The Vehicle Has Not Come Yet To Take Me!

Dying family member. Advocating for comfort care, grateful to his nurses who went above and beyond. Nurses General Nursing Article

The Vehicle Has Not Come Yet To Take Me!

The call came in while at work. My mom's brother Steve had been rushed to a hospital. He was dying. I decided to go on the weekend when I was off, as my partner at work was out sick. I flew into Canada and made my way to the hospital. My aunt, a retired RN, was there with him and had not left the bedside for the last five days since his admission. They had been married 51 years and did everything together.

She decided to go home for a few hours to freshen up, while I stayed with him along with his older daughter Carol and her family who came a few hours later. As I turned and positioned him gently, he screamed in pain. His prostate cancer that had been in remission for 16 years had come back with a vengeance and spread to his bones and lungs with metastasis to his spine. He had an ineffective cough and had phlegm in his throat that we could not suction as it was deep. His lungs were clear. Every time he coughed he would begin to panic as he felt his airway was blocked. He would ask to be lifted to sit up higher and struggle to breathe. I constantly heard the death rattle and saw him struggle to breathe. It was hard to watch and I felt helpless wondering how I could ease his suffering. His mind was clear and he was fully conscious.

His nurse Laly came in. I tentatively asked her if his pain medication protocol could be reevaluated as it did not seem to be helping him. I also asked if we could up the oxygen as he was only on 1.5 liter due to his Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

"At this point Laly, we would like him to be comfortable. His COPD causing respiratory depression when the oxygen is increased is the least of our worries. What do you think?"

She smiled compassionately.

"I absolutely agree" she nodded as she adjusted the oxygen flow meter. She then left to page the MD in charge and ask him to adjust the Dilaudid IV for pain. Later the doctor came and we talked about the plan of care. He would not be transferred to a hospice bed as there were none available but would get the same care on the floor. As uncle slipped in and out of consciousness he wanted me to sit next to him and hold his hand.

"Do you know Annie that I am waiting to go? I am going on a journey. The vehicle has not yet come for me. It will come. It has so many wheels and has to make so many stops----."

I smiled through my tears.

"It will come uncle, in it's time."

"Annie, sometimes when I see you, I think your mom is sitting next to me and Jerry my brother is standing nearby."

Both uncle Jerry and my mom Mary had passed years ago. I am sure they were visiting him unseen by me but clearly visible to him.

His eyes clouded and he fell asleep his breath rasping.I gently removed my hand but his grip tightened.

"Annie, don't go!"

"I am right here. You are safe."

He lapsed back into a fitful sleep.

Aunty and I looked at each other.

"Aunty Bea, you have to give him permission to go", I said softly.

She sobbed and shook her head.

"I know. I have to. This is so hard. I can't bear to see him suffer." Her composure that had been rock solid throughout the day, when visitors had come from all over Canada and the United States, crumpled now that they were all gone and she broke down sobs racking her body.

RN Lally came in to see both of us in tears crying softly as he was in a double room with another patient behind the curtain. Her eyes filled and she walked out. In half an hour she came back and signaled us with her eyes to stay quiet.

"The doctor told me that he needs to be moved to another room as his condition is worsening and he needs some medical procedures done." She announced loudly.

She quickly packed our stuff and took it to a private room, two doors down. A couple of other nurses came and helped move his bed over. She even got us two sleeping sofa chairs for the night. This room was big, spacious, with a bathroom attached with a stand-up shower. It had a window ledge where you could sit and get a beautiful view of the city. Once we were settled she told us that they gave uncle a private room so that he could be surrounded by his family in peace as he died.

"I see that you are a prayerful family. This way you can say your prayers, sing and not be afraid that you are disturbing anyone. There is a window on one side and the hallway on the other side of this room. So you can sing, cry, talk and it won't disturb anyone."

That night I forced aunty to sleep and I sat with uncle my hand linked with his. Once aunty got up around 4 am we kept him company till dawn. She gave him permission to leave and promised him that she would take good care of their three girls.

"Steve we have been together for 53 years and been married for 51 years. We always did things together. I wish I could come with you and die with you but I have to stay behind for our daughters. When you go to heaven advocate for our family with Jesus. It's ok to go. I will take good care of our daughters", she sobbed, her face on his chest, her hands around his neck as she leaned over the bed.

I cried stifling my sobs in the dark listening to her, my heartbreaking for her.

I wiped my tears, got up and moved uncle to one side of the bed.

"Come, aunty, get into the bed with him. This is the best thing you can do for him and you."

She got into the bed and cradled him gently. He slept peacefully in her arms.

The next day family and friends started pouring in, some driving as far as New York, Detroit, and Chicago to see him. My flight back to New York was in the evening and before I left, I kissed him on his forehead leaving my lipstick on him! His eyes flew open and he asked me where I was going! I told him I was leaving to go home but was leaving my lipstick and prayers behind! Uncle hated lipstick and that had his daughters smiling through their tears. We said goodbye with our eyes and I walked away knowing I would never see him alive again.

He lived for three more days. Everyone who had planned to fly in or drive in to see him got a chance to see him. Early morning on the third day, aunty cradled him and said the Divine Mercy Chaplet in his ear and sang a song about the Holy Spirit. As she finished the song, she looked at his face. His breath had stopped and he had slipped from this world to the next.

My family drove to attend the funeral. When we were at the gravesite we realized that it was close to the airport and that a plane took up every 30 seconds. When the coffin was lowered into the grave, a jet roared overhead, the familiar Orange colors of Air India, the official plane of India, his birth country. Just like he had told me his vehicle had come to take him home!

Chronic Care Coordinator

RN for 30 years. Worked in inpatient,outpatient,clinic,ED,Peds,long term,special needs and has also worked as nursing faculty and hospital administrator. Loves God, family and everything else in that order! Coffee/tea drinker, loves romance books and Korean shows! Loves being a nurse and correct people who call me doctor!

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Specializes in School Nursing.

This brought tears to my eyes at multiple spots. What a beautiful and heartfelt story.

Specializes in ED, Tele, MedSurg, ADN, Outpatient, LTC, Peds.

Thank you. Still raw since he died early this month but I got a chance to see real love in action between my uncle and aunt.

Marriage vow-"Through sickness and health, till death do us part."

Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC.

A beautiful recount of such a personal time. It sounds like your family had a good experience with the care your uncle experienced at the time of his passing. I hope that happy memories bring all of you peace in difficult days.

Specializes in ED, Tele, MedSurg, ADN, Outpatient, LTC, Peds.

You are absolutely right! As a nurse I could not ask for better care. I saw compassion and patient advocacy in action from the RN who took care of him.She made sure that his pain med protocol was revised but also stopped the doc from pushing ativan when my uncle was not agitated.I called and thanked her for her care last weekend. I also had spoken to the night nursing supervisor while I was there and had commended the staff for their hard work and compassion.

Specializes in Hospice Home Care and Inpatient.

Sounds like your lovely uncle was using a lot of symbolic language. There's a great book written by couple hospice nurses about symbolic language.. maybe called Final Gifts.. . Glad your family member passes in love and peace.

Specializes in NICU.

Brought tears as I recalled various family members passing and those in waiting....what a lovely caring family you have.Your aunts prayers are those which we could all recite.

Thank you for sharing.

Specializes in ED, Tele, MedSurg, ADN, Outpatient, LTC, Peds.

Thank you !

I got the feeling that uncle was afraid to die.Aunty kept telling him that Jesus would be there, that his angels would accompany him and that he was going to a better place. When I prayed for him ,asking God to ease his terrible suffering, the scripture that I got from the Bible was from Psalm 12:7 about silver being refined. When we are refined, the creator can see his image in us. We prayed for courage and acceptance during his passing.I was grateful that I could be with him and offer him comfort and safety. No one should be alone when they are sick and dying.

This is unquestionably a breathtaking and spectacular recount of the last moments of a man I have known for a few years. Dear SpotAngel, you have done a marvelous job describing how you took part in your uncle’s preparation for the final journey to his Heavenly adobe. Your words brought tears to my eyes multiple times. These days it’s very hard to see such a solid link between an uncle and a niece. You are a special person with love of God and care for others, who is a role model for others who want to uphold relationship with siblings, family, neighbors and friends.