Jake passed away on May 11, 2014. Mother's Day. Time of death was called at 3:24am, when the hospice nurse came. In reality, it was more like 2:08am. I know because I was holding his hand as he took his last breath.
I know a lot of you are wondering what had happened after his last post, so I wanted to be able to share that with you. We were told to expect extreme fatigue following his last chemo treatment. On the evening of Monday, May 5th, Jake started falling asleep in the middle of sentences. By Tuesday, he couldn't stay awake to eat. When I called our PA, she told me he was experiencing hepatic encephalopathy. His liver was shutting down; the toxins were building up in his blood and were affecting his brain. If the toxins could be flushed out of his body via laxatives, he would improve.
By Wednesday morning, nothing had changed, so the oncologist told me to take him to the ER. Once there, Jake was admitted to the hospital with renal failure. Pretty much all of the liquid in his body was going straight to his abdomen, bypassing his kidneys and draining them dry. We considered dialysis, but were advised that it was really too aggressive a treatment for his condition.
During the next few days, there were lots of tests and procedures. He had his drainage port put in, but had to have two rounds of platelets before that could occur. During this time, he tried hard to be awake for the important discussions, and for his visitors. In the words of one of his closest friends, "Jake collects friends." From the time we arrived at the hospital on Wednesday until he took his last breath, there was always someone by his side.
In every discussion we had with hospital staff, Jake was adamant about his desire to go home. (He hadn't even wanted to be admitted in the first place.) On the morning of Saturday, May 10th, he was discharged from the hospital under hospice care. His blood pressure had been getting gradually lower for several weeks, so due to concerns about him passing out, he went home via hospital transport (aka ambulance). Over the next 16 hours, he did his best to make conversation with everyone who came to see him, even cracking jokes on several occasions. His eyes still lit up when I walked in the room. Some of the last words he said to me were, "I love you... unabashedly."
At 12:45am, I went to bed, leaving Jake under the watchful eye of several of his cousins. I was sure his life would continue for at least a few more days. I expected him to slip into a coma at some point, as all of his organs continued to shut down and he had denied life-saving measures. At 1:45am, I was awoken by the words, "Jake needs you." I rushed downstairs and held his hand as he finished his journey on this earth. I later found out a most extraordinary story that I have been debating about sharing…
On Monday the 5th, our pastor came to visit with Jake. Jake had confided in him that he was scared about what was next. Jake also told him that if he could find a way to tell us he could hear us on the other side, he would do it. When Jake passed, I was told by his cousin, who is a respiratory therapist, that had it been in a hospital setting, she would have called the time of death when her son went up the stairs to get me. Jake had stopped breathing. As I came down the stairs and he heard my voice, Jake took a huge breath and looked straight into my eyes. I honestly believe he heard my voice from "the other side" and wanted us all to know that he can hear us. He always was a talker; now he has to sit and listen.
My husband was such a courageous fighter. He fought until the very end. He wasn't ready to be finished with chemo, even though his liver was. He wasn't ready to cancel our vacation, even though his body was. He wasn't ready for his life to be over. None of us were. But then, how can one ever really be ready for such finality?
My husband was truly one of the most amazing people I have ever met. We will celebrate his life at an After Party, just as he wanted. I don't have any details yet, mostly because I haven't the heart to plan them.
Life is short. Sometimes unbearably so. Make sure the people you love know that you love them.