going to happen until the end of January, 2002.
In October of 2001 I was to have a colonoscopy; by this time Wilma was having more severe pain, to the point of tears. I pleaded with the doctor to exchange my appointment so that she could get in first, but this was not to be. I briefly saw the doctor before I had my procedure, I pleaded with him the see my wife. He told me to bring her in with me on my follow-up appointment in three weeks.
On examining her in his office, he told us he would admit her into the emergency immediately. The colonoscopy was unsuccessful as there was a huge cancerous tumor that was blocking the way. He tried another procedure, this also was unsuccessful. The only alternative was to give her a colostomy which relieved her pain. This happened on December 21.
She was able to come home on December 24, Christmas Eve. Christmas was very important to her and she wanted to be home; I wanted her home as well. The person in charge of discharging said they couldn’t arrange for home care because of the Christmas holiday. Since she had a colostomy that had to be changed regularly they didn’t want to send her home. I asked the nurse to show me how to change it, I wanted her home. The nurse was surprised that I would want to do it. She gave me a lesson in changing the colostomy bag. She was pleased with the way I was able to do it and saw no reason why Wilma couldn’t go home. We got a walker from the Red Cross, for her to get around the house. Home care was also arranged to begin right after Christmas.
Wilma had a great Christmas Day, it was her first year without turkey. That didn't matter. What really mattered was that she was home. She sat in the recliner chair with her famous smile. She just sat there beaming out love towards her children and grandchildren. She was home surrounded by the ones she loved the most. That was what she wanted most for Christmas.
A few days later she had a mini stroke which confined her to her bed. All through this she was uncomplaining. On January 03, 2002 she began having severe pains in her legs and we rushed her to the Metropolitan cancer ward. The pain subsided in a few days and she was back to her cheerful self again.
Although she didn’t complain about the food, I knew the porridge in the mornings wasn’t to her liking. I made porridge for her every morning and made sure I arrived early enough so that she had a good breakfast. She had a hard time feeding herself so I had to spoon-feed her.
One morning I was a little late getting to the hospital; breakfast had already been served. As I stepped into the room, the first thing I saw was Wilma with a bowl of hospital porridge all over herself.
On trying to feed herself she spilled the whole thing down her front. When I asked her what she had done to herself, she just laughed. In spite of all she was going through, she never lost her sense of humour. It’s a good thing I didn’t forget to bring her a bowl of porridge from home. After wiping her down, she was able to enjoy a hardy breakfast.
I usually stayed the whole day with her during her hospital stay. We would visit between her naps, which were quite frequent. I did a lot of reading, sometimes to her.
Although Wilma was probably the sickest person of the four in the room, one thing I noticed was that she was the only one that smiled. She was grateful for everything anyone did for her. She even thanked the girl who mopped the floors.
There was a large orderly who she was particularly fond of, he would gently pick her up as if she were a little child and put her in a large chair with wheels. She thought that was just great. I would push her down the hall to the atrium with all its plants and large windows; we would visit there and look out at the wintry city scene below.
Wilma would often tell me about some problem, one of the other ladies was having and I would ask if I could pray for her. Most of the time, they would be surprised but pleased, and allow the prayer. Of course Wilma and I would pray together every day. She had such a positive outlook that the nursing staff just couldn’t believe this lovely lady in room 1010.
On January 10, after a week’s stay, and since she hadn’t had any pain in her legs for four days she was allowed to go home, that is if she wanted to, and if we thought we could manage. She wanted to and I wanted her at home.
Yes, we are going home. Still on the stretcher in our driveway, she said, “Home sweet home.” She loved being home even though she would be spending her last few days confined to her bed.
We often spoke of the Lord, whom she dearly loved and trusted, and from whom she received her courage and peace.
I never heard her complain about her condition or ask why this was happening to her. Only on one occasion, do I remember her really being down and worried, she asked, “Am I going to die?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, “I don’t want you to. But if you do, it will not be a bad thing; you will go to be with Jesus.”
We cried and prayed together as I held her. She relaxed and I wiped her tears and mine; we never talked about it again. We just enjoyed every minute we had together. She always greeted me with a smile every time I walked into the bedroom.
Since the onset of her illness we hadn’t been able to be physically intimate; I was even afraid to give her a hug for fear of hurting her. But that light kiss, that touch and light caress along with those loving looks that she would return to me, were more than enough.
The last few days as she became weaker she slept a lot and didn’t say very much.
On January 21, she was very weak. Rob and Lori were here and Rob called the rest of the kids. Patty was in Barrie, some five hours away, and he couldn’t get a hold of John but left a message. Susan and Dennis came as quickly as they could.
Wilma had her eyes closed most of the time but was in an agitated state. Wanting to comfort her, I leaned over and spoke in her ear, “I love you Wilma. I know you are very, very tired and if you want to go to be with Jesus, it’s okay. It’s okay, I’ll let you go, but I’ll come and find you, I’ll find you when I get there. Just remember that I love you.”
She relaxed and appeared to be sleeping, breathing easily with such a pleasant look on her face.
I was lying beside her, watching her when the Lord’s death angel came and carried her away to the loving arms of her Lord, Jesus.
I didn’t see anything different; I just knew she had left. She left so quietly and peacefully. She still had that little smile on her lips.
All praise to Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
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